Tracking Dissolved Methane Concentrations near Active Seeps and Gas Hydrates: Sea of Japan.
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
A number of regions in the Sea of Japan are known for active gas venting and for gas hydrate exposures on the sea floor. In this investigation we employed several gas sensors mounted on a ROV in order to determine the concentrations of dissolved methane in the water near these sites. Methane concentrations were determined during two-second intervals throughout each ROV deployment during the cruise. The methane sensor deployments were coupled with seawater sampling using Niskin bottles. Dissolved gas concentrations were later measured using gas chromatography in order to compare with the sensor results taken at the same time. The observed maximum dissolved methane concentrations were much lower than saturation values, even when the ROV manipulators were in contact with gas hydrate. Nonetheless, dissolved concentrations did reach several thousands of nmol/L near gas hydrate exposures and gas bubbles, more than two orders of magnitude over the instrumental detection limits. Most of the sensors tested were able to detect dissolved methane concentrations as low as 10 nmol/L which permitted detection when the ROV approached methane plume sites, even from several tens of meters above the sea floor. Despite the low detection limits, the methane sensors showed variable response times when returning to low-background seawater (~5nM). For some of the sensors, the response time necessary to return to background values occurred in a matter of minutes, while for others it took several hours. Response time, as well as detection limit, should be an important consideration when selecting methane sensors for ROV or AUV investigations. This research was made possible, in part, through funding provided by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).