Scientists are still trying to account for what happened to all of the oil from the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, but they now know what happened to the even greater amounts of natural gas that gushed from the broken well.
Bacteria ate just about all of it by August.
The discovery was released on Thursday in report for the journal Science by John D. Kessler, an oceanographer at Texas A&M University, and his colleagues.
One of the reasons scientists are interested in methane, the main component of the natural gas that flowed from the broken BP well, is that it’s a very potent heat-trapping gas. A huge reservoir of methane lies under the ocean floor, especially near continents.
In the BP disaster, there was no measurable loss of methane to the atmosphere. The methane remained trapped in a deep-water layer until the bacteria finished it off within about four months after the spill began on April 22.
“Here we had a massive release of methane handed to us, thanks to this man-made disaster,” Kessler said. Part of the scientific motivation to study it was to get some insight into what would happen in a massive natural release, he said.
The scientists concluded that other releases of methane in the deep ocean also would probably set off a rapid response by bacteria.
Still, a single study is “only a piece of evidence in a scientific puzzle,” Kessler said. Other factors could change the outcome in a natural release of methane — it could be much larger, or occur in colder water where organisms that decompose methane are less prevalent, or it could occur in shallower water where the chance of reaching the atmosphere is greater.
The rest here.
Good news for the Gulf, bad new for the alarmists who were counting on the spill’s affect on greenhouse gas emissions to add to their propaganda list.