By Norris McDonald
Oil is getting all of the attention in the Gulf spill, but there is a significant amount of natural gas spilling out of that pipe too. Let's use an estimate (and there are all kinds of estimates) of a 3000:1 gas to oil ratio at the well. That is 3000 cubic feet of gas for every barrel of oil. Estimates of the amount of oil leaking into the gulf are 25,000 to 70,000 barrels. There are 5.64 cubic feet of gas per barrel (Society of Petroleum Engineers). So that would mean there are 13.3 to 37.2 million "barrels" (barrels of oil equivalent) of gas being released each day.
When methane is released into the gulf it goes into solution and in the deep ocean. In natural processes, methane gas escapes from ocean floor fossil deposits and about half of that quantity is dissolved into the ocean water, however, the other half of the quantity is thought to escape into the Earth's atmosphere.
Natural gas (methane) (CH4) is a greenhouse gas that remains in the atmosphere for approximately 9-15 years. Methane is over 20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 100-year period and is emitted from a variety of natural and human-influenced sources (EPA).
Also, as was observed during the Deepwater Horizon containment dome capping attempt, methane mixed directly with water to form methane hydrates that blocked the funnel. Methane clathrate, also called methane hydrate, methane ice or "fire ice" is a large amount of methane trapped within a crystal structure of water, forming a solid similar to ice.
Who knows the permutations of the methane when combined with crude oil and dispersant. One thing is sure, the spill is emitting signifcant new amounts of methane into the atmosphere and ocean. Not to be picky, but will there be a penalty against Great Britain under its Kyoto Protocol emissions allowance?
Bottom line. Plug the leak as soon as humanly possible.
(Innereye, 5/18/2010, Softpedia, Wiki)