Thursday, July 1, 2010

BP's Spill: Methane dead zones and possibly a tsunami ?

I have been hearing and reading quite a bit about the problem of Methane gas release resulting from the BP blowout.

Here is the latest:

Methane at 100,000 times normal levels have been creating oxygen-depleted areas devoid of life near BP's Deepwater Horizon spill, according to two independent scientists

Scientists are confronting growing evidence that BP's ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico is creating oxygen-depleted "dead zones" where fish and other marine life cannot survive.

In two separate research voyages, independent scientists have detected what were described as "astonishingly high" levels of methane, or natural gas, bubbling from the well site, setting off a chain of reactions that suck the oxygen out of the water. In some cases, methane concentrations are 100,000 times normal levels.

Scientists as well as sport fishermen are reporting unusual movements of fish, shrimp, crab and other marine life. Such sightings – and an accumulation of data from the site of the ruptured well and from the ocean depths miles away – have deepened concerns that the enormity of the environmental disaster in the Gulf has yet to be fully understood
-Preliminary findings suggested the high volume of methane coming out of the well could upset the ocean food chain.

"Things are changing, and what impacts there are on the food web are not going to be clear until we go out and measure that"

You can also read here for more on the dead zones

The news of a potential Methane Tsunami was also a mind blowing thought-
It all reads so surreal. So beyond the scope of thought. But, apparently this is possible, I don't know about probable, but it is possible.

Bubble Eruption

A methane bubble this large -- if able to escape from under the ocean floor through fissures, cracks and fault areas -- is likely to cause a gas explosion. With the emerging evidence of fissures, the tacit fear now is this: the methane bubble may rupture the seabed and may then erupt with an explosion within the Gulf of Mexico waters.

Cascading Catastrophe Scenarios

1. Loss of Buoyancy

Huge methane gas bubbles under a ship can cause a sudden buoyancy loss. This causes a ship to tilt adversely or worse.

2. First Tsunami with Toxic Cloud

If the toxic gas bubble explodes, it might simultaneously set off a tsunami travelling at a high speed of hundreds of miles per hour. Florida might be most exposed to the fury of a tsunami wave.

3. Second Tsunami via Vaporisation

After several billion barrels of oil and billions of cubic feet of gas have been released, the massive cavity beneath the ocean floor will begin to normalise, allowing freezing water to be forced naturally into the huge cavity where the oil and gas once were. The temperature in that cavity can be extremely hot at around 150 degrees celsius or more. The incoming water will be vaporised and turned into steam, creating an enormous force, which could actually lift the Gulf floor. According to computer models, a second massive tsunami wave might occur.

Conclusion The danger of loss of buoyancy and cascading tsunamis in the Gulf of Mexico -- caused by the release of the massive methane and poisonous gas bubble -- has been a much lower probability in the early period of the crisis, which began on April 20th. However, as time goes by and the risk increases, this low probability high impact scenario ought not to be ignored.


  1. Penn, Have yu noticed how little news there is about this spill these days? It's like if we don't tell them they won't get mad at us when they start to die.

  2. yah, alot of focus on the "russian spies" which I am thinking is pretty bogus at this point in time.
    Nice distraction, not much else.