Breaking Waves: Ocean News

10/22/2014 - 11:59
Energy secretary says the party that takes wind off the table is reckless in an attack quickly dismissed by Tory minister Continue reading...
10/22/2014 - 10:20
(Click to enlarge) Found near the ocean floor and beneath Arctic permafrost, methane hydrate is an icy substance that burns when lit and holds vast amounts of potential energy. Image: USGSFound near the ocean floor and beneath Arctic permafrost, methane hydrate is an icy substance that burns when lit and holds vast amounts of potential energy. (Image: USGS) The Consortium for Ocean Leadership will actively participate in the planning and execution of a state of the art deepwater drilling program targeting gas hydrate reservoirs on the US continental margin. The DC-based nonprofit organization will help to identify potential drill sites, perform site appraisal, and prioritize sites for drilling.  Ocean Leadership will support drilling expeditions through the development of drilling, coring and well-logging plans as well as supporting permitting and environmental compliance activities.  The organization will also play an active role in securing equipment and facilities, including vessels.  Finally, Ocean Leadership will manage the contracting of science parties and post-expedition analysis, making initial scientific results publicly available. UT Austin to Lead $58 Million Effort to Study Potential New Energy Source AUSTIN, Texas — A research team led by The University of Texas at Austin has been awarded approximately $58 million to analyze deposits of frozen methane under the Gulf of Mexico that hold enormous potential to increase the world’s energy supply. The grant, one of the largest ever awarded to the university, will allow researchers to advance scientific understanding of methane hydrate, a substance found in abundance beneath the ocean floor and under Arctic permafrost. The Department of Energy is providing $41,270,609, with the remainder funded by industry and the research partners. In addition to UT Austin’s Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) at the Jackson School of Geosciences, the study includes researchers from The Ohio State University, Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the Consortium for Ocean Leadership and the U.S. Geological Survey. “The Department of Energy looks forward to partnering with The University of Texas at Austin and the rest of the project team to plan and execute an outstanding scientific drilling expedition,” said Ray Boswell, program manager at the department’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. Often referred to as “fire and ice” because of its ability to produce a dazzling flame when lit, methane hydrate is an ice-like solid compound that forms in low-temperature and high-pressure environments where molecules of methane, a chief constituent of natural gas, are trapped within a lattice structure of water molecules. Estimates vary on the amount of energy that could be produced from methane hydrate worldwide, but the potential is huge. In the Gulf of Mexico, where the team will be sampling, there is estimated to be about 7,000 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of methane in sand-dominated reservoirs near the seafloor. That is more than 250 times the amount of natural gas used in the United States in 2013. Hydrates have the potential to contribute to long-term energy security within the United States and abroad. Many large global economies that lack clean and secure energy supplies have potentially enormous hydrate resources. (Click to enlarge) Distribution of known methane hydrate accumulations. Council of Canadian Academies (2008).   Methane hydrate is stable under high pressure and low temperatures but separates into gas and water quickly when warmed or depressurized, causing the methane to bubble away. This poses technical and scientific challenges to those working to eventually produce energy from the deep-water deposits. “The heart of this project is to acquire intact samples so that we can better understand how to produce these deposits,” said Peter Flemings, a professor and UTIG research scientist and the project’s principal investigator. The four-year project will be the first in the offshore United States to take core samples of methane hydrate from sandstone reservoirs, Flemings said, a delicate task that requires transporting samples from great depths to the surface without depressurizing them. (Click to enlarge) A methane hydrate core sample from the Indian Ocean. (Image: USGS) Carlos Santamarina, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a leading methane hydrate expert, said pressure core sampling is vital to gaining a better scientific understanding of hydrate-bearing sediments. “The technique is like taking a specimen inside a pressure cooker from thousands of feet below sea level, and bringing it to the surface without ever depressurizing the pressure cooker,” said Santamarina. “With this technology, the sediment preserves its structure and allows us to determine all the engineering properties needed for design.” It is not currently economically or technically feasible to produce substantial amounts of energy from methane hydrate, but Flemings said that could change as the science improves and world energy demand increases. “This could be analogous to gas or shale oil 20 or 30 years ago,” he said. “None of us thought we were going to produce any hydrocarbons out of shales then.” Santamarina said this project is critical for the United States to maintain world leadership in methane hydrate research. Other countries with high energy demands or limited resources — Japan, South Korea, India and China — also have active research programs. In addition to its enormous potential as an energy resource, methane hydrates may play a role in past and future climate change, and better understanding the marine deposits will further scientific understanding of these processes. “I think methane hydrates are one of the most fascinating materials on the planet,” Flemings said. “They store energy, they look like ice but burn, they may impact climate, and they may play a role in submarine landslides.” Santamarina said he believes the right team has been assembled to tackle the complex challenges. “The best people in the world will be involved in this project,” he said. “It is exceptional that UT is going to lead this effort.” For more information, contact: Anton Caputo, Geology Foundation, Jackson School of Geosciences, 512 232 9623.
10/22/2014 - 09:58
FSA polling shows people are less likely to throw food away and have changed shopping habits to find bargains and reduce waste because of financial pressures Continue reading...
10/22/2014 - 09:53
The 3000MW Dibang dam, rejected twice as it would submerge vast tracts of biologically rich forests, is to get environmental clearance but huge local opposition could stall the project Continue reading...
10/22/2014 - 09:40
Test site finds goats dramatically reduce phragmites, which have been previously tackled with fires and bulldozers, reports Yale Environment 360 Continue reading...
10/22/2014 - 08:37
Drop of 1-2% in amount of coal burned offers a window of opportunity to bring climate change under control, say Greenpeace energy analysts Continue reading...
10/22/2014 - 07:18
Leader of European Trade Union Confederation joins major brands, including Philips and Shell, calling for ambitious climate and energy package to create jobs and support businesses Continue reading...
10/22/2014 - 07:15
Controversial remarks by former Tory minister also annoy environmentalists who bemoan decline in plant loved by bees Continue reading...
10/22/2014 - 04:29
The fifth Prix Pictet commission has been awarded to Colombian photographer Juan Fernando Herrán. The award, which this year has the theme of consumption, will enable Herrán to produce a series of photographs examining material culture and consumption in indigenous communities in Colombia, where Herrán says 'the economic value of objects is not fundamental'.He spoke to us at the launch of 2014 Prix Pictect exhibition at London's Victoria and Albert museum in May about his shortlisted selection of photographs from his latest work Escalas (Stairs). Continue reading...
10/22/2014 - 00:00
The results of the wildlife photographer of the year 2014 competition have been announced at Londons Natural History Museum. The overall winner is American photographer Michael Nichols with his image of five female lions at rest with their cubs in Tanzanias Serengeti National Park. Here is a selection of some of the winning images Continue reading...