Friday, June 25, 2010

Methane in Gulf 'Astonishingly High,' Scientists Say

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    AP Photo/Dave Martin
    Oil from the leaking Deep Horizon oil rig is seen swirling through the currents in the Gulf of Mexico. Marine scientists fear that two powerful Gulf currents will carry the oil to other reefs: the eastward flowing loop current could spread the oil about 450 miles to the Florida Keys, while the Louisiana coastal current could move the oil as far west as central Texas.

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    As much as 1 million times the normal level of methane gas has been found in some regions near the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, enough to potentially deplete oxygen and create a dead zone, U.S. scientists said on Tuesday.
    Texas A&M University oceanography professor John Kessler, just back from a 10-day research expedition near the BP Plc oil spill in the gulf, says methane gas levels in some areas are "astonishingly high."

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    "There is an incredible amount of methane in there," Kessler told reporters in a telephone briefing.
    In some areas, the crew of 12 scientists found concentrations that were 100,000 times higher than normal.
    "We saw them approach a million times above background concentrations" in some areas, Kessler said.
    The scientists were looking for signs that the methane gas had depleted levels of oxygen dissolved in the water needed to sustain marine life.

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    "What is it going to look like two months down the road, six months down the road, two years down the road?" he asked.
    Methane, a natural gas, dissolves in seawater and some scientists think measuring methane could give a more accurate picture of the extent of the oil spill.
    Kessler said his team has taken those measurements, and is hoping to have an estimate soon.
    "Give us about a week and we should have some preliminary numbers on that," he said.

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