Natural Emissions Of Methane From Geothermal And Volcanic Sources In Europe

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Journal Article: Natural Emissions Of Methane From Geothermal And Volcanic Sources In Europe

It has recently been demonstrated that methane emission from lithosphere degassing is an important component of the natural greenhouse-gas atmospheric budget. Globally, the geological sources are mainly due to seepage from hydrocarbon-prone sedimentary basins, and subordinately from geothermal/volcanic fluxes. This work provides a first estimate of methane emission from the geothermal/volcanic component at European level. In Europe, 28 countries have geothermal systems and at least 10 countries host surface geothermal manifestations (hot springs, mofettes, gas vents). Even if direct methane flux measurements are available only for a few small areas in Italy, a fair number of data on CO2, CH4 and steam composition and flux from geothermal manifestations are today available for 6 countries (Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Spain). Following the emission factor and area-based approach, the available data have been analyzed and have led to an early and conservative estimate of methane emission into the atmosphere around 10,000 ton/yr (4000-16,000 ton/yr), basically from an area smaller than 4000 km2, with a speculative upper limit in the order of 105 ton/yr. Only 4-18% of the conservative estimate (about 720 ton/yr) is due to 12 European volcanoes, where methane concentration in volcanic gases is generally in the order of a few tens of ppmv. Volcanoes are thus not a significant methane source. While the largest emission is due to geothermal areas, which may be situated next to volcanoes or independent. Here inorganic synthesis, thermometamorphism and thermal breakdown of organic matter are substantial. Methane flux can reach hundreds of ton/yr from small individual vents. Geothermal methane is mainly released in three countries located in the main high heat flow regions: Italy, Greece, and Iceland. Turkey is likely a fourth important contributor but the absolute lack of data prevents any emission estimate. Therefore, the actual European geothermal-volcanic methane emission could be easily projected to the 105 ton/yr levels, reaching the magnitude of some other natural sources such as forest fires or wild animals.

G. Etiope, T. Fridriksson, F. Italiano, W. Winiwarter and J. Theloke

Published Journal 
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 2007

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G. Etiope,T. Fridriksson,F. Italiano,W. Winiwarter,J. Theloke. 2007. Natural Emissions Of Methane From Geothermal And Volcanic Sources In Europe. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. (!) .