Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient Geologic Escape Hatches Mistaken For Tube Worms

Date:
February 16, 2009
Source:
University of Calgary
Summary:
New study finds Colorado fossils previously identified as tube worms are actually ancient methane venting structures. The findings could lead to new concerns for underground carbon dioxide storage plans.

Federico Krause points to one of the tubeworms that he believes is actually an escape hatch for methane.
Credit: Photo: Ken Bendiktsen

Tubeworms have been around for millions of years and the fossil record is rich with their distinctive imprints. But a discovery made by U of C scientists found that what previous researchers had labeled as tubeworms in a formation near Denver, Colorado, are actually 70 million-year-old escape hatches for methane.

Tubeworms, or siboglinids, look like long lipstick tubes and have been observed in warm and cold environments on the ocean floor, as well as in whale carcasses and decomposing organic-rich cargoes in sunken ships. Ecosystems teeming with tubeworm colonies were discovered at hydrothermal vents in the Galapagos Ridge in 1977 and at cold seeps at the base of the Florida Escarpment in 1984. As a result of these modern sightings, a number of fossil examples of tubeworms were subsequently identified in the rock record. One of these localities, found south of Denver, Colorado, was recently re-examined by U of C scientists.

In an area approximately one and a half times the size of the City of Calgary, scientists discovered that what was previously identified as fossilized tubeworms were actually fossilized tubular escape hatches for methane, a major constituent of natural gas.

"It is the first time that evidence of a natural ancient geologic conduit system has been discovered where gas, water and solids were all being vented at once," says Federico Krause, the lead author of the paper which is co-authored by Selim Sayegh, an adjunct professor in geoscience, Jesse Clark, a former undergraduate student, and Renee Perez, research associate in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. The paper is published in this month's edition of Palaios.

The discovery was made possible thanks to the Stable Isotope Laboratory of the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the electronic microprobe housed in the Department of Geoscience. Stable isotopes and chemical elements maps demonstrated that not only methane gas bubbles were being expelled but that solid particles that had adhered to the bubbles were also being ejected from the fossil vents.

Although the results may be surprising, the ramifications are even more so.

The fact that methane gas can escape from a thick shale seafloor may demonstrate that there needs to be more research done on the integrity of geologic seals in petroleum reservoirs earmarked for CO2 injection," says Krause who is a professor in the Department of Geoscience at the University of Calgary. "It shows that under different geologic circumstances gases that are present in underground formations can indeed seep out, and all the effort expended in trying to remove CO2 from our atmosphere would be lost."

In addition, there are vast volumes of methane gas naturally trapped beneath the seafloor in the form of gas hydrates. If these hydrates were to be destabilized, methane bubbles could release large quantities of microparticles to the ocean bottom. This release would cloud up the deep ocean and the effect would be akin to fouling up the atmosphere with a dense smog. Given that the ocean bottom is one of the last frontiers of petroleum exploration, further research will be needed to properly plan for the location of production and containment facilities on the seafloor. Installation of these facilities has the potential to destabilize underlying hydrates.

"These 70-million-year-old tubular escape hatches south of Denver, Colorado, provide a glimpse to processes that are occurring in the ocean bottoms at present," says Krause. "While finding tubeworms would have been satisfying, uncovering tubular gas vents has been much more exciting."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Calgary. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Calgary. "Ancient Geologic Escape Hatches Mistaken For Tube Worms." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090204121506.htm>.
University of Calgary. (2009, February 16). Ancient Geologic Escape Hatches Mistaken For Tube Worms. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090204121506.htm
University of Calgary. "Ancient Geologic Escape Hatches Mistaken For Tube Worms." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090204121506.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Driving Sports (July 24, 2014) Subaru Rally Team USA drivers David Higgins and Travis Pastrana face off against a global contingent of racers at the annual Mt. Washington Hillclimb in New Hampshire. Includes exclusive in-car footage from Higgins' record attempt. Video provided by Driving Sports
Powered by NewsLook.com
Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) A likely tornado tears through an eastern Virginia campground, killing three and injuring at least 20. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins