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Energies 2013, 6(11), 5775-5806;

Methane Gas Hydrate Stability Models on Continental Shelves in Response to Glacio-Eustatic Sea Level Variations: Examples from Canadian Oceanic Margins

Northern Geothermal, Edmonton, AB T6R 2J8, Canada
Natural Resources Canada, Geological Survey of Canada, Calgary, AB T2L 2A7, Canada
Institute of Geophysics, Czech Academy of Science, Prague 14131, Czech Republic
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 29 August 2013 / Revised: 16 October 2013 / Accepted: 30 October 2013 / Published: 6 November 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Gas Hydrate 2013)
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We model numerically regions of the Canadian continental shelves during successive glacio-eustatic cycles to illustrate past, current and future marine gas hydrate (GH) stability and instability. These models indicated that the marine GH resource has dynamic features and the formation age and resource volumes depend on the dynamics of the ocean-atmosphere system as it responds to both natural (glacial-interglacial) and anthropogenic (climate change) forcing. Our models focus on the interval beginning three million years ago (i.e., Late Pliocene-Holocene). They continue through the current interglacial and they are projected to its anticipated natural end. During the current interglacial the gas hydrate stability zone (GHSZ) thickness in each region responded uniquely as a function of changes in water depth and sea bottom temperature influenced by ocean currents. In general, the GHSZ in the deeper parts of the Pacific and Atlantic margins (≥1316 m) thinned primarily due to increased water bottom temperatures. The GHSZ is highly variable in the shallower settings on the same margins (~400–500 m). On the Pacific Margin shallow GH dissociated completely prior to nine thousand years ago but the effects of subsequent sea level rise reestablished a persistent, thin GHSZ. On the Atlantic Margin Scotian Shelf the warm Gulf Stream caused GHSZ to disappear completely, whereas in shallow water depths offshore Labrador the combination of the cool Labrador Current and sea level rise increased the GHSZ. If future ocean bottom temperatures remain constant, these general characteristics will persist until the current interglacial ends. If the sea bottom warms, possibly in response to global climate change, there could be a significant reduction to complete loss of GH stability, especially on the shallow parts of the continental shelf. The interglacial GH thinning rates constrain rates at which carbon can be transferred between the GH reservoir and the atmosphere-ocean system. Marine GH can destabilize much more quickly than sub-permafrost terrestrial GHs and this combined with the immense marine GH reservoir suggests that GH have the potential to affect the climate-ocean system. Our models show that GH stability reacts quickly to water column pressure effects but slowly to sea bottom temperature changes. Therefore it is likely that marine GH destabilization was rapid and progressive in response to the pressure effects of glacial eustatic sea level fall. This suggests against a catastrophic GH auto-cyclic control on glacial-interglacial climate intervals. It is computationally possible but, unfortunately in no way verifiably, to analyze the interactions and impacts that marine GHs had prior to the current interglacial because of uncertainties in temperature and pressure history constraints. Thus we have the capability, but no confidence that we can contribute currently to questions regarding the relationships among climate, glacio-eustatic sea level fluctuations and marine GH stability without improved local temperature and water column histories. We infer that the possibility for a GH control on climate or oceanic cycles is speculative, but qualitatively contrary to our model results. View Full-Text
Keywords: marine gas hydrates (GH); GH stability; Canadian shelf; climate change influence marine gas hydrates (GH); GH stability; Canadian shelf; climate change influence

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Majorowicz, J.; Osadetz, K.; Safanda, J. Methane Gas Hydrate Stability Models on Continental Shelves in Response to Glacio-Eustatic Sea Level Variations: Examples from Canadian Oceanic Margins. Energies 2013, 6, 5775-5806.

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