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Gulf of Mexico Gas Hydrates Monitoring Station and Sea-Floor Observatory: A Status Report

Carol Blanton Lutken Tom McGee, and J. Robert Woolsey
University of Mississippi, University, MS

A multi-sensor station to monitor gas hydrate activity is being installed on the continental slope, northern Gulf of Mexico. Establishing the sea floor station is the mission of the Gulf of Mexico Hydrates Research Consortium which comprises researchers from academia, industry and government who have designed systems and sensors to measure chemical, geophysical and microbiological activities of gas hydrates.

In May, 2005, initial components of the monitoring station were deployed in Mississippi Canyon Federal Lease Block 118, the site of a significant outcropping, gas hydrate complex in ~ 900m of water. Two gravity-driven probes - one designed to collect pore fluid samples from sediment interstices, the other to record temperature variations - were emplaced near a gas hydrate mound, penetrating surficial sediments to ~10m. Data will be used to site additional sensors and experiments, and to design the reference seismic survey used to detect changes in the hydrate stability zone.

Installation of additional components is expected to be completed by 2007. When the station is online and fully operational, anticipated data volume is about nine gigabytes per hour transmitted to shore via optic fiber. Data will be sorted by type, quality controlled, archived, and made accessible online.

The Monitoring Station is funded jointly by the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology, Department of Commerce, (NOAA), Minerals Management Service, Department of the Interior and the National Energy Technology Laboratory, Department of Energy. The Consortium is managed by the Center for Marine Resources and Environmental Technology, University of Mississippi.