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Methane eruption warned may kill Gulf of Mexico

It is an overlooked danger in oil spill crisis: The crude gushing from the well contains vast amounts of natural gas that could pose a serious threat to the Gulf of Mexico’s fragile ecosystem.

The oil emanating from the seafloor contains about 40 percent methane, compared with about 5 percent found in typical oil deposits, said John Kessler, a Texas A&M University oceanographer who is studying the impact of methane from the spill.

That means huge quantities of methane have entered the Gulf, scientists say, potentially suffocating marine life and creating “dead zones” where oxygen is so depleted that nothing lives.

“This is the most vigorous methane eruption in modern human history,” Kessler said.

Methane is a colorless, odorless and flammable substance that is a major component in the natural gas used to heat people’s homes. Petroleum engineers typically burn off excess gas attached to crude before the oil is shipped off to the refinery. That’s exactly what BP has done as it has captured more than 7.5 million gallons of crude from the breached well.

A BP spokesman said the company was burning about 30 million cubic feet of natural gas daily from the source of the leak, adding up to about 450 million cubic feet since the containment effort started 15 days ago. That’s enough gas to heat about 450,000 homes for four days.

But that figure does not account for gas that eluded containment efforts and wound up in the water, leaving behind huge amounts of methane.

BP PLC said a containment cap sitting over the leaking well funneled about 619,500 gallons of oil to a drillship waiting on the ocean surface on Wednesday. Meanwhile, a specialized flare siphoning oil and gas from a stack of pipes on the seafloor burned roughly 161,700 gallons.

Thursday was focused on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers chastised BP CEO Tony Hayward.

Testifying as oil still surged into the Gulf at between 1.47 million and 2.52 million gallons a day, coating more coastal land and marshes, Hayward declared “I am so devastated with this accident,” “deeply sorry” and “so distraught.”

But he also said he was out of the loop on decisions at the well and disclaimed knowledge of any of the myriad problems on and under the Deepwater Horizon rig before the deadly explosion. BP was leasing the rig the Deepwater Horizon that exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and triggering the environmental disaster.

“BP blew it,” said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the House investigations panel that held the hearing. “You cut corners to save money and time.”

As for the methane, scientists are still trying to measure how much has escaped into the water and how it may damage the Gulf and it creatures.

The dangerous gas has played an important role throughout the disaster and response. A bubble of methane is believed to have burst up from the seafloor and ignited the rig explosion. Methane crystals also clogged a four-story containment box that engineers earlier tried to place on top of the breached well.

Now it is being looked at as an environmental concern.

The small microbes that live in the sea have been feeding on the oil and natural gas in the water and are consuming larger quantities of oxygen, which they need to digest food. As they draw more oxygen from the water, it creates two problems. When oxygen levels drop low enough, the breakdown of oil grinds to a halt; and as it is depleted in the water, most life can’t be sustained.

The National Science Foundation funded research on methane in the Gulf amid concerns about the depths of the oil plume and questions what role natural gas was playing in keeping the oil below the surface, said David Garrison, a program director in the federal agency who specializes in biological oceanography.

“This has the potential to harm the ecosystem in ways that we don’t know,” Garrison said. “It’s a complex problem.”

In early June, a research team led by Samantha Joye of the Institute of Undersea Research and Technology at the University of Georgia investigated a 15-mile-long plume drifting southwest from the leak site. They said they found methane concentrations up to 10,000 times higher than normal, and oxygen levels depleted by 40 percent or more.

The scientists found that some parts of the plume had oxygen concentrations just shy of the level that tips ocean waters into the category of “dead zone” — a region uninhabitable to fish, crabs, shrimp and other marine creatures.

Kessler has encountered similar findings. Since he began his on-site research on Saturday, he said he has already found oxygen depletions of between 2 percent and 30 percent in waters 1,000 feet deep.

Shallow waters are normally more susceptible to oxygen depletion. Because it is being found in such deep waters, both Kessler and Joye do not know what is causing the depletion and what the impact could be in the long- or short-term.

In an e-mail, Joye called her findings “the most bizarre looking oxygen profiles I have ever seen anywhere.”

Representatives of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration acknowledged that so much methane in the water could draw down oxygen levels and slow the breakdown of oil in the Gulf, but cautioned that research was still under way to understand the ramifications.

“We haven’t seen any long-term changes or trends at this point,” said Robert Haddad, chief of the agency’s assessment and restoration division.

Haddad said early efforts to monitor the spill had focused largely on the more toxic components of oil. However, as new data comes in, he said NOAA and other federal agencies will get a more accurate read on methane concentrations and the effects.

“The question is what’s going on in the deeper, colder parts of the ocean,” he said. “Are the (methane) concentrations going to overcome the amount of available oxygen? We want to make sure we’re not overloading the system.”

BP spokesman Mark Proegler disputed Joye’s suggestion that the Gulf’s deep waters contain large amounts of methane, noting that water samples taken by BP and federal agencies have shown minimal underwater oil outside the spill’s vicinity.

“The gas that escapes, what we don’t flare, goes up to the surface and is gone,” he said.

Steven DiMarco, an oceanographer at Texas A&M University who has studied a long-known “dead zone” in the Gulf, said one example of marine life that could be affected by low oxygen levels in deeper waters would be giant squid — the food of choice for the endangered sperm whale population. Squid live primarily in deep water, and would be disrupted by lower oxygen levels, DiMarco said.

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  • Patrick

    #1 and the USS Liberty was an accident,
    #2 and so was the Lyndon Johnson bamboozled us with his fabrication of the Gulf of Tonkin incident,
    #3 and so was 9/11 an accident,
    #4 and swine flue was just an accident.
    People, these things are caused by the government to feel the media up with BS while they pass laws through the house or in secret, and people dont reaslis it because we are all glued to our TV screens watch these “disasters”
    It is a form of distraction. disinformation.

  • Percy

    This is very possibly fear mongering depending on where this information was obtained and how tied in they are to the system that is doing this false flag. you needed to talk to chemical engineers with experince in this field.


    This above is one such engineer. Remember, we have no idea who we can trust anymore since the press has taken a hike so we get our news whereever we can and check it out further. Find someone not tied into the BP’s and elite or governments and show them what this engineer is saying.

    Its important now, to be as accurate as you can given the lack of trustworthy sources. I have this out to another engineer and waiting for him to get back to me with a yea, or nea….. BUT WHATEVER WE DO, fear is not to be one of them nor acting out of fear either, except where appropriate.

    Dumping millions of gallons of toxic disbursants into the water is something to respond too since that means they are trying to create the illnesses they are blaming on the natural event, IF IT WAS A NATURAL EVENT. We are finding out that this may have been a controlled release sufficient to cause the conditions they needed to cover what they were really doing, and if that is the case, its intentional trying to harm residents of the gulf, confiscate their property like they did those poor people in NO. So watch out.

  • John Holmes

    It’s dispersants, not disbursants. A disbursement is a distribution of money. I’m not going to be too keen on jumping to conspiracy theory conclusions when I have no way of substantiating such claims.
    I’ve seen idiots on this site quoting revelation in the bible. it’s the end of the world.
    Does anyone even know what happened? Did BP come out and say the squeeze job failed to hold and all the casing blew out of the hole? If this is a directional hole, that is impossible.
    One possible scenario is that the cement job came loose, and a piece of casing was shoved up inside the blowout preventer, jamming it, as a BOP cannot cut through casing. It’s only designed to cut through drill pipe to seal the hole.
    I don’t think we’ve been definitively told what actually happened?
    I do however agree that the government can take advantage and turn this thing into a power grab. They certainly have a history of it. No sane American trusts this god forsaken government anymore. They can go f themselves as far as I am concerned. They already destroyed my privacy. They lost my respect when they did that.
    So is the gulf gonna die? Is the whole gulf gonna get killed? It’s basically a 1000 mile circle. It can happen, you know. At first, I assumed they’d handle this thing. Now I’m starting to fear for the gulf itself. Those fish can’t live in this shit.
    I worked offshore for 20 years, and I have taken the side of big oil up until now. Now, I’m starting to think that if they can’t handle a deepwater blowout they have no business drilling in deep water. Any thinking on this?

  • John Holmes

    Speaking of power grabs, did anyone hear that the world bank seized the mineral rights to Haiti because of all the foreign aid spent there?
    I hope eutimes.net does a story on this.

  • percy

    Oh, John, do you have a link or source for that info, which I believe is critical. If the haitians have another revolt I hope they include the bankers in that.

    Can you see the headlines now:

    “HAITI, LIKE ARGENTINA AND ICELAND, KICK OUT IMF AND WORLD BANK”. Oh, that sounds so delicious. It should have read that we did that too. But its not over yet, is it???? They have a lot of accounting to do for what they have done. Talk about really hating your enemy, that is becoming the case with the international bankers.

  • Cinicle

    This could, cause a OILwave I.e Oil ridden Title wave..once the methane reaches a certain point of pressure deep down it could N fact explode..and that would be very bad…correct conditions would have to happen and / not very likely that it would

    • Percy

      cinicle, do not worry, the only way that could happen is if the bankers set off a nuke on purpose and do it themselves. According to geologists WHO DO NOT WORK FOR BP AND THE GOVERNMENT, there is no way that could happen and its why the bad guys stopped talking about doing it.

      They could not control all the scientists. So there was no methane bubble as we now see. All is well and even the foreign policy publication that is an offical publication said that BP admitted it would take only 6 mos to a year to clean up the mess they left behind with their false flag event. Lets not forget who owns BP.

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