May 2, 2013
A practical problem would seem to be sustaining the integrity of the system during fierce winter storms (and if the occasional whale comes by). This would seem to mean that the structure would have to be reasonably substantial, making the approach relatively expensive and most applicable for strong localized sources. A lighter alternative might be a floating blanket, but then a blanket might be even less likely to survive a storm. It might be interesting to investigate whether any ocean creatures (fish, other organism, etc.) might be attuned to utilizing the methane as food (one would have to guarantee that none escaped, or it might destroy the methane where we don't want it to be removed (such as from a well or pipeline). Does the sea ice serve as sort of a natural blanket that captures and traps methane below it? Are there organisms that grow there using this methane?
May 3, 2013
The intention is that the bubble management materials would be placed on or near the seabed, where there would be little or no effect from storms. There is a large amount of redundancy, in that each seep is fairly insignificant, and therefore damaged equipment in one location doesn't particularly affect the system performance. Ice (moreso lake than sea) does indeed trap methane - and that is why concentrated methane fluxes from lakes can be ignited. The generally deeper and better-oxygenated sea water typically doesn't allow much methane to escape to the surface. Landfill sites already use methane-impeding mats, to ensure that fluxes from soils are broken down. However, surface tension is an issue in water, so this approach really can't work as well. Methanotrophs do metabolize methane in well-oxygenated soils and waters, and it is for this reason that promoting the dissolution of bubbles is an effective management technique.
Jul 10, 2013
Thank you for sharing your ideas and for the work invested to create this proposal. Your proposal has been considered carefully by the judges, and while the proposal has interesting ideas, and we appreciate the response to questions that were raised, further information was required to envision what the scheme would look like and what level of efforts it would entail and to what effect. For example, you mention that "Shakhova and others are engaged in work to quantify and survey Arctic methane seeps from seas in the Russian Arctic." Preliminary results from this and related work and their implications for this scheme would have strengthened the proposal.