Researchers examine fate of methane following the Deepwater Horizon spill

May 11, 2014
Image shows surface oil, emulsions and tar mats. Credit: Samantha Joye

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout discharged roughly five million gallons of oil and up to 500,000 tons of natural gas into Gulf of Mexico offshore waters over a period of 84 days. In the face of a seemingly insurmountable cleanup effort, many were relieved by reports following the disaster that naturally-occurring microbes had consumed much of the gas and oil.

Now, a team of researchers led by University of Georgia marine scientists have published a paper in the journal Nature Geoscience that questions this conclusion and provides evidence that microbes may not be capable of removing contaminants as quickly and easily as once thought.

"Most of the gas injected into the Gulf was , a potent that contributes to global , so we were naturally concerned that this potent greenhouse gas could escape into the atmosphere," said Samantha Joye, senior author of the paper, director of the study and professor of marine science in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "Many assumed that methane-oxidizing microbes would simply consume the methane efficiently, but our data suggests that this isn't what happened."

Joye and colleagues from other universities and government organizations measured methane concentrations and the activity of methane-consuming bacteria for ten months, starting before the blowout with collection of an invaluable set of pre-discharge samples taken in March 2010.

The abundance of methane in the water allowed the bacteria that feed on the gas to flourish in the first two months immediately following the blowout, but their activity levels dropped abruptly despite the fact that methane was still being released from the wellhead.

This new data suggests the sudden drop in bacterial activity was not due to an absence of methane, but a host of environmental, physiological, and physical constraints that made it difficult or impossible for bacteria to consume methane effectively.

Samantha Joye, a professor of marine sciences in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, studies the oil plumes generated by the Deepwater Horizon blowout. Credit: Todd Dickey, UGA

"For these bacteria to work efficiently, they need unlimited access to nutrients like inorganic nitrogen and trace metals, but they also need elevated methane levels to persist long enough to support high rates of consumption," Joye said. "The bacteria in the Gulf were probably able to consume about half of the methane released, but we hypothesize that an absence of essential nutrients and the dispersal of gas throughout the water column prevented complete consumption of the discharged methane."

Joye insists that while her group's conclusions differ from those presented in previous studies, there is no serious conflict between their analyses.

"The issue here was short-term sampling versus long-term time series sampling," she said. "I hope our paper clearly relays the message that long-term sampling is the only way to capture the evolution of a natural system as it responds to large perturbations like oil well blowouts or any other abrupt methane release."

Ultimately, scientists need to better understand the behavior of these microbes so that they may better gauge the environmental impacts of future accidents and methane releases due to climate change, she said.

"It's only a matter of time before we face another serious incident like Deepwater Horizon," Joye said. "The key is understanding the things that regulate how fast bacteria can consume methane, and that will give us insight into the ultimate fate of this in our oceans."

Explore further: Study shows bacteria combat dangerous gas leaks

More information: Paper: dx.doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2156

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Caliban
5 / 5 (6) May 11, 2014
Hear that?

It is the ROARING SILENCE of "the ocean constantly seeps oil, and microbiota are adapted to quickly consume any petro releases --oils spills pose no long term threat to marine ecosystems" BigCarbon Shills.

The harm visited upon the Gulf region by the DH blowout was severe, is ongoing, remains largely unmitigated, unquantified, and indeed, of only partially known extent.

Meanwhile, BP's legal department is involved in a death struggle legal battle with the US government to avoid paying any fines or further liability and damages claims to individual victims, state, or environment.

Funny just how massive the costs of Big Carbon's doing-of-business are when they become an ACTUAL COST of doing business, rather than an "external" one.

I wonder how much solar/wind capacity could have been installed for just the one-time cost of this catastrophe and associated litigation/liability.
eachus
1 / 5 (4) May 11, 2014
Two issues here. First, while BP provided money and expertise, the long-term response to the blowout was run by the Federal government. In particular, they wanted to preserve the BOP (blowout preventer) intact to find out why it failed. Was that the right decision? Personally, I don't think so. It was known right after the blowout that the well was producing lots of methane clathrate. (This prevented the first cap from working.) The presence of clathrate probably is what caused the cementing job to fail. More important, the fact that methane clathrate has multiple forms with density above and below one. (Some float, others don't.)

Now that the effects of methane clathrate around deep wells is known, no one is going to make the same mistakes. Forget profit and loss, the people making the decisions at the well head would be killed again.

BP agreed to a substantial payment (10+ billion), and to let the Coast Guard manage the response. To extort more from BP would be just that.
eachus
1 / 5 (3) May 11, 2014
The other point I wanted to make is about methane as a greenhouse gas. Yes, it is much more of a GHG than CO2, but it also, in the presence of moisture (rain or humidity) methane gets converted quickly to CO2. So methane should be considered on a weight basis, about three times as potent a GHG as CO2. (The ratio of molecular weights.)

The interaction of CO2, CH4, other GHG and moisture (which is actually the most potent GHG due to the amount in the atmosphere) is something that none of the supercomputer models have gotten right yet. Why not? I dunno. If I did, I might get a Nobel prize. Getting those models right would not only make predictions of climate change believable, but vastly improve weather forecasting.
Uncle Ira
5 / 5 (5) May 11, 2014
To extort more from BP would be just that.


That easy for you to say Skippy. I suppose you make your living on the water down here and know all about what is extortioning is? Them BP-Skippys got off lighter than a whore at Mardi Gras does. 10 billions of dollars is peanuts to what the thing costed. and they still make the profits, eh?
Caliban
5 / 5 (4) May 12, 2014
BP agreed to a substantial payment (10+ billion), and to let the Coast Guard manage the response. To extort more from BP would be just that.


That was just the federal penalties, and nicely reduced by about 50% from the originally agreed upon figure, courtesy of a Petropocket federal judge,

This arrangement in no way indemnifies BP against federal appeals, much less cicil litigation.
BP has been from the get go, and actively continues, to try and dodge any and all responsibility for the disaster and its ongoing, long term aftermath, even though they are clearly at fault.

Yet people continue to cry for poor little abused BP.

Why is that?

jdswallow
1 / 5 (5) May 12, 2014
Hear that?
I wonder how much solar/wind capacity could have been installed for just the one-time cost of this catastrophe and associated litigation/liability.


"The bacteria in the Gulf were probably able to consume about half of the methane released, but we hypothesize that an absence of essential nutrients and the dispersal of gas throughout the water column prevented complete consumption of the discharged methane."
http://phys.org/n...zon.html

Key words: "were probably" & "we hypothesize" which is what is being done with the amount of CO2 in the earth's atmosphere today causing the climate to do anything.

"There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such trifling investment of facts." Mark Twain
jdswallow
1 / 5 (5) May 12, 2014
"Titan's Mysterious Methane Comes From Inside, Not The Surface
"We have determined that Titan's methane is not of biological origin, so it must be replenished by geologic processes on Titan, perhaps venting from a supply in the interior that could have been trapped there as the moon formed," said Dr. Hasso Niemann of Goddard, principal investigator for the GCMS and lead author of a paper on this research to appear in Nature on Dec. 8. An advance online publication will be available on Nov. 30 at
http://www.nature...ex.html.
jdswallow
2 / 5 (4) May 12, 2014
jdswallow
1 / 5 (5) May 12, 2014
"Ocean Floor Methane Gas Hydrate Exploration
 Introduction: Over the last decade, large deposits of methane hydrates have been identified along the world continental margins. Frozen mixtures of hydrocarbon gas (mostly methane) and water occur over large areas of the ocean floor and vastly exceed other carbon-energy reservoirs. […]NRL has unique field and laboratory expertise that couples physical, chemical, and biological parameters to address methane hydrate distribution, formation, and stability. Recent, current, and planned field work is active on the Texas-Louisiana Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico, Nankai Trough off the eastern coast of Japan, Blake Ridge in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, the Cascadia Margin in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, and the Haakon-Mosby Mud Volcano (MV) in the Norwegian-Greenland Sea (Fig. 7).
 http://www.nrl.na.../coffin/
jdswallow
1 / 5 (5) May 12, 2014

Why is that?


Why is that?
Because, like you, you hypocritically challenged fool, they use the product to have a better life. Something people with your degree of intellectual inaccuracy will never come to understand is that fossil fuels are the motor of the world, whether you or similar folks like you want to admit to such a fact.

Caliban
5 / 5 (4) May 12, 2014

Why is that?

Why is that?
Because, like you, you hypocritically challenged fool, they use the product to have a better life. Something people with your degree of intellectual inaccuracy will never come to understand is that fossil fuels are the motor of the world, whether you or similar folks like you want to admit to such a fact.


Well of course you ignore the obvious fact that fossil fuels of all varieties are noxious compounds, and so therefore must be handled responsibly, and with a full measure of care and caution at every stage of development and distribution.

BP, Halliburton, et al failed miserably and catastrophically to do so in their haste to put money in their pockets, and have, since the beginning of this catastrophe, devoted every available resource to avoiding the responsibility to pay for the cleanup in the wake of their various misdeeds.

Yet, you defend them, you morally bankrupt and antiscience troll.

Beyond mere hypocrisy.

jdswallow
2 / 5 (4) May 12, 2014

Why is that?


Caliban: In your case, you can be excused for being a hypocrite because, from reading your post, you are either totally ignorant or just plain stupid, or a combination of the two.

Oil Industry Profit Margin Ranks Fairly Low: There Are Bigger Fish
http://seekingalp...ger-fish

Here is another aspect of petroleum that needs to be considered when trying to figure out why the price of gas and diesel is what it is. "A partial list of products made from Petroleum (144 of 6000 items)
One 42-gallon barrel of oil creates 19.4 gallons of gasoline. The rest (over half) is used to make things like:
Americans consume petroleum products at a rate of three-and-a-half gallons of oil and more than 
250 cubic feet of natural gas per day each! But, as shown here petroleum is not just used for fuel."
http://www.ranken...leum.htm

Then we have some fools thinking that ethanol and bio diesel is the answer. I'm sure of that "green energy" some people want to believe is the salvation of the planet is as much of a waste of resources as windmills and solar.
"Science News
... from universities, journals, and other research organizations
Study: Ethanol Production Consumes Six Units Of Energy To Produce Just One"
http://www.scienc...2436.htm
Caliban
5 / 5 (4) May 12, 2014
j' swallow

Either you haven't a clue or you are deliberately trolling.

Go cry to someone else about how the poor little BigCarbon is so miserably low-margin.
What a load of horseshit.

You aren't the first industry shill to troll here, and surely won't be the last.

So don't act shocked or outraged when you get picked off.

It's what is known as an "Occupational Hazard".

Moron.

jdswallow
1 / 5 (4) Jun 11, 2014
j' swallow

Either you haven't a clue or you are deliberately trolling.

Go cry to someone else about how the poor little BigCarbon is so miserably low-margin.
What a load of horseshit.

You aren't the first industry shill to troll here, and surely won't be the last.

So don't act shocked or outraged when you get picked off.

It's what is known as an "Occupational Hazard".

Moron.



Caliban: OK, you total idiot with out a clue. Where do you think that, if you ever did think, the US gets it energy from, electrically speaking, and how about transportation, you stupid fools with out a clue, and you will never change, will you dip s..t?

What is U.S. electricity generation by energy source?
In 2012, the United States generated about 4,054 billion kilowatthours of electricity. About 68% of the electricity generated was from fossil fuel (coal, natural gas, and petroleum), with 37% attributed from coal.
Energy sources and percent share of total electricity generation in 2012 were:
• Coal 37%
• Natural Gas 30%
• Nuclear 19%
• Hydropower 7%
• Other Renewable 5%
• Biomass 1.42%
• Geothermal 0.41%
• Solar 0.11%
• Wind 3.46%
• Petroleum 1%
• Other Gases < 1%"
http://www.eia.go...mp;t=3 
Caliban
5 / 5 (1) Jun 15, 2014
j' swallow

Either you haven't a clue or you are deliberately trolling.

Go cry to someone else about how the poor little BigCarbon is so miserably low-margin.
What a load of horseshit.

You aren't the first industry shill to troll here, and surely won't be the last.

So don't act shocked or outraged when you get picked off.

It's what is known as an "Occupational Hazard".

Moron.

Caliban: OK, you total idiot with out a clue. Where do you think that, if you ever did think, the US gets it energy from, electrically speaking, and how about transportation, you stupid fools with out a clue, and you will never change, will you dip s..t?

...What is U.S. electricity generation by energy source?
In 2012, the United States generated about 4,054 billion kilowatthours of electricity. About 68% of the electricity generated was from fossil fuel (coal, natural gas, and petroleum), with 37% attributed from coal.


68% BigCarbon. Not Profitable?

Moron shill.