Sponsored by:

The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Ice at the bottom of the sea?


Reports about ice hampering efforts to plug the leaking oil well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico had me a bit confused. I figured whatever was coming out of the Earth was too warm to be frozen and with all that water down there . . . well, how would ice form?

The ice involved, it turns out, was more than just frozen water.

“It was methane hydrate or gas hydrate, a solid compound of freezing-cold water and natural gas that is well known in the deep seafloor and in polar permafrost regions.”

The Washington Post explained it this way:

But deep-sea chemistry foiled the effort. The dome became clogged with methane hydrates, an ice-like slush created when pressurized gas from the well mixed with cold seawater. The hydrates, which are lighter than water, stuck to the inside of the dome and made it buoyant . . .

From the U.S. Geological Survey:

Gas hydrate is a crystalline solid consisting of gas molecules, usually methane, each surrounded by a cage of water molecules. It looks very much like water ice.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 at 12:35 pm by Mike Risinit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: Gulf of Mexico, oil spll