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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/23/10

Methane Bubble Earthquake Volcano in the Gulf?

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There's been a viral message spreading over the web that there's a life and earth threatening methane bubble in the gulf, caused by the gushing well, which will explode and even cause an earthquake and a real volcano, in some versions of the story. Some accuse Obama of hiding nefarious goings on.

Things are bad enough in the gulf. There's a real, genuine disaster of historic proportions. We don't need new tin-foil hat conspiracy theories.
Tinfoil hat and volcano image mashup by rob kall
flickr source images: tinfoil hat lady by amanky volcano bykahunapulej

I suspected the veracity of this report, only found on obscure websites and youtube videos. I checked with some experts who have proven to have provided reliable information on the well disaster in the past. The uniform response has been that this methane bubble story is urban legend nonsense. So let's nip it in the bud with some reality.

Yes there is a lot of methane gas. That doesn't mean there's a giant bubble waiting to explode and set off an earthquake or volcanic eruption. It DOES mean that huge amounts of methane are in the water and entering the atmosphere. And methane causes 20 to 70 times the greenhouse gas effect that CO2 does, according to wikipedia. Also, methane decreases Oxygen in the water, making it harder for life in the ocean to survive. Add to that the oil eating bacteria using up oxygen and the risk for dead zones increase. This is serious stuff, but not at all validating the methane bubble narrative.

I have already reported that the situation with the well is very bad-- that probably, a gas explosion, possibly methane, in the well, caused damage up and down the well, possibly breaking the casing, causing leaks throughout the well. That is believed to be the reason the "top kill" failed. Mud was coming out from multiple leak locations. It is also the reason that the relief wells, being drilled so that a "bottom kill" can be attempted-- again, injecting mud into the well to seal it-- will not work because of breaks in the casing.

Part of the reason there are breaks in the casing is because BP chose to use the cheaper option for casing, saving a few million dollars. Then they skimped on spacers used in well sealing process that Haliburton was contracted to do. Haliburton accepted this sub-standard situation and did the work anyway. That added to the risk that the well was never sealed properly to begin with. We don't know all the facts because the mudlogs have not been released which would tell us details.

We do know that weeks before the explosion that sank the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, a worker reporter that there was a hydraulic leak in the BOP that was the safety device that was supposed to close the well in the case of an emergency. The hydraulic fluid was needed to enable the BOP to cut through the well pipe and seal it. Apparently BP failed to address the problem.

First, here's the response I received from my anonymous (I do know who it is but am protecting his job) source in BP:

Here's what I asked him: "There's talk that there's a giant methane gas bubble waiting to explode and start a volcano and earthquakes in the gulf. What's your take? " He replied:
There is no 'cavern' under the Gulf. How are caverns formed? By water dissolving limestone. Over a huge period of time. Above water. I don't know the geology of the oil-bearing rock, but if it were limestone, those drills would be progressing a whole lot faster. Also, if you drill into the top of a cavern, then it is IMPOSSIBLE to cement a well. Remember how that's done? They shoot cement out the bottom and it flows up between the wall and the outside of the well casing. A cavern would mean that there was no wall.

There is no huge gas volcano ready to come forth. It's true that this well is 40% gas by volume, and that the average is 5%, but that's just more doomsday crap from conspiracy nuts.

While the reservoir is around 400-450F, and 13,000 psi, there's no 'bubble', unless you consider an entire underground geology to be a bubble. The thing is permeable rock, not a cavern.

At most, with a huge hole in the ground, it could probably flow 600K bbl/day - but no volcano.

And - if by 'explode', you meant 'ignite', then I'd ask where the ignition source is? Even if it started flowing at the max, no fire on the surface is going to traverse to the bottom; fire requires oxygen.

Earthquakes - if the well opened up 100%, then - eventually, some of the structure might collapse and cause an minor earthquake - but that's doubtful. Generally, as you pump, the land subsides - a very quiet event. Earthquakes happen when drillers inject hot water or whatever to crack the rock and bring oil or gas out more quickly, and then that's only because natural faults get lubricated. Denver had a bunch of these in the 70's (I was there for them). No big deal.

Much ado about nothing, really."

I also asked geologist Chris Landau, who has experience with drilling. He replied,
As far as the bubble is concerned. I say no. If I am wrong, all I can say is I learnt something. Is it not good to be wrong at least once per day. My reasoning follows.

Two links you might want to save to get quick details on how deep the next earthquake is that makes the news and how strong it is. We have a 7 on the richter scale, somewhere in the world every 10 days.

1961 earthquakes of 2.5 on the richter scale or greater in the last week around the USA, Alaska,Hawaii, Puerto Rico. None in the Gulf. See interactive map from the United States Geological Survey site

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Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media.

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He is the author of The Bottom-up Revolution; Mastering the Emerging World of Connectivity

He's given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites, OpEdNews.com

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, (more...)

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