Methane and Martial Law in the Gulf of Mexico

Gulf Oil Gusher: Danger of Tsunamis From Methane?

A new and less well known asymmetric threat has surfaced in the Gulf of Mexico oil gusher. Methane or CH4 gas is being released in vast quantities in the Gulf waters. Seismic data shows huge pools of methane gas at the location immediately below and around the damaged “Macondo” oil well. Methane is a colourless, odourless and highly flammable substance which forms a major component in natural gas. This is the same gas that blew the top off Deepwater Horizon and killed 11 people. The “flow team” of the US Geological Survey estimates that 2,900 cubic feet of natural gas, which primarily contains methane, is being released into the Gulf waters with every barrel of oil. The constant flow of over 50,000 barrels of crude oil places the total daily amount of natural gas at over 145 million cubic feet. So far, over 8 billion cubic feet may have been released, making it one of the most vigorous methane eruptions in modern human history. If the estimates of 100,000 barrels a day — that have emerged from a BP internal document — are true, then the estimates for methane gas release might have to be doubled.

2010-06-21-tsunami5.jpgTsunami: Low Probability High Impact Event


Older documents indicate that the subterranean geological formation below the “Macondo” well in the Gulf of Mexico may contain the presence of a huge methane deposit. It has been a well known fact that the methane in that oil deposit was problematic. As a result, there was a much higher risk of a blow out. Macondo shares its name with the cursed town in the novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by the Nobel-prize winning writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

By some geologists’ estimates, the methane could be a massive bubble trapped for thousands of years under the Gulf of Mexico sea floor. More than a year ago, geologists expressed alarm in regard to BP and Transocean putting their exploratory rig directly over this massive underground reservoir of methane. Warnings were raised before the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe that the area of seabed chosen might be unstable and inherently dangerous.

Methane and Poison Gas Bubble

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found high concentrations of gases in the Gulf of Mexico area. The escape of other poisonous gases associated with an underground methane bubble — such as hydrogen sulfide, benzene and methylene chloride — have also been found. Recently, the EPA measured hydrogen sulfide at more than 1,000 parts per billion (ppb) — well above the normal 5 to 10 ppb. Some benzene levels were measured near the Gulf of Mexico in the range of 3,000 to 4,000 ppb — up from the normal 0 to 4 ppb. Benzene gas is water soluble and is a carcinogen at levels of 1,000 ppb according to the EPA. Upon using a GPS and depth finder system, experts have discovered a large gas bubble, 15 to 20 miles wide and tens of feet high, under the ocean floor. These bubbles are common. Some even believe that the rapid release of similar bubbles may have caused the sinking of ships and planes in the Bermuda Triangle.

50,000 to 100,000 PSI

The intractable problem is that this methane, located deep in the bowels of the earth, is under tremendous pressure. Experts agree that the pressure that blows the oil into the Gulf waters is estimated to be between 30,000 and 70,000 pounds per square inch (psi). Some speculate that the pressure of the methane at the base of the well head, deep under the ocean floor, may be as high as 100,000 psi — far too much for current technology to contain. The shutoff valves and safety measures were only built for thousands of psi at best. There is no known device to cap a well with such an ultra high pressure.

Oxygen Depletion

The crude oil from the “Macondo” well, which is damaging the Gulf of Mexico, contains around 40 percent methane, compared with about 5 percent found in typical oil deposits. Scientists warn that gases such as methane, hydrogen sulfide and benzene, along with oil, are now depleting the oxygen in the water and are beginning to suffocate marine life creating vast “dead zones”. As small microbes living in the sea feed on oil and natural gas, they consume large amounts of oxygen which they require in order to digest food, ie, convert it into energy. There is an environmental ripple effect: when oxygen levels decrease, the breakdown of oil can’t advance any further.

Fissures or Cracks

According to geologists, the first signs that the methane may burst its way through the bottom of the ocean would be manifest via fissures or cracks appearing on the ocean floor near the path of least resistance, ie, the damaged well head. Evidence of fissures opening up on the seabed have been captured by the robotic midget submarines working to repair and contain the ruptured well. Smaller, independent plumes have also appeared outside the nearby radius of the bore hole. When reviewing video tapes of the live BP feeds, one can see in the tapes of mid-June that there is oil spewing up from visible fissions. Geologists are pointing to new fissures and cracks that are appearing on the ocean floor.

Fault Areas

The stretching and compression of the earth’s crust causes minor cracking, called faults, and the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico has many such fault areas. Fault areas run along the Gulf of Mexico and well inland in Mexico, South and East Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the extreme western Florida Panhandle. The close coupling of new fissures and cracks with natural fault areas could prove to be lethal.

Bubble Eruption

A methane bubble this large — if able to escape from under the ocean floor through fissures, cracks and fault areas — is likely to cause a gas explosion. With the emerging evidence of fissures, the tacit fear now is this: the methane bubble may rupture the seabed and may then erupt with an explosion within the Gulf of Mexico waters. The bubble is likely to explode upwards propelled by more than 50,000 psi of pressure, bursting through the cracks and fissures of the sea floor, fracturing and rupturing miles of ocean bottom with a single extreme explosion.

Cascading Catastrophe Scenarios

1. Loss of Buoyancy

Huge methane gas bubbles under a ship can cause a sudden buoyancy loss. This causes a ship to tilt adversely or worse. Every ship, drilling rig and structure within a ten mile radius of the escaping methane bubble would have to deal with a rapid change in buoyancy, causing many oil structures in its vicinity to become unstable and ships to sink. The lives of all the workers, engineers, coast guard personnel and marine biologists — measuring and mitigating the oil plumes’ advance and assisting with the clean up — could be in some danger. Therefore, advanced safety measures should be put in place.

2. First Tsunami with Toxic Cloud

If the toxic gas bubble explodes, it might simultaneously set off a tsunami travelling at a high speed of hundreds of miles per hour. Florida might be most exposed to the fury of a tsunami wave. The entire Gulf coastline would be vulnerable, if the tsunami is manifest. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and southern region of Georgia might experience the effects of the tsunami according to some sources.

3. Second Tsunami via Vaporisation

After several billion barrels of oil and billions of cubic feet of gas have been released, the massive cavity beneath the ocean floor will begin to normalise, allowing freezing water to be forced naturally into the huge cavity where the oil and gas once were. The temperature in that cavity can be extremely hot at around 150 degrees celsius or more. The incoming water will be vaporised and turned into steam, creating an enormous force, which could actually lift the Gulf floor. According to computer models, a second massive tsunami wave might occur.


The danger of loss of buoyancy and cascading tsunamis in the Gulf of Mexico — caused by the release of the massive methane and poisonous gas bubble — has been a much lower probability in the early period of the crisis, which began on April 20th. However, as time goes by and the risk increases, this low probability high impact scenario ought not to be ignored, given that the safety and security of the personnel involved remains paramount. Could this be how nature eventually seals the hole created by the Gulf of Mexico oil gusher?

Gulf Coast Evacuation Scenario Summer/Fall 2010

June 13, 2010

Editor’s note: There is no definitive evidence the government plans mass evacuation at this point. In fact, the government refuses to admit gases in the Gulf exist or pose a health issue. All of this may change as the problem worsens.

SoCal Martial Law Alerts (SCMLA) has been in existence for a year and a half and this is our first MARTIAL LAW ALERT.

We have withheld putting out information on the Gulf oil spill for a variety of reasons, but there is now enough evidence for us to put together a fairly clear picture of what really happened, what may result and to warn people who live in the area.


Due to toxic gases from the fractured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, the possible off-gassing of the highly-toxic Corexit 9500 (the chemical dispersant used by BP in the oil spill clean-up), acid rain and various as-yet-unknown forms of environmental damage, we believe that the government will have no choice but to relocate millions of people away from the Gulf Coast. Those living in Florida are presently at the highest risk, but the danger also appears likely to spread to all Gulf Coast states east of Louisiana and possibly even to the entire Eastern half of the United States once hurricane season begins.

Greg Evensen, a retired Kansas Highway Patrolman, estimates that 30-40 million people would need to be evacuated away from the Gulf’s coastline (i.e. at least 200 miles inland). In order to accomplish this gargantuan feat, the federal government (through FEMA and other agencies) would most likely seek first to control and manage the transportation system and then operate relocation centers to manage evacuees. Toward this end, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has already declared the airspace over the oil spill site to be a no-fly zone until further notice. Various sources have indicated that local police, highway patrol, National Guard, US military and foreign troops may be involved in an operation to evacuate the Gulf Coast. In fact, the Governor of Louisiana has already requested evacuation assistance (i.e. National Guard) for his state from the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Those living inland may also be at risk, since the movement of vast numbers of evacuees would cause a significant strain on local resources. In other words, inlanders should not expect life to continue “as normal,” since, under a martial law scenario, the government would have the power and the motivation to seize everyday necessities, such as: food, water, fuel, housing, etc. Some have also suggested that if a hurricane were to occur over the oil spill area itself, lightning might possibly ignite volatile organic compounds, not to mention the acid rain clouds that could form and be carried inland (i.e. acid rain could pollute the water table, destroy crops, kill wildlife and pose significant health risks to humans in the southern and eastern states.)

Lastly, Lindsay Williams, a former Alaskan pipeline chaplain with high-level oil industry connections, has suggested that BP, in conjunction with the federal government, might try to cap the well by using a nuclear explosion – the environmental consequences of which are currently unknown.


If you live, or if you know people who live on, or within 200 miles of the Gulf Coast area, we recommend that they immediately relocate to at least 200 miles inland (i.e. the farther away, the better). If people living within this 200-mile zone do not relocate voluntarily (i.e. on their own initiative), it appears likely that a forced evacuation through a martial-law scenario may occur within the coming weeks and (possibly) months.

Our country has been in a state of national emergency since September 11, 2001, which means that martial law (i.e. military rule) can be declared by the President at any time, for any reason – large, or small. If martial law is implemented, evacuees will lose their ability to determine when and where they will move and for how long, since the normal protections of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights will have been suspended. To put it bluntly, a scenario in which evacuees are forced to live in relocation centers for an unspecified length of time is not unlikely.

Methane Tracking Could Size Up Gulf Oil Slick

Sizing up the oil gusher from the Deepwater Horizon disaster has proven difficult so far, but one scientist suggests that measuring methane in the water could give a better idea of how much oil has spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.

Methane makes up about 40 percent of the leaking crude by mass, according to BP. Much of the gas (made up of one carbon and four hydrogen atoms) would dissolve into the water as it rises up from the oil well deep below the surface, and many U.S. research vessels already have the equipment to estimate the size of these rising methane plumes.

“Methane follows the water [currents], so if you can follow the water you’ve got a pretty good idea of where to look for the plumes of gas,” said David Valentine, a marine geochemist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Current estimates of the oil spill range from BP’s initial figure of 5,000 barrels per day to as high as 100,000 barrels per day, with many scientists leaning toward an estimate higher than 5,000 barrels. Tracking the oil slick size through methane could at least put a lower limit on the estimates, Valentine explained.

But the methane won’t linger in the waters forever, and so that puts some pressure on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and researchers to get started.

Why methane is better

Getting an accurate estimate of the amount of leaking oil based on the oil itself has been tricky. For one, there’s always great uncertainty about the mix of oil-water-gas at any given time.

In addition, “spot measurements of the flux at any given moment can’t be scaled up reliably, because the flow may not be constant,” Valentine writes in an opinion article published in the May 23 issue of the journal Nature. “Satellite photos and boat measurements help to assess the distribution and thickness of the surface slick, but these measures are also highly variable with time, place, weather conditions and dispersant application.”

However, methane, in addition to not being a mixture, dissolves uniformly in seawater.

How to get it done

The first research ship to reach the scene of the spreading oil slick has already found large amounts of methane. Some methane seeps out naturally beneath the Gulf of Mexico, but scientists can use measurements such as isotopic composition and oxidation rates in the water to filter out that background signal and identify on the methane from the spill. (Isotopes are atoms of the same element but with different numbers of neutrons, and can differ depending on their source.)

Two ships looking specifically for methane could do the job for less than a few million dollars, Valentine said.

“I don’t think finding plumes is going to be very difficult,” Valentine told LiveScience. “Finding all of them will be much trickier.”

Even measuring ethane or trace gases such as helium might work for the experiment, Valentine said. He envisions one ship starting its measurements right on top of the oil gusher site. The second might start far out and move toward the site to find the outermost spread of any methane plumes.

The scientific vessels would deploy submersible instruments deep down that could return data via wire to researchers at the surface. Getting estimates of methane-plume movement in the water could also help estimate the rate of the spill from the gushing oil well.

Still, scientists would also need to figure out just how much methane from the oil gusher ends up dissolving in the water, and how much might end up trapped within the oil slick on the surface or even escape into the air.

Race against time

A recent study with satellite-linked underwater probes in roughly the same region of the Gulf of Mexico showed that all except one ended up circulating within the region for three years. That gives scientists some hope that methane plumes will also remain within the area.

“The biggest concern is that some massive plume gets washed away quickly and becomes hard to track,” Valentine said.

Yet there’s still a strong urgency to act, Valentine pointed out. Gulf microbes that break down methane will gradually consume it within a year, but that time period could be shorter if microbes have crowded toward the unexpected methane bounty from the oil well.

Valentine has urged that the two-vessel expedition reach the area by June, so that the main methane plumes should still be around. Any delay beyond that point leaves more room for uncertainty about how long the methane stays concentrated.

For now, Valentine can only wait and see if the scientific community adopts his plan or not. But he already plans to get out to the oil spill site for other research – a topic which came up unexpectedly when a phone call interrupted the interview.

“I have to take this,” Valentine said. “It’s actually about getting out on the boat.”

Published in: on June 25, 2010 at 7:13 am  Leave a Comment  

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