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Quantification of methane emissions at abandoned gas wells in the Central North Sea

Vielstädte, Lisa
Karstens, Jens
Haeckel, Matthias
Schmidt, Mark
Linke, Peter
Reimann, Susan
Liebetrau, Volker
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Published in Marine and Petroleum Geology. 2015, vol. 68, p. 848-860
Abstract As a result of extensive hydrocarbon exploration, the North Sea hosts several thousand abandoned wells; many believed to be leaking methane. However, how much of this greenhouse gas is emitted into the water column and ultimately reaches the atmosphere is not known. Here, we investigate three abandoned wells at 81–93 m water depth in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea, all of which show gas seepage into the bottom water. The isotopic signature of the emanating gas points towards a biogenic origin and hence to gas pockets in the sedimentary overburden above the gas reservoirs that the wells were drilled into. Video-analysis of the seeping gas bubbles and direct gas flow measurements resolved initial bubble sizes ranging between 3.2 and 7.4 mm in diameter with a total seabed gas flow between 1 and 19 tons of CH4 per year per well. Estimated total annual seabed emissions from all three wells of ∼24 tons are similar to the natural seepage rates at Tommeliten, suggesting that leaky abandoned wells represent a significant source of methane into North Sea bottom waters. However, the bubble-driven direct methane transport into the atmosphere was found to be negligible (<2%) due to the small bubble sizes and the water depth at which they are released.
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Research groups Aquatic Physics
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VIELSTÄDTE, Lisa et al. Quantification of methane emissions at abandoned gas wells in the Central North Sea. In: Marine and Petroleum Geology, 2015, vol. 68, p. 848-860. doi: 10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2015.07.030 https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:78384

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Deposited on : 2015-12-08

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