Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Beware Them Methane Hydrates

I written here and here about the promise/dangers involved in mining methane hydrates, or "flammable ice", from under-sea deposits. On the one hand, you wind up with natural gas, a relatively clean burning fossil fuel. On the other hand, you risk triggering "massive landslides" on the ocean floor, thus setting methane, a potent if short-lived greenhouse gas, loose in the atmosphere.

Reading New Scientist on the weekend, I came across an intriguing reference:

There are fears that disturbing the hydrates could trigger blowouts that might release huge volumes of gas. Around 8000 years ago, a sudden natural release from the North Sea bed near Norway triggered a tsunami that flooded much of Scotland.

They are talking about The Storegga Slide, which seems to have been caused by gas from undersea hydrate deposits "destabilizing the sediment pile". Here's a brief popular account of the episode, and here two slightly more scholarly versions.

Interesting in that a lot of new research done on the slide was in preparation for the opening of the Ormen Lange natural gas field off Norway. The upshot was that, in this location,

...the development of the...gas field would not significantly increase the risk of triggering a new slide.

So, there okay in Scotland, but in general: a risk of massive and sudden C02 emissions, and now Tsunamis. Can't we just try to, like, use less fuel?

PS. Tried desperately to find a picture of a Scotsman surfing in a kilt to illustrate this post. Unfortunately, Google images came up sorely lacking in this regard. Use your imagination, but don't peak!

1 comment:

Raging Ranter said...

It's bubbles from those methane hydrates that bring down planes and sink ships in the Bermuda Triangle. It was a scientist from Toronto who first hypothesized that back in 1984, but it's been steadily gaining traction as an explanation - the ONLY explanation - ever since. The MythBusters did a show on it, where they showed how giant methane bubbles escaping from the ocean floor could swallow entire ships and choke plane engines dead.