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Friday, July 02, 2010

Hoax or Not?

From:  Ann of Key West, Florida
Subject: Re: hoax or not My comments are in RED
To: "Gabrielle B"
Date: Friday, July 2, 2010, 11:19 PM

I think that the people who think this to be a hoax don't quite understand what they have heard.

1. "Explosion", in this case is not necessarily a fire event. Although methane is very flammable (and yeah it needs to have an oxygen source to catch on fire), my take on the term "explosion" means a violent eruption, at a high rate of speed, from the 30,000 feet + depths below the seafloor, either through the badly damaged well casing or the well casing itself---

2. Should #1 above actually happen, the methane that is now trapped under incredible pressure (I haven't been able to verify any such pressure greater than 50,000 psi), any methane, which is by the way an 87% component of the natural gas its mixed with, can and has in the past, caused a sudden loss of buoyancy in the water from which it could shoot through, sinking any craft in the area. See 2003 Discovery Channel article Here:

news brief

Giant Bubbles Could Sink Ships
Anna Salleh, ABC Science Online
Stormy Gaseous Seas
Stormy Gaseous Seas
Oct. 24, 2003 — Methane bubbles from the sea floor could be responsible for the mysterious sinking of ships in areas like the Bermuda Triangle and the North Sea, new Australian research confirmed.

Computational mathematics honors student David May and supervisor, Professor Joseph Monaghan of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, reported their research in the American Journal of Physics.

Their modeling suggests that giant bubbles are much more likely to sink ships than previously thought, adding new weight to warnings about ships traveling in areas where bubbles are likely to be.

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atch "Discovery Spotlight", Discovery Channel's current events program. Take a Dive: Explore the oceans, the life force of our Blue Planet.

Huge bubbles can erupt from undersea deposits of solid methane, known as gas hydrates. The methane — found as an odorless gas in swamps and mines — becomes solid under the enormous pressures at the deep sea floor. Under the sea, however, the ice-like methane deposits can break off and become gaseous as they rise, creating bubbles at the surface.

"Sonar surveys of the ocean floor in the North Sea (between Britain and continental Europe) have revealed large quantities of methane hydrates and eruption sites," May and Monaghan said.

These bubbles aren't any old round sphere, according to May. In fact, they are lens-shaped, with a flat bottom and a domed upper surface.

While previous experimental research — using, for example, bubbles in large glass beakers filled with water — have supported the theory that plumes of bubbles can sink ships, May and Monaghan took these ideas further by simulating the event with a computer model.

But first, they trapped water between vertical glass plates and launched gas bubbles from the bottom to see what would happen to a toy ship floating on the surface. They found that a single giant bubble, the same width as the length of a ship, could swamp a ship under certain circumstances.

The researchers also developed a numerical computer model that was able to predict whether the toy ship would sink under different conditions. The computer model — based on the principles of fluid dynamics — related velocity, pressure, and density measurements of both water and gas, in two dimensions. A display showed the movement of the water resulting from a giant bubble and its impact on a computerized "ship."

May and Monaghan checked the accuracy of the computer model by feeding different sized real bubbles into the glass tank and seeing whether the ship sank as it was placed in different positions in relation to the bubble.

Whether or not the ship will sink depends on its position relative to the bubble. If it is far enough from the bubble, it is safe, they said. If it is exactly above the bubble, it also is safe — the danger position is between the bubble's middle point and the edge of the mound where the trough formed.

"When we started playing around with the model, we saw lots of interesting features at the surface that hadn't been discussed in the literature," May told ABC Science Online.

"I thought the bubble would rise up, burst and create a cavity that the ship would fall into and it wouldn't sink. But instead, you got an elevation of water — a sphere of water that the boat would slide off. But when the bubble burst, you got this high velocity jet of fluid spurting down into the water, pushing the boat under with it."

The researchers said a recent survey has revealed the presence of a sunken vessel within the center of one particularly large eruption site, now known as the Witches Hole, suspected to be the victim of a bubble.

No one has seen such an eruption in real life, and no one knows how large the bubbles coming off a methane deposit would be or what configuration they would be in.

However as soon as bubbles are characterized, measurements can be collected and plugged into the computer model to assess the potential risk to ships passing by, May said.

3. If the methane bubble is large enough, and sonar research says it is, any fast and rapid displacement of water could cause a tsunami, whether or not the natural gas/methane catches fire when it reaches the surface. 

4. When this disaster happened on April 20, 2010, it now has been verified by Department of Energy scientists that there was a violent eruption deep in the well itself or in the well bore- they don't know which- this violent explosion caused the sectioned well casing to shoot up through itself and into the blowout preventer (BOP). The crude and methane continued up the rest of the 5,000 feet of the riser pipe into the rig where it caught on fire in a series of violent explosions. It wasn't until two days later that the rig burned so much that it sank.  The sinking brought the 5000 feet of the riser pipe down with it.

5. To understand the dynamics of frozen-to-gas methane, one would need to understand what a methane hydrate is. Technically, methane hydrates are solid lattice-like crystalline structures which remain in this form when under certain pressures and temperatures.  These structures seem to hold many of the oil producing formations of sea floors together.  However, when heated, perhaps by rising crude, the hydrates can rapidly change into pressurized gas. See this 1999 Science & Technology review article on the structure and chemical composition of methane hydrate:

March 1999 // Science & Technology Review

do you get when you combine water and swamp gas under low temperatures and high pressures? You get a frozen latticelike substance called methane hydrate, huge amounts of which underlie our oceans and polar permafrost. This crystalline combination of a natural gas and water (known technically as a clathrate) looks remarkably like ice but burns if it meets a lit match.

Methane hydrate was discovered only a few decades ago, and little research has been done on it until recently. By some estimates, the energy locked up in methane hydrate deposits is more than twice the global reserves of all conventional gas, oil, and coal deposits combined. But no one has yet figured out how to pull out the gas inexpensively, and no one knows how much is actually recoverable. Because methane is also a greenhouse gas, release of even a small percentage of total deposits could have a serious effect on Earth's atmosphere.

Research on methane hydrate has increased in the last few years, particularly in countries such as Japan that have few native energy resources. As scientists around the world learn more about this material, new concerns surface. For example, ocean-based oil-drilling operations sometimes encounter methane hydrate deposits. As a drill spins through the hydrate, the process can cause it to dissociate. The freed gas may explode, causing the drilling crew to lose control of the well. Another concern is that unstable hydrate layers could give way beneath oil platforms or, on a larger scale, even cause tsunamis.

Lawrence Livermore's William Durham, a geophysicist, began studying methane hydrate several years ago with Laura Stern and Stephen Kirby of the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California. With initial funding from NASA, they looked at the ices on the frigid moons of Saturn and other planets in the outer reaches of our solar system. One of these ices is methane hydrate.

Ice That Doesn't Melt
For their research, Durham, Stern, and Kirby needed good-quality samples of methane hydrate. But samples of the real thing are tough to acquire, requiring expensive drilling and elaborate schemes for core recovery and preservation. Previously developed methods for synthesizing the stuff in the laboratory generally resulted in an impure material still containing some water that had not reacted with the methane.

The Livermore-USGS team attempted an entirely new procedure. They mixed sieved granular water ice and cold, pressurized methane gas in a constant-volume reaction vessel and slowly heated it. Warming started at a temperature of 250 kelvin (K) (-10&degree;F) with a pressure of about 25 megapascals (MPa).* The reaction between methane and ice started near the normal melting point of ice at this pressure (271 K, or 29&degree;F) and continued until virtually all of the water ice had reacted with methane, forming methane hydrate.

The team studied the resulting material by x-ray diffraction and found pure methane hydrate with no more than trace amounts of water. This simple method produced precisely what they needed: low-porosity, cohesive samples with a uniformly fine grain size and random crystallographic grain orientation.

Says Durham, "In a way, we got lucky. We used the same technique we use for producing uniform water ice samples from `seed' ice. We tried adding pressurized methane gas and heating it. And it worked."

It worked, but some unexpected things happened along the way. The ice did not liquefy as it should have when its melting temperature was reached and surpassed. In fact, methane hydrate was formed over a period of 7 or 8 hours, with the temperatures inside the reaction vessel reaching 290 K (50&degree;F) before the last of the ice was consumed. Repeated experiments produced the same result: ice that did not melt (Figure 1).

A control experiment replaced the methane with neon, which does not form the cagelike latticework of gas and water molecules that is a gas hydrate. Under otherwise identical experimental conditions, the ice melted as it should. Other experiments replaced the methane with both gaseous and liquid carbon dioxide, which does form a hydrate. Here the superheating phenomenon reappeared, indicating that it is not unique to methane hydrate.

Durham and his team believe the superheating phenomenon is related to active hydrate formation. The reaction at the free ice surface somehow suppresses the formation of a runaway melt. Figure 1 shows that when the reaction ceases, melting happens immediately. The American Chemical Society was impressed enough with these rather bizarre results to give the team a cash prize and award in late 1997.

Another Surprise
Once the team had large, pure samples they could work with, they began studying the material's physical properties and the way it forms and dissociates. This is research at its most basic. But its applications are clear when one considers that dissociation of seabed methane hydrate deposits could cost the lives of workers on an oil drilling platform.

Methane hydrate's stability curve (Figure 2) has been established for some time. If conditions fall outside that curve, the material will dissociate into its components, methane and water. Durham, Stern, and Kirby looked at how the dissociation occurs under a variety of temperature and pressure conditions outside the curve.

After the samples were created, the pressure was reduced to 0.1 MPa, the pressure at sea level. They did this in two ways: by slow cooling and depressurization and by rapid depressurization at a range of temperatures.

The compound decomposed to ice and gas as expected in all experiments except those that involved rapid depressurization at temperatures from 240 to 270 K (Figure 3). In these experiments, the team found yet another surprise. Even after the pressure drop, the methane hydrate was "preserved" as a compound for as long as 25 hours before it decomposed.

This behavior may have implications for future exploitation of the material. Preserving the mixed hydrates may be possible at an easily accessible temperature, just a few degrees below ice's melting temperature.

In another series of experiments, the team is looking at the strength of gas hydrate samples in various temperature and pressure scenarios. Results of these experiments may indicate the possible effects that stresses from gravity, tectonic activity, or human disturbance might have on gas hydrate deposits.

Thus far, the team has found that water ice and methane hydrate have about the same strength at very low temperatures of 180 K and below. But the hydrate is much stronger than ice at temperatures of 240 K and above. The most recent data indicate that methane hydrate is several times stronger than ice (Figure 4). Although methane hydrate is not as strong as rock, the data may be good news for the stability of the deposits.

More Work Ahead
Plenty of work remains to be done. The team plans to measure the molecular diffusion of gases through methane hydrate and to study special compounds that might suppress the formation of hydrates in cold pipelines. They also will do experiments to measure methane hydrate's thermal properties. Says Durham, "We already know that it is a very poor conductor of heat. If you hold a piece of it in your hand, it doesn't feel like ice at all. It almost feels like styrofoam."

A new heat exchanger installed in December at Livermore's ice physics laboratory allows Durham to heat samples from 180 to 260 K in about an hour, a process that used to take 24 hours. Durham notes, "Now we can do experiments much more quickly and thus can run a lot more experiments. Methane hydrate is a material with plenty of surprises, so there is no telling what we might discover next."

-Katie Walter

* 0 K is absolute zero. At 0.1 MPa (1 atmosphere), water freezes at 273 K and boils at 373 K.
          Key Words: clathrate, energy sources, gas hydrates,           methane hydrate, global climate, superheating.
For further information contact William B. Durham (925) 422-7046 (

            Back to March 1999 // Science & Technology Review 1999 //    Science & Technology Review // LLNL Homepage

6. The pressure remaining in this deepwater well is still so great that up to 2,520,000 gallons of crude/natural gas are gushing every 24 hours.  That's over 100,000 gallons each and every hour.  This Deepwater Horizon well was drilled in the Mississippi Canyon area of the Gulf of Mexico which has at least four 'mud volcanoes, two of which are known to be active. As stated in the article above, tectonic activity can be one cause of the cascading change of methane hydrate to methane gas:

Mud volcano

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A series of mud volcanoes in Gobustan, Azerbaijan

Mud volcano in the Gulf of Mexico sea bottom

Hydrate-bearing sediments, which often are associated with mud volcano activity.
Source: USGS, 1996.
The geothermal phenomena known as "mud volcanoes" are often not true mud volcanoes. See mudpot for further information.
The terms mud volcano or mud dome are used to refer to formations created by geo-excreted liquids and gases, although there are several different processes which may cause such activity. Temperatures are much cooler in these processes than found at igneous volcanoes. The largest mud volcano structures are 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) in diameter and reach 700 metres (2,300 ft) in height.[citation needed] About 20% of the gas released from these structures is methane, with much less carbon dioxide and nitrogen emitted. Ejected materials are often a slurry of fine solids suspended in liquids which may include water, which is frequently acidic or salty, and hydrocarbon fluids. Recently, possible mud volcanoes have been identified on Mars.[1]



[edit] Details

A mud volcano may be the result of a piercement structure created by a pressurized muddiapir which breaches the Earth's surface or ocean bottom. Their temperatures may be as low as the freezing point of the ejected materials, particularly when venting is associated with the creation of hydrocarbon clathrate hydrate deposits. Mud volcanoes are often associated with petroleum deposits and tectonic subduction zones and orogenic belts; hydrocarbon gases are often erupted. They are also often associated with lava volcanoes; in the case of such close proximity, mud volcanoes emit incombustible gases including helium, whereas lone mud volcanoes are more likely to emit methane. Approximately 1,100 mud volcanoes have been identified on land and in shallow water. It has been estimated that well over 10,000 may exist on continental slopes and abyssal plains.

[edit] Features

  • Gryphon: steep-sided cone shorter than 3 meters that extrudes mud
  • Mud cone: high cone shorter than 10 meters that extrudes mud and rock fragments
  • Scoria cone: cone formed by heating of mud deposits during fires
  • Salse: water-dominated pools with gas seeps
  • Spring: water-dominated outlets smaller than 0.5 meters
  • Mud shield

[edit] Emissions

Most liquid and solid material is released during eruptions, but various seeps occur during dormant periods. First order estimates of mud volcano emissions have recently been made (1 Tg = 1 million metric tonnes).
  • 2002: L.I. Dimitrov estimated that 10.2–12.6 Tg/yr of methane is released from onshore and shallow offshore mud volcanoes.
  • 2002: Etiope and Klusman estimated at least 1–2 and as much as 10–20 Tg/yr of methane may be emitted from onshore mud volcanoes.
  • 2003: Etiope, in an estimate based on 120 mud volcanoes: "The emission results to be conservatively between 5 and 9 Tg/yr, that is 3–6% of the natural methane sources officially considered in the atmospheric methane budget. The total geologic source, including MVs (this work), seepage from seafloor (Kvenvolden et al., 2001), microseepage in hydrocarbon-prone areas and geothermal sources (Etiope and Klusman, 2002), would amount to 35–45 Tg/yr."[2]
  • 2003: analysis by Milkov et al. suggests that the global gas flux may be as high as 33 Tg/yr (15.9 Tg/yr during quiescent periods plus 17.1 Tg/yr during eruptions). Six teragrams per year of greenhouse gases are from onshore and shallow offshore mud volcanoes. Deep-water sources may emit 27 Tg/yr. Total may be 9% of fossil CH44 budget, and 12% in the preindustrial budget.[3] missing in the modern atmospheric CH
  • 2003: Alexei Milkov estimated approximately 30.5 Tg/yr of gases (mainly methane and CO2) may escape from mud volcanoes to the atmosphere and the ocean.[4]
  • 2003: Achim J. Kopf estimated 1.97×1011 to 1.23×1014 m³ of methane is released by all mud volcanoes per year, of which 4.66×107 to 3.28×1011 m³ is from surface volcanoes.[5] That converts to 141–88,000 Tg/yr from all mud volcanoes, of which 0.033–235 Tg is from surface volcanoes.

[edit] Locations

Two mud volcanoes on the Taman Peninsula near Taman Stanitsa
Satellite image of mud volcanoes in Pakistan

[edit] Europe

There are generally few mud volcanoes in Europe, but dozens can be found on the Taman Peninsula of Russia and the Kerch Peninsula of southeastern Ukraine. In Italy, they are common in the northern front of the Apennines and in Sicily. Another relatively accessible place where mud volcanoes can be found in Europe are the Berca Mud Volcanoes near Berca in Buzău County, Romania, close to the Carpathian Mountains.

[edit] Asia

[edit] Lusi (Indonesia)

Drilling or an earthquake may have resulted in the Sidoarjo mud flow on May 29, 2006, in the Porong subdistrict of East Java province, Indonesia. The mud covered about 440 hectares, or 1,087 acres (4.40 km2), and inundated four villages, homes, roads, rice fields, and factories, displacing about 24,000 people and killing 14. The gas exploration company involved was operated by PT Lapindo Brantas. In 2008, it was termed the world's largest mud volcano and is beginning to show signs of catastrophic collapse, according to geologists who have been monitoring it and the surrounding area. A catastrophic collapse could sag the vent and surrounding area by up to 150 metres (490 ft) in the next decade. In March 2008, the scientists observed drops of up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) in one night. Most of the subsidence in the area around the volcano is more gradual, at around 0.1 centimetres (0.039 in) per day. Now named Lusi – a contraction of Lumpur Sidoarjo, where lumpur is the Indonesian word for "mud" – the mud volcano appears to be a hydrocarbon/hydrothermal hybrid.

[edit] Central Asia

Many mud volcanoes exist on the shores of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. TectonicAzerbaijan, with large eruptions sometimes producing flames of similar scale (see below). Iran and Pakistan also possess mud volcanoes in the Makran range of mountains in the south of the two countries. In fact, the world's largest and highest volcano is located in Balochistan, Pakistan.[6] forces and large sedimentary deposits around the latter have created several fields of mud volcanoes, many of them emitting methane and other hydrocarbons. Features over 200 meters high exist in

[edit] Pakistan

In Pakistan there are more than 80 active mud volcanoes, all of them in BaluchistanGwadar District, the mud volcanoes are very small and mostly sit in the south of Jabal-e-Mehdi toward Sur Bandar. Many more exist in the north-east of Ormara. The remainder are in Lasbela District and are scattered between south of Gorangatti on Koh Hinglaj to Koh Kuk in the North of Miani Hor in the Hangol Valley. In this region, the heights of mud volcanoes range between 800 to 1550 feet. The most famous is Chandaragup. The biggest crater found is about 450 feet in diameter. Most mud volcanoes in this region are situated in out-of-reach areas having very difficult terrain. Dormant mud volcanoes stand like columns of mud in many other areas. province; there are about 10 locations having clusters of mud volcanoes. In the west, in

[edit] Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan and its Caspian coastline are home to nearly 400 mud volcanoes, more than half the total throughout the continents. In 2001, one mud volcano 15 kilometers from Baku[7] made world headlines when it suddenly started ejecting flames 15 meters high. In Azerbaijan, eruptions are driven from a deep mud reservoir which is connected to the surface even during dormant periods, when seeping water still shows a deep origin. Seeps[8] have temperatures up to 2–3 °C above the ambient temperature.

[edit] Other Asian locations

  • China has a number of mud volcanoes in Xinjiang province.
  • There are also mud volcanoes at the Arakan Coast in Myanmar (Burma).
  • There are two active mud volcanoes in South Taiwan, and several inactive ones.
  • The island of Baratang, part of the Great Andaman archipelago in the Andaman Islands, Indian Ocean, has several sites of mud volcanic activity. There was a significant eruption event in 2003.
  • A drilling accident offshore of Brunei in 1979 caused a mud volcano which took 20 relief wells and nearly 30 years to halt the eruption.
A cold mud pot in Northern California, showing the scale
A cold mud pot in Glenblair, California
Yagrumito Mud Volcano in Monagas, Venezuela (6 km from Maturín)
One of the Devil's Woodyard Volcano (Hindustan, Trinidad & Tobago)

[edit] North America

Mud volcanoes of the North American continent include:
Yellowstone's "Mud Volcano" feature[10]

[edit] Yellowstone's "Mud Volcano"

The name of Yellowstone National Park's "Mud Volcano" feature and the surrounding area is misleading; it consists of hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles, rather than a true mud volcano. Depending upon the precise definition of the term mud volcano, the Yellowstone formation could be considered a hydrothermal mud volcano cluster. The feature is much less active than in its first recorded description, although the area is quite dynamic. Yellowstone is an active geothermal area with a magma chamber near the surface, and active gases are chiefly steam, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide.[11] The mud volcano in Yellowstone was previously a mound, until suddenly, it tore itself apart into the formation seen today.[12]

[edit] South America

[edit] Venezuela

The eastern part of Venezuela contains several mud volcanoes, all of them, as in Trinidad, having an origin related to oil deposits. The image shows the Volcán de lodo de Yagrumito, about 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) from Maturín, Venezuela. Its mud contains, water, biogenic gas, a certain amount of hydrocarbons and an important quantity of salt. Cows from the savanna often gather around to lick the dried mud for its salt content, which is an integral part of their diet needed to produce milk.

[edit] Colombia

Volcan El Totumo,[13] which marks the division between Bolivar and Atlantico in Colombia. This volcano is approximately 50 feet (15 m) high and can accommodate 10 to 15 people on its crater; many tourists and locals visit this volcano due to the medicinal benefits of the mud; the volcano is located next to a cienaga, or lake. This volcano is currently under a legal fight between the Bolivar and Atlantico Departamentos because of its tourist value.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ "Mars domes may be 'mud volcanoes'". BBC. March 26, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-27. 
  3. ^ Milkov, A. V., R. Sassen, T. V. Apanasovich, and F. G. Dadashev (2003). "Global gas flux from mud volcanoes: A significant source of fossil methane in the atmosphere and the ocean". Geophys. Res. Lett. 30 (2): 1037. doi:10.1029/2002GL016358. 
  4. ^ "Global Distribution and Significance of Mud Volcanoes". AAPG Annual Meeting 2003: Energy - Our Monumental Task. Retrieved April 20, 2005. 
  5. ^ Achim J. Kopf (2003). "Global methane emission through mud volcanoes and its past and present impact on the Earth's climate". International Journal of Earth Sciences 92 (5): 806–816. doi:10.1007/s00531-003-0341-z.  ISSN 1437-3254 (Paper) ISSN 1437-3262 (Online)
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Azeri mud volcano flares". BBC News. October 29, 2001. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  8. ^ S. Planke, H. Svensen, M. Hovland, D. A. Banks, B. Jamtveit (December 2003). "Mud and fluid migration in active mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan". Geo-Marine Letters 23 (3-4): 258–268. doi:10.1007/s00367-003-0152-z. 
  9. ^ "Discover northern california". Independent Travel Tours. Retrieved 25 February 2010. 
  10. ^ NPS, Peaco, 1998
  11. ^ "Mud volcano". USGS Photo glossary of volcano terms. Retrieved April 20, 2005. 
  12. ^ Whittlesey, Lee (1995) [1995]. Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park. Lanham, Maryland: Roberts Rinehart Publishers. ISBN 1-5709802-1-7. 
  13. ^

[edit] External links

Search Wikimedia Commons Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Mudpots
6. BP has stated that this well has an usually high natural gas/methane content, approximately 20-40%. Whether or not there will be an explosion of methane coming up from the seafloor remains to be seen. However, its clear to me that this is a distinct possibility given the scientific data already known. On Fri, 7/2/10, G wrote:
From: Gabrielle B Subject: hoax or not To: "A Warren"  Date: Friday, July 2, 2010, 2:19 PM

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