Methane in Crystalline Bedrock: the Outokumpu Deep Drill Hole, Finland
Monday, 15 December 2014
Carbon is a key element for life. One of the most interesting forms of carbon is methane, as it is both consumed and produced by microorganisms. Methane has also several possible ways of abiotic origin, some of which could provide understanding of the origin of life itself. The study of methane is thus important in order to understand deep subsurface ecosystems such as those found in the 2516 m deep Outokumpu Deep Drill Hole within the Precambrian Fennoscandian Shield in eastern Finland. There rock types differ from graphite-bearing mica schist and black schist to serpentinite and pegmatitic granodiorite and saline, gas-rich water, with up to 32 mmol l-1 of methane, and residence times of tens of millions of years occupies the fracture zones which host diverse microbial life, including methanogenic archaea. In order to understand methane systematics in crystalline bedrock, we analysed several forms of carbon, including dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), methane and ethane from the Outokumpu Deep Drill Hole for their isotopic composition. In addition, isotopic compositions of water and hydrogen were determined. The results show that hydrogen is in isotopic equilibrium in the system H2O-H2-CH4 at ambient temperatures, which could either indicate equilibration due to long residence time or relatively recent production of methane in situ. Therefore hydrogen is not a very useful indicator for the origin of methane in this case. Carbon isotope analysis shows that both methane and DIC becomes generally more enriched in 13C with depth, which could indicate higher amounts of microbial methane in the upper part of the bedrock. Based on carbon isotope composition, two types of ethane can be discerned. Taken all the evidence together, this leads us to suggest that at least two mechanisms are responsible for the methane production in Outokumpu: 1) Biotic which comprise most of methane and 2) abiotic which dominates in the deeper parts of the bedrock. The former type may include both thermogenic and microbial methane as evidenced by the presence of graphitic rocks and methanogens, respectively.