Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute via COSMOS: ” Geology creates chemical energy”

From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

22 August 2019

Origin of a massive methane reservoir discovered.

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The manipulator arm of the remotely operated vehicle Jason samples a stream of fluid from a hydrothermal vent.
Chris German/WHOI/NSF, NASA/ROV Jason 2012 / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Scientists know methane is released from deep-sea vents, but its source has long been a mystery.

Now a team from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, US, may have the answer. Analysis of 160 rock samples from across the world’s oceans provides evidence, they say, of the formation and abundance of abiotic methane – methane formed by chemical reactions that don’t involve organic matter.

Nearly every sample contained an assemblage of minerals and gases that form when seawater, moving through the deep oceanic crust, is trapped in magma-hot olivine, a rock-forming mineral, the researchers write in a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
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As the mineral cools, the water trapped inside undergoes a chemical reaction, a process called serpentinisation, which forms hydrogen and methane.

“Here’s a source of chemical energy that’s being created by geology,” says co-author Jeffrey Seewald.

On Earth, deep-sea methane might have played a critical role for the evolution of primitive organisms living at hydrothermal vents on the seafloor, Seewald adds. And elsewhere in the solar system, methane produced through the same process could provide an energy source for basic life forms.

See the full article here .

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The ocean is a defining feature of our planet and crucial to life on Earth, yet it remains one of the planet’s last unexplored frontiers. For this reason, WHOI scientists and engineers are committed to understanding all facets of the ocean as well as its complex connections with Earth’s atmosphere, land, ice, seafloor, and life—including humanity. This is essential not only to advance knowledge about our planet, but also to ensure society’s long-term welfare and to help guide human stewardship of the environment. WHOI researchers are also dedicated to training future generations of ocean science leaders, to providing unbiased information that informs public policy and decision-making, and to expanding public awareness about the importance of the global ocean and its resources.
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