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NURP's NIUST Targets Research of the Microbial Aspects of Gas Hydrates
This story entered on 18th May, 2005 07:34:16 AM PST

Methane hydrates are crystalline solids of methane and water that occur in Arctic permafrost and in deep-sea sediments along the world’s continental margins. The gas in hydrates, which exceeds present petroleum reserves by a factor of three and holds sixty per cent of the world’s global carbon reserves, may in the near future become the primary source of both gas energy and greenhouse gas emissions. Much remains to be learned about the geochemical and biological aspects of gas hydrates at the ecosystem level.

The National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology (NIUST), established in 2001 by NOAA's Undersea Research Program (NURP), has taken a leadership role in the development of a deep-sea gas hydrate observatory within the northern Gulf of Mexico. Throughout the summers of 2005 and 2006, NIUST and its consortium partners, the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory and the Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service, will deploy the seafloor observatory at a depth of approximately 1000 m to gather data related to the geochemical aspects of gas hydrates.

To study the chemosynthetic microbial communities associated with hydrate systems, NIUST has recently issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to address fundamental methodological and/or technical questions relevant to the development of a hydrate microbial observatory in the Gulf of Mexico. The microbial observatory will interface with the geochemical observatory in providing information that might help explain the formation of hydrates. Research questions might include, but are not limited to, issues related to microbial biodiversity, microbial ecology, microbial physiology, and/or microbial biotechnological applications of the hydrate microbial community. The report is available at the NIUST web site:

In 2006, a collaboration between NURP, NOAA’s Office of Exploration, and the Minerals Management Service will use the deep-diving submersible Alvin to further research the chemosynthetic communities associated with gas hydrates, as well as to understand the linkages between gas hydrates and deep sea corals.

More information:
Contact information
Name: Raymond C Highsmith
Tel: (662) 915-6507

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Updated: August 29, 2005