The balanced formula above shows what happens if methane encounters oxygen. It is not a spontaneous reaction, boys wouldn’t need to light farts if it was, but is helped along either by fire, catalysts or by methanotrophic microorganisms which metabolize methane into CO2 and water. Methane is found in the permafrost environment e.g. in Siberia and, as global climate change warms up those areas, poses a great risk, because it’s 25-30 times more effective a greenhouse gas as CO2. Here those microorganisms live on top of the permafrost ice and are really beneficial.
The permafrost in the Lena Delta begins only a few centimetres below the surface and extends down to a depth of 600 metres. The ice in the polygon pools starts 50 centimetres below the water surface. Methanogenic micro-organisms live directly on top of the ice and convert organic carbon into methane – almost one third of the organic carbon stored throughout the world is locked up in Arctic permafrost soils. However, methane gas has an extremely large influence on the climate: the greenhouse effect of one molecule of methane is 25 to 30 times greater than that of one molecule of carbon dioxide. (read article)
Methane can be found in arctic mud volcanoes like the Haakon Mosby mud volcano, too. And here, as well, the said methanotrophs exist. At the rim of the volcano.
In the central region, scientists discovered a new bacterium species that use oxygen to feed on methane. In sediments of the sulphur bacteria region, the team found a new group of methanotrophic Archaea (archaic bacteria) that form a symbiosis with bacteria and use sulphate to oxidize methane, a process called the anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM). (read article)
Unfortunately Methane is one of the major components of the BP oil spill, too. A methane explosion is said to be the cause for it.
The deadly blast on board the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was triggered by a bubble of methane gas, an investigation by BP has revealed.
A report into last month’s blast said the gas escaped from the oil well and shot up the drill column, expanding quickly as it burst through several seals and barriers before exploding. (read article)
Biologists now found new dead zones in the Gulf (additionally to the existing ones) caused by the above mentioned effect. This discovery offers a good explanation why unusually many fish and sharks are being seen in the shallow waters off the Gulf of Mexico’s coast. The migration of the fish is obviously only the part that we can really see, what we won’t see ist the extinction of all living things in those oxygen depleted zones that are not able to just swim away. Add the methanotrophs to the oil eating bacteria, that will eventually clean up the (then probably dead) Gulf who also need oxygen for their metabolism and we are looking at another facet of the destruction, which may yet reach extinction level after all.