11 May 2019
Huge news from the James Cook today as we kick off the controlled release experiment in style and finally see our first real bubbles!
The CO2 tank was linked up with the pipeline late last night by the ROV. After some initial pipe testing this morning we were confident enough to slowly pressurise the pipe and drive out any water that may have been stuck inside. Then, with bated breath, we increased the pressure and stared eagerly at the flow gauges and EK60 data. The flow gauges would let us know as soon as gas started flowing out of the tank, through the pipe and into the sediment, whilst the EK60 – a type of sonar – would let us know the moment any gas escaped into the water column. This was a moment 4-5 years in the making!
Within 10 minutes the flow gauge began to move and simultaneously a bright spike appeared on the EK60 data – you couldn’t ask for a better sign. ISIS quickly headed off to the release site to scout out the newly-formed seep. The ROV control van quickly filled with scientists desperate to be the first to spot the seep. And of course who better to first see bubbles than our project leader Doug Connelly!
To say the team was excited and maybe a little relieved would be an understatement (just look at Chris!). This was a huge undertaking and there were a lot of doubters out there but we did it! And I’m definitely using the royal “we” here as credit for the successful gas release goes almost entirely to our engineering team of Hannah, Rob and Kev. They have been working tirelessly to pull off this incredible feat the entire length of this expedition, not to mention the months of hard work they put into building the CO2 tank, and the years they put into designing it. So a massive thank you to them! Enjoy a well-deserved break!
However, for the rest of us there’s no rest for the wicked – and we’re straight into planning the next round of deployments. After all, this whole project is about testing methods of detecting CO2 escape, and that now we finally one (albeit a fake one!), the fun can really begin!