Wednesday, March 28, 2012

North Sea Gas Well Blowout and Ecological Risks (Again) (BBCNews)

Energy: Looking for the free ecological lunch

The story has so far been told from the human point of view, and why not - clearly it's very much a safety issue when you have inflammable gas percolating up through the sea, and some of the same gas on fire as it emerges from a stack on top of the Elgin rig.

A leak from a gas rig in the middle of the North Sea is once again throwing up questions about the relative safety of different forms of energy.

With all the workers now off the rig, scientists are starting to look at the ecological effect of having so much gas bubbling into the water column.

They're the same type of questions that were asked in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and when the stricken Fukushima nuclear power station began flushing radioactive elements into the oceans just over a year ago.

Elgin field gas is mainly methane - the stuff we burn in our cookers - but it also contains related substances: propane and butane, as well as others such as hydrogen sulphide.

A "sheen" of condensate from this is apparently lying on the sea surface, containing up to about 20 tonnes of material.

What's of more concern ecologically is what impact the gases may have had as they bubbled up through the water, in quantities that have not yet been evaluated.

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