In the news reporting on the BP oil spill, there is talk of methane/water forming a special ice composition that defeated the previous attempt to channel oil to the surface.  I think folks are referring to clathrate formation. This ice blocked the flow of petroleum from the concrete structure that was lowered over the well head.

But, here is the deal. Wouldn’t you expect cooling of a compressed gas as it exits the well pipe and into the sea water? Isn’t this just an example of the Joule-Thompson effect?  As the natural gas component of the petroleum discharge exits the pipe, it is going to expand somewhat, even at a one mile depth, and cool the surrounding water. If this occurs in unconfined, open water, the jet of petroleum will entrain water in the flow and be warmed by the continuous flow of heat from the water.

But, if the gas/oil mixture of petroleum is ejected in a confined space that interferes with heat transfer, then one would expect the expansion cooling of the gas phase to predominate and cool the water in the confining space, possibly to the freezing point. Clathrates may be formed, but the simplest explanation is from good old thermodynamics.

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