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NURP, DOE, and MMS Coordinate to Fund Methane Hydrate Seafloor Observatory
This story entered on 14th Sep, 2004 06:44:28 AM PST

It is estimated that up to 60% of the world's global carbon reserves are located within methane hydrates, crystalline solids that hold methane within a lattice of water molecules. Methane is a greenhouse gas ten times more effective than carbon dioxide in causing climate warming and the methane bound in hydrates amounts to approximately three thousand times the volume of methane in the atmosphere.

NOAA's Undersea Research Program (NURP) is interested in the contributions of methane hydrates to the carbon cycle and their potential effects on climate change, and the unique chemosynthetic communities that subsist on hydrates. The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Minerals Management Service (MMS) are interested in the potential of methane hydrates as a viable energy source. DOE estimates that in the near future 50% of U.S. petroleum needs will come from the Gulf of Mexico, which is abundant in methane hydrates, and MMS estimates 60% of those resources are natural gas.

NURP, DOE, and MMS are jointly funding a methane hydrate research project headed by Dr. Bob Woolsey of the Center for Marine Resources and Environmental Technology (CMRET) and the NURP's National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology (NIUST) of the University of Mississippi. Dr. Woolsey and his team have designed a remotely operated sea floor observatory that will monitor the water column, ocean bottom, and sediments from within the hydrate stability zone of the continental slope of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Its primary scientific objective is to study the cause and effects of the migration of hydrocarbon fluids into and out of the hydrate stability zone, and associated chemical interactions. Study results should provide improved understanding of the role of gas hydrates and associated free gas in regard to: 1) geo-hazards to sea-floor installations; 2) the significance to potential energy resources; and 3) the global climate implications of hydrocarbon gases venting into the water column and eventually, the atmosphere.

NURP hosted a meeting of the agencies and scientists involved to coordinate effort on September 8, 2004. The initial deployment of the observatory's remote sensing instruments is scheduled for 2005 with completion in 2006.

NURP supports NOAA's role in gas hydrate research as stated in the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000, which calls for NOAA, DOE, and MMS to jointly carry out the research and development of gas hydrates.

Further information on this project can be found in the Summer 2004 issue of the National Energy Technology Laboratory's Methane Hydrate Newsletter, Fire in the Ice.

More information: Click Here

Contact information
Name: Gene Smith
Tel: (301) 713-2427

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