DOE/NETL Methane Hydrate Projects
Assessing the Response of Methane Hydrates to Environmental Change at the Svalbad Continental Margin Last Reviewed 11/22/2013


The goal of this project is to study the biogeochemical response of the gas hydrate system on the Svalbard margin to environmental change.

Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97339-1086

Many questions must first be answered in order to understand the role gas hydrates play in the global carbon cycle and their potential as a future energy resource. More research is needed to determine:

  • The residence time of gas hydrates near the seafloor and deeper within the sediment column
  • The sources and pathways of methane transport
  • The nature and driving mechanisms for flow
  • The changes in the (above) variables over time

Characterizing carbon cycling in the critical zone on the upper continental slope will increase our knowledge of the hydrate stability transition at/near the seafloor. The upper edge of gas hydrate stability defines one of the most climate-sensitive boundaries and represents a potential “window” to fluid and gas migration from below the seaward-deepening bottom simulating reflector. Hydrate transformations can be documented through analyses of geochemical data, modeling efforts to quantify each process and its associated rate, and obtaining ground truth data of these geochemically-derived inferences through analyses of microbial communities.

German and Norwegian colleagues are focusing on characterizing gas hydrate abundance, distribution, and the effect of environmental changes on gas hydrate stability at the western Spitsbergen continental margin. Oregon State researchers will explore the role of biogeochemical processes in the region via pore water and sediment geochemical analyses, microbiological analyses, and kinetic modeling. The roles of microbial methane generation and oxidation will be constrained at and below the sulfate-methane transition zone, allowing researchers to quantify the amount of methane as it escapes, moves, or is consumed. These fundamental data are needed in order to constrain models for assessing the residence time of carbon in various methane-rich reservoirs as well as the dynamic response of these systems to environmental change and the resulting effect in the overlying water column. The proposed research has the potential to increase our understanding of the response and impact of gas hydrates to changing environmental conditions.

The project was awarded on September 29, 2013.

Current Status (November 2013)
Researchers will begin pre-expedition preparation and preliminary analysis. A new cavity ring-down spectrometer (CRDS)/Deep Water Analyzer will be calibrated and prepared for in situ measurements of methane, methane isotopes, and carbon dioxide concentration. The CRDS will be modified to allow for direct sample injection, thus providing the dual capabilities of in situ surveys and discrete analyses of samples obtained by pressure core controlled degassing at sea. Researchers will conduct preliminary microbiological analyses to optimize both the extraction of DNA from cells in sediments and determine the levels of RNA and DNA that are expected in the samples from the Svalbard Margin based on studies with model sediments and literature values for related systems.

Project Start: 11/01/2013
Project End: 10/31/2015

DOE Contribution: $645,724
Performer Contribution: $180,000

Contact Information:
NETL – Sandy McSurdy ( or 412-386-4533)
Oregon State University – Marta Torres ( or 541-737-2901)

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