In order to oxidize methane it takes ten oxygen molecules ten years -normally- in the atmosphere. With a methane blowout we will want to shorten the time to methane destruction by putting up there the main oxidant that removes methane. In addition to airlifting oxygen molecules, there are two other options we should consider: airlifting atomic oxygen or hydroxyl radicals. Either of these will perform a faster oxidation of methane: shortened for brevity:
- CH4 + OH =CH3 +H2O, CH3 +OH = CH2 + H2O,
- CH2 + 2OH = C + 2H2O
- C + 2OH + O= CO2 + H2O
This chemistry uses the O from an O2 once, and the rest of the oxidation remains direct with OH. The OH can be a radical OH* or a negative or positive ion in the case of manufactured OH.
In the step where sunlight naturally excites molecular oxygen and splits it into positive atomic O1D ions, this atomic oxygen will either react to form ozone, O3, or react with water to form 2 OH radicals:
4. O1D +H2O = 2OH*
As we can see from this, the formation of two oxidant OH* would be very helpful as it changes the water oxygen into a scrubbing hydroxyl radical, effectively doubling the oxygen in play as the key oxidant. It would be very good to airlift this O atom and have it meet water molecules and form OH as it bypasses the time involved for the Sun to split molecular oxygen, engage in competing chemistry, and form OH. It is much more direct in addressing methane to make it and release it.
Taking OH that is made at ground in water is also an option. The oxygen is more dilute, but the water needed is brought into contact with the O atoms quickly, in the interests of time. The OH in water is airlifted and sprayed.
We are going to need to address methane as it is escaping at dangerous levels now. There are no known negative side effects from releasing natural (in situ) oxidants to the environment. The oxidants will remove all greenhouse gases but water and CO2, which will bring a significant amount of cooling as their levels are lowered from today’s levels.