Written by James E. Kamis on 15JAN2015
When President Obama said he will cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector up to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025, geologist James E. Kamis remarked that methane from either man-made or natural sources is poorly monitored or not monitored at all. Not acknowledging that we know very little about methane emissions or their origins further promotes junk science and arbitrary restrictions.
Kamis, a regular contributor to Climate Change Dispatch, supplied the following list of geological sources that emit methane, none of which are being actively monitored:
- Continental volcanoes as indicated in the latest MIT Study: These volcanoes also emit methane along with sulphur.
- Deep-ocean hot vents: Two basic kinds of oases are now known from the oceans. Hot vents, first discovered in 1977, are now known to exist in deep oceans world wide. These sea floor geysers belch out seawater heated up to 400°C and laden with nutritious chemicals. Dramatic colonies of large clams, giant tubeworms, and other exotic life-forms have been discovered around some hot vents. Recent advances in satellite imaging techniques have allowed scientists to accurately map thousands of here to for unknown deep ocean volcanoes and vents.
- Deep-ocean cold seeps: The second broad category of chemosynthetic oasis is the "cold seep," which usually involves the upward seepage of methane dissolved in water or as small bubbles. Mud volcanoes and related cold-seep features form over great sediment accumulations in which bacteria digest buried organic matter, producing methane as a waste product. Specially evolved bacteria oxidize the methane, forming the foundation of a food chain. Different bacteria have evolved to oxidize the foul-smelling hydrogen sulfide, itself the waste product of yet other bacteria living below the ocean floor, which oxidize sulfate ions of seawater origin. The conspicuous and, by bacteria standards, large sulfur bacteria (Beggiatoa spp.) form thin, snow-like mats on the seafloor where seepage takes place. Bacterial mats form at hot vents also, but Beggiatoa is common at cool oceanic seeps and some non-seep environments where hydrogen sulfide rises close to the seafloor and oxygen is present in the water.
- Rift Systems: Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge. NASA Satellite showed huge methane release after deep ocean earthquake along Gakkel Ridge portion of Rift. It was a 1,000-mile-long methane release.
- Biogenic gas release from non-coal rock formations, not wetlands, whereby actual rock layers emit natural gas at surface.
- Surface coal seams: Miners know this, concentrations are higher at depth, but surface coals emit natural gas.
- Shallow-ocean shelf-edge sediments: Largest methane seep in the world found off the eastern coast of U.S.
According to Kamis, this list is not necessarily even a complete one, but they have one thing in common: none are being monitored. And many have only been recognized in recent times. Combined, they have the potential to dwarf the effect of man-made methane emissions a hundred-fold.
More bewildering is the administration's attempts to cut methane emissions even though geological sources of methane are not being actively monitored and very likely are outputting significantly more than the oil and gas industry.
And like CO2, the amount of total methane emissions (natural + man-made) has increased in modern times when monitoring of these gases began. As Kamis says, "Climate models show that this should dramatically increase atmospheric temperatures. One big problem: atmospheric temperatures stopped rising over 18 years ago."
"The bottom line is that natural methane releases are potentially huge, definitely not monitored, and therefore should be considered a big part of the equation," Kamis notes.
"How can you institute restrictions on a gas when you don't have a baseline on what is being emitted naturally, or how it impacts the climate?"