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  1. Source of Oceanic Mystery Methane Was Under Noses of Researchers All Along

    Researchers have been seeing methane produced from the world's oceans for years, but like methane produced in a crowded elevator, the source was a minor mystery that annoyed many in the field. But researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign may have finally cracked the secret behind just who dealt the methane being released by the Earth's oceans, and it appears the answer was looking right at them the whole time -- probably being conspicously quiet or pretending to check its email or something. The source seems to be one of the most common microbes in the ocean, Nitrosopumilus maritimus.

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  2. New Research Suggests Vast Methane Reserves Under Antarctic Ice

    A new study of Antarctic ice suggests that the continent may be harboring enormous stores of methane just beneath surface layers of ice. Okay, has everybody made their fart jokes? Good. Moving on. The main ingredient of natural gas and a common byproduct of digestion in everything from cows to people to microorganisms, methane is the among the big bads of the greenhouse gas world. It's super effective at trapping heat, trapping more than 20 times as much heat in the atmosphere than its more well-known cousin, carbon dioxide. Research published in the journal Nature suggests that there are more than 4 billion metric tons of methane underneath Antarctica's ice sheets. If that ice melts, releasing the methane stored underneath, the resulting gasses could contribute significantly to climate change. It's like the rich getting richer, only with instead of money, you have a greenhouse gas, and instead of investing wisely, everything melts.

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  3. Scientists Calculate How Much Methane Dinosaurs Farted Out Per Year

    Methane is a leading greenhouse gas, and the producers of methane -- including cows and other ruminants -- are often singled out as a possible contributor to global climate change. However, it seems that they may not have been the first to do so. A new study published in Current Biology has pegged the entire output of giant sauropod dinosaurs at around 520 million tons of gas every year.

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  4. Scientists Crack Methane’s Bonds, Make it More Reactive

    We commonly think of methane as being nothing more than a convenient fule source, recent extraction issues not withstanding. To chemists, however, methane is held in high regard for its potential for constructing complex biological compounds. Since it consists of single carbon atom with four hydrogen, it is the simplest of hydrocarbons and a useful starting point from which to build. Unfortunately, methane is reluctant to react because those hydrogen-carbon bonds are so strong. Scientists have managed to make methane more reactive by breaking one of those bonds, but doing so requires high heat and dangerous acids. This was the case until Pedro Perez at Spain's University of Huelva presented his team's research, which made methane react without acid and at a mere 40º C. Perez's approached mixed the methane with super-critical carbon dioxide. In the super-critical form, the CO2 is neither gas nor liqud, and mixed will with the other chemicals in the reaction. With the addition of a silver-based catalyst the reaction proceeded and was successful. Perez's work hods a two-fold benefit. First, using methane in reactions could lead to the improved manufacture of any carbon-based substance, like drugs and plastics. It also could better use existing methane, which is a greenhouse gas often claimed to be more dangerous than CO2. Using Perez's process, methane could be remade and do more good than it would floating around in the atmosphere. (via New Scientist)

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  5. Water Contaminated With Explosive Methane from Natural Gas “Fracking”

    In the quest to lower energy costs, natural gas has done quite well for itself thanks in no small part to a controversial extraction method called "fracking." Bearing no relation to the BSG phrase, it refers to the practice of fracturing layers of rock using high-pressure water. Fracking has come under fire in the past because the fluid used in the extraction can contaminate the surrounding areas with dangerous dissolved metals and radioactive material. But a new study reveals that fracking may also be contaminating ground water with explosive methane gas. Hoping to determine the larger impact of fracking, Duke University sampled 68 wells in rural New York and Pennsylvania. These communities were used because of their reliance on ground water, as opposed to more well monitored municipal water. The study found that methane gas was, indeed, infiltrating the water supply. At close proximity to the drill sites, about 1km, the readings were 17 times higher than those at greater distances. More distressing, the study found some samples with methane concentrations from 19.2 to 64 mg per litre. At these concentrations, the gas could potentially be an explosive risk. After looking at the water's isotope ratios and finding both ethane and propane in the water, the team concluded that it had to have come from the deep gas wells which employ fracking. Though it is small consolation, the study also concluded that there was no heavy metal or radioactive contamination in the water due to the drilling. This information will no doubt slow the practice of fracking somewhat, but it will likely take a while (and perhaps many lawsuits) before some residents can be confident about the water they drink. (via Ars Technica, image via Will Montague)

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  6. Dog Park Stays Well Lit – With Dog Poop

    A Cambridge dog park not only urges its patrons to pick up after themselves, it also tells them exactly where they can stick it: a couple of 500-gallon tanks that collect the generated methane to power a nearby gas streetlamp. Park Spark is a temporary installation in the dog park, fueled (if you'll pardon the expression) by a grant from the Council of the Arts at MIT, and spearheaded by artist Matthew Mazzotta.

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  7. A Car That Runs on Poop

    Yesterday, British sewage treatment company Wessex Water unveiled a car that runs on poop. The new Bio-Bug is a Volkswagen Beetle powered by methane biogas generated from fermented human waste, and according to the Bristol-based company, the fartmobile can travel 10,000 miles annually on waste collected from 70 households! Keep on poopin' for your mileage, folks.

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