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<p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size:10.5pt;font-family:Arial;color:#111111">Sixty-page report points to record of almost 40 deepwaterblowouts, and culture of dangerous risk exposure<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class="apple-style-span"><span style="font-size:10.0pt"><o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" align="right" style="text-align: center;line-height: 16.8pt; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: rgb(249, 249, 249); background-position: initial initial; background-repeat: initial initial; "><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#333333"><span class="Apple-style-span" style="color: rgb(31, 80, 128); font-family: verdana, arial, tahoma; line-height: normal; font-size: 12px; ">
<span style="mso-spacerun:yes"> <span class="Apple-style-span" style="line-height: normal; ">
</p><p class="MsoNormal" align="right" style="text-align: center;line-height: 16.8pt; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: rgb(249, 249, 249); background-position: initial initial; background-repeat: initial initial; "><span class="Apple-style-span" style="line-height: normal;"> <span class="Apple-style-span" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial; font-size: 11px; ">"Burning ice". Methane, released by heating, burns;</p><p class="MsoNormal" align="center" style="text-align:center;line-height:14.25pt;background:#F9F9F9"><span style="font-size:9.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:black"><o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color:#333333"><o:p></o:p></p><p style="margin:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#000088">A sixty-page memorandum addressed to ReneeOrr, the chief of the leasing division of the Minerals Management Service(MMS), was sent in<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#333333"><span style="color:#000088">September 2009<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#000088">by anenvironmental investigator, warning of potential disaster in offshore drillingoperations and the particular dangers posed by gas hydrates.<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#333333"><o:p></o:p></p><p style="margin:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#000088">It was written as a public comment to thefederal government's proposed rule for oil and gas leasing between 2010 and2015 on the outer continental shelf, and offers a wide-ranging compilation andanalysis, based on meticulously documented scientific, industry and governmentsources, of many<span class="apple-converted-space">accidents littleknown to the general public.<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#333333"><o:p></o:p></p><p style="margin:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#000088">It warns of the potential for catastrophicenvironmental disaster in an offshore accident, highlighting many of thepotential dangers that the Deepwater Horizon explosion has now put on display.It also raises concern about the ongoing and unrecognized release of vastquantities of methane into the atmosphere, a gas 20 times more powerful as awarming agent than CO2.<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#333333"><o:p></o:p></p><p style="margin:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:#EEEEEE"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#000088">"The primarycause of blowouts, spills and uncontrolled releases of gases from offshoreoperations is drilling into methane hydrates, or through them into free gastrapped below," the report warns MMS. It cites much evidence compiled fromaccident investigations and other documents published by MMS itself, which isthe federal agency responsible for assuring safety and environmental protectionof offshore drilling operations, as well as leasing rules and royalty payments.<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#333333"><o:p></o:p></p><p style="margin:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#000088">Between 1992 and 2006, almost 2,500 deepwaterwells were drilled ? more than three times as many as in the previous 20-yearperiod. There were 39 blowouts during that period ? 38 of them in the <st1:place w:st="on">Gulf of Mexico</st1:place> ? recorded in MMS accident investigationreports.<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#333333"><o:p></o:p></p><p style="margin:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#000088">Most were in shallow water, short-lived and"environmental impacts were negligible," according to an MMSanalysis. Because the fatality rate of these blowouts showed a decrease, theanalysis was touted as pointing to an improving safety record. (See<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#333333"><span style="color:#000088">"Absence of Blowout Fatalities Encouraging in MMSOCS Study 1992-2006."<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#000088">)<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#333333"><o:p></o:p></p><p style="margin:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#000088">Yet the analysis revealed that problems withcementing caused most of the blowouts; and that the chances of a blowout werebetter than 1 in 400. These facts did not set off any alarm bells, or raiseconcern about the possibility that a blowout in deepwater could one day becatastrophic.<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#333333"><o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height:13.5pt"><span class="apple-style-span"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#000088">Reached by telephone,the investigator told SolveClimate that he received an automated email responsefrom MMS to the online submission of his 60-page report, and never heard fromthe agency again. <span class="apple-style-span"><span style="font-family:Verdana;color:#E0E0E0"><o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height:13.5pt"><o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height:13.5pt"><span class="apple-style-span"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:#000088"><span class="apple-style-span"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#000088">The gas doesn't have to "ignite" to have an explosion.The gas is dissolved in liquid form at that depth, but it isn't very stable. Ifit is disturbed it could change to its gas phase in an instant. Imagine anoverflowing soda bottle the size of the <st1:place w:st="on">Gulf of Mexico</st1:place>!?!?!<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#000088">

<span class="apple-style-span">(There is plenty of seismic activity in the Gulfto create the sudden phase change, btw.)

<span class="apple-style-span">Now, to make matters worse. There are controlledburns on the surface of the water. So imagine all that fizzy Gas and waterigniting! Then, as if the expansion of all that gas, and the ignition of itweren't bad enough, we have the potential energy of all that steam that wouldbe generated, and then we would have the immediate implosion of all that seawater collapsing back upon itself.

<span class="apple-style-span">The first bubble of expanding methane gas wasresponsible for all the mechanical damage, and then the actual ignition at therig caused the ensuing fire.

<span class="apple-style-span">Methane eruptions and ensuing explosions are notuncommon, and they are always devastating! Read below for the amount ofpossible devastation!!<span class="apple-style-span"><span style="font-size:9.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#000088">What caused the worstmass extinction in Earth's history 251 million years ago? This event is one ofthe most catastrophic in life's history: the P/T extinction.<span class="apple-style-span"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#000088">A <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Northwestern</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">University</st1:placetype></st1:place> chemicalengineer believes the culprit may be an enormous explosion of methane (naturalgas) erupting from the ocean depths. This explanation is closer to the inverseof an external impact, like an asteroid, and more like a disgorging of trappedenergy that erupts from deep below the oceans. Such a global catastrophe has amore local precedent, as a similar eruption happened in Africa at <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placetype w:st="on">Lake</st1:placetype> <st1:placename w:st="on">Nyos</st1:placename></st1:place>in 1986, killing 1700 people and rippling as far away as 25kilometers.According to Gregory Ryskin, associate professor ofchemical engineering at Northwestern University, "explosive clouds ofmethane gas, initially trapped in stagnant bodies of water and suddenlyreleased, could have killed off the majority of marine life and land animalsand plants at the end of the Permian era" ? long before dinosaurs livedand died. Ruskin believes that methane may have been the driving force inprevious catastrophic changes of the earth's climate, where 95 percent ofmarine species and 70 percent of land species were lost in - geologicallyspeaking - the blink of an eye.Methane is a paradox. It increases globalwarming at the same time that it promises abundant<span class="apple-style-span"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#E0E0E0"><span class="klink"><span style="font-size:9.0pt;color:#000088;text-decoration:none;text-underline:none"><span style="border-top-color:initial !important;border-left-color:initial !important;border-right-color:initial !important;background-attachment:initial;background-origin: initial;background-clip: initial;float:none">alternative<span style="border-top-color:initial !important;border-left-color:initial !important;border-right-color:initial !important;background-attachment:initial;background-origin: initial;background-clip: initial;float:none">energy<span style="color:#E0E0E0;text-decoration:none;text-underline:none"><span id="preLoadWrap0"><span class="apple-style-span"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#000088">. The gas is all around the planet, from the atmosphere to deepbelow seabeds. Here are 10 trends and discoveries that may determine methane'sultimate role in the health of the environment:Methane is about 21 timesmore powerful at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2) by weight(see box below). Methane's chemical lifetime in the atmosphere is approximately12 years. Methane?s relatively short atmospheric lifetime, coupled with itspotency as a greenhouse gas, makes it a candidate for mitigating global warmingover the near-term (i.e., next 25 years or so).i worry about thepotential effects of having that much methane in the atmosphere and itspossible contributions to<span class="apple-style-span"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#E0E0E0"><span class="klink"><span style="color:#000088;text-decoration:none;text-underline:none"><span style="border-top-color:initial !important;border-left-color:initial !important;border-right-color:initial !important;background-attachment:initial;background-origin: initial;background-clip: initial;float:none">hurricane<span style="color:#E0E0E0;text-decoration:none;text-underline:none"><span id="preLoadWrap1"><span class="apple-style-span"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#000088">formationDidDeepwater methane hydrates cause the BP Gulf explosion?<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#000088">

<span class="apple-style-span">Strange and dangerous hydrocarbon offers no roomfor human error

<span class="apple-style-span">...Methane hydrates are volatile compounds ?natural gas compressed into molecular cages of ice. They are stable in theextreme cold and crushing weight of deepwater, but are extremely dangerous whenthey build up inside the drill column of a well. If destabilized by heat or adecrease in pressure, methane hydrates can quickly expand to 164 times theirvolume.

<span class="apple-style-span">Survivors of the BP rig explosion toldinterviewers that right before the April 20 blast, workers had decreased thepressure in the drill column and applied heat to set the cement seal around thewellhead. Then a quickly expanding bubble of methane gas shot up the drillcolumn before exploding on the platform on the ocean's surface.

<span class="apple-style-span">Even a solid steel pipe has little chance againsta 164-fold expansion of volume ? something that would render a man six feet sixinches tall suddenly the height of the Eiffel Tower...

<span class="apple-style-span">Professor Sum said geologists know much less aboutthese hydrate-bearing sediments than conventional ocean sediments, and thatthere is "little knowledge of the risks" of drilling into them.

<span class="apple-style-span">The Deepwater Horizon rig was drilling in Block252 of an area known as the Mississippi Canyon of the Gulf, thought to containmethane hydrate-bearing sediments, according to government maps. The platformwas operating less than 20 miles from a methane hydrate research site locatedin the same canyon at Block 118.

<span class="apple-style-span">From the sea floor a mile down, the DeepwaterHorizon rig had penetrated another 18,000 feet ? almost another five miles down? into the earth's crust with pipe.

<span class="apple-style-span">According to the <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">National</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">Academy</st1:placetype></st1:place>of Sciences,<span class="apple-converted-space">
<span class="apple-style-span">"Industry practice is to avoidmethane-bearing areas during drilling for conventional oil and gas resourcesfor safety reasons."

<span class="apple-style-span">Professor Sum<span class="apple-converted-space"><span class="apple-style-span">explainedthat because "with oil there is usually gas present," it is possiblefor methane hydrates to form in the pipe even when not drilling throughhydrate-bearing sediments. The pressure and cold of the deepwater createconditions that encourage gas flowing into the pipe to form hydrates, and ifthe rate of crystallization is rapid enough, the hydrates can clog thepipe.

<span class="apple-style-span">The cofferdam that BP lowered over the broken pipegushing oil to contain the spill was almost immediately clogged by methanehydrates, which formed spontaneously. Gas escaping with the oil from the well,when trapped in the steel structure with cold water under great pressure,rapidly accumulated into an ice-like matrix.<st1:state w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Texas</st1:place></st1:state> A&M professor heads out to studyGulf oil spill with first NSF grant<span class="apple-style-span"><o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height:13.5pt"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#000088">
COLLEGE STATION, May 26, 2010 ? A Texas A&M University oceanographer hasbeen awarded a $160,000 grant from the<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#E0E0E0"><span class="klink"><span style="color:#000088;text-decoration:none;text-underline:none"><span style="border-top-color:initial !important;border-left-color:initial !important;border-right-color:initial !important;background-attachment:initial;background-origin: initial;background-clip: initial;float:none">National<span style="border-top-color:initial !important;border-left-color:initial !important;border-right-color:initial !important;background-attachment:initial;background-origin: initial;background-clip: initial;float:none">Science<span style="border-top-color:initial !important;border-left-color:initial !important;border-right-color:initial !important;background-attachment:initial;background-origin: initial;background-clip: initial;float:none">Foundation<span style="color:#E0E0E0;text-decoration:none;text-underline:none"><span id="preLoadWrap5"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#000088">(NSF) to examine methane gas in the Gulf oil spill, believedto be one of the first such grants given to any Texas scientist. John Kessler,assistant professor in the Department of Oceanography who specializes in oceanchemistry, says he will leave Gulfport, Miss., June 11 to travel to the oilspill, now as large as Maryland and Delaware combined. Kessler will be leadinga team composed of other <st1:placename w:st="on">Texas</st1:placename> <st1:placename w:st="on">A&M</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">University</st1:placetype>oceanographers (<st1:place w:st="on">Shari</st1:place> Yvon-Lewis, Tom Bianchiand Heath Mills) as well as 4-6 graduate students, and they expect to returnaround June 20.

The team will use the research vessel Cape Hatteras, which is operated by theDuke University/University of North Carolina Oceanographic Consortium, and willlook mainly at the huge quantities of methane gas that are mixed in with oilspewing up from the seafloor. They will collaborate with researchers from the<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#E0E0E0"><span class="klink"><span style="color:#000088;text-decoration:none;text-underline:none"><span style="border-top-color:initial !important;border-left-color:initial !important;border-right-color:initial !important;background-attachment:initial;background-origin: initial;background-clip: initial;float:none">University<span style="border-top-color:initial !important;border-left-color:initial !important;border-right-color:initial !important;background-attachment:initial;background-origin: initial;background-clip: initial;float:none">of<span style="border-top-color:initial !important;border-left-color:initial !important;border-right-color:initial !important;background-attachment:initial;background-origin: initial;background-clip: initial;float:none">California<span style="color:#E0E0E0;text-decoration:none;text-underline:none"><span id="preLoadWrap4"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#000088">at <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Santa Barbara</st1:place></st1:city>,who will be studying the oil rising up from the seafloor.

"The mixture coming up is now about 40 percent methane and 60 percentoil," Kessler explains. "This means there are immense amounts ofmethane, a potent greenhouse gas, being input into the Gulf.

"We know that millions of years ago, there were vast undersea eruptions wheremethane gas escaped just like it is doing right now," he adds. "It isthought that this methane eventually contributed to climate change millions ofyears ago, so this gives us a chance to study the methane from that perspectiveas we measure how much is entering the atmosphere today."

Another question the team hopes to examine is how much oxygen is being consumedin the Gulf waters by the methane gas. While some of the methane is emitted tothe Earth's atmosphere, other parts of it dissolve in the Gulf waters and areliterally eaten by living microorganisms, a process which consumesoxygen.

"We hope to find out the effects of all this methane on the dissolvedoxygen content in this area of the Gulf," Kessler says.

"We know that there are large areas of the Gulf that have oxygen-depletedwaters that occur annually, and these are known as 'the dead zone.' But willthese large amounts of methane make the dead zone areas even larger or theoxygen-depletion more severe? What are the links between methane and oxygendown there? We hope to find out."

Kessler says that the oil spill, while no doubt an environmental and economicdisaster to much of the Gulf Coast, with at least 65 miles of shoreline alreadyaffected by oil making landfall in the marshes and wetlands, provides aonce-in-a-lifetime window of research on many levels.

"No one would never ever be allowed to 'dump' this much methane and oilinto the Gulf to replicate any scientific experiment," he notes. "Sothis oil spill gives us a very rare opportunity to study what has happened inthe past, and perhaps to give us some good clues about what might happen in thefuture."<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom:12.0pt;line-height:13.5pt"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#000088">There is a goodreport about the dangers of mining methane hydrate deposits downloadablehere:

MMS-2008-OMM-0045-71..> 13-Nov-2009 21:24 2.6M

It's about halfway down the page.<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#E0E0E0"><o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height:13.5pt"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#000088">From:

Dan Zimmerman
Environmental Investigator
Northcoast Ocean and River Protection Association (NORPA)
PO Box 1000
Trinidad, CA 95575

To: Ms. Renee Orr Chief, Leasing Division Minerals Management Service, MS4010
381 Elden Street
Herndon, VA 20170-4817

Methane Hydrates

The primary cause of blowouts, spills and uncontrolled releases of gases fromoffshore operations is drilling into methane hydrates, or through them intofree gas trapped below (SINTEF 2008, MMS 2007, Izon 2007, Bourgoyne 2001).Methane hydrate (MH), also known as methane clathrate, is frozen methane gas,or more specifically a methane molecule under intense pressure wrapped in ice.When released it expands 164 times it's current size, creating intensepressure.

MH is found primarily along continental margins in shallow submarineenvironments, where high plankton productivity and high sedimentation ratesyield large amounts of organic matter. This organic input becomes the basis forthe production of biogenic methane in the seafloor sediment. MH is also formedthermogenicly from hydrocarbons venting from depth along fault systems,structurally deformed carrier beds (Milkov 2005), and mud volcanoes (Milkov2000), where they can form massive deep sea floor ?mounds? (often associatedwith unique chemosynthetic biota).

Once thought to be relatively rare in nature, hydrate is now widely consideredto store immense volumes of organic carbon, rivaling, if not exceeding, thatstored in all the world?s oil, natural gas, and coal deposits combined (DOE2006b)...

Disasters Caused by Drilling Into or Through Methane Hydrates

The worst offshore oil spill ever, other than the gulf war, was the Ixtoc 11979 blowout in the Gulf Of Mexico (GOM), which was caused by loss of drillingmud circulation. Drilling mud is pumped down a well during drilling operationsto lubricate operations and keep pressure in the line, not allowing hydrocarbonsto escape. The most common cause of circulation loss is drilling into hydratebeds and gas pockets (Bourgoyne 2001). When drilling into, or through, hydratebeds, the high temperatures and pressure changes from drilling operationsdissociates the methane from the ice, causing it to expand 164 times, creatinga massive pressure increase that can penetrate the wellbore. This offsetsbackpressure from the mud, causing gas kicks and blow-outs, as happened atIxtoc 1.

Even though Ixtoc 1 continued for months, this explosive release was probablynot the worst gas release from a blowout. Oil yes, but gas no. Blowouts thatare primarily gas, with no large oil spill associated with them, occur moreoften, and usually slip under the public eye. Yet the gas released is beyondcomprehension

As the ice turns to water, the high pressure gas (mixed with sand) is released,exploding out and up. This causes the seafloor to subside, collapsing andsinking platforms and leaving craters and pockmarks in it's wake (Rupple 2008).At the surface, roiling seas have sunk floating rigs, drillships and emergencyrescue boats (Gerwick, 2007).

Since the only evidence these ice beds and gas pockets left after melting wasthe gas, sand and water blown out the well head, these deposits came to beknown as gaseous sands, shallow gas sands, shallow overpressured sands, and ahost of other similar titles. All mean the same thing, hydrate beds ofprimarily frozen methane gas and sand that has dissociated.
It was also discovered that drilling operations could cause slope instabilityand slides on even the slightest of slopes (<1 degree). These became knownas shallow water flows (SWF), which were also causing great damage, includingbuckled or ruptured well casings, sunken platforms and broken pipelines.<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#E0E0E0"><o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height:13.5pt"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#000088">

There's a lot more, some 59 pages, detailing some pretty bad blowouts withpics, well-documented. Definitely worth a read.<span style="font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:#E0E0E0"><o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal"><o:p></o:p></p>
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