For some time I’ve wondered about this. The gas had to be a major part of the gulf spill. After all the drilling rig was apparently destroyed by a gas explosion. The gas has been an invisible partner of the oil roaring into the golf.
Surely that couldn’t be a good thing could it? Here’s some confirmation of my fears.
At the point of exit from the well, the gas and oil are combined, but in the water they quickly separate. While BP has asserted that most of the gas surfaces and dissipates into the atmosphere, the research of John Kessler, a professor of earth system science at Texas A&M University, shows otherwise. Kessler has found that at the surface, levels of methane—the primary component of the natural gas—have remained normal, but they’ve skyrocketed at lower depths, indicating that most of the gas is still in the water.
In the 10-mile radius around the well site, research teams have measured methane levels in the water averaging 100,000 times normal levels. Kessler says levels are up to a million times normal in parts of the Gulf immediately surrounding the spill site. “This is the highest concentration I’ve ever seen in ocean waters, easily,” says Kessler. He believes it could take years—possibly decades—for the gas levels in the ecosystem to return to normal.
In the meantime, the leaked gas could dramatically change the chemistry of the Gulf. When natural gas is present, certain bacteria that digest it flourish out of control and can quickly deplete the oxygen in the surrounding waters, creating “dead zones” where little can exist.