Measurement of Hydrocarbon Fluxes due to Natural Seepage in the Northern Santa Barbara Channel
We describe the design, calibration, and deployment of a buoy and gas capture assembly for measuring bubbling gas flux in oceans and lakes. The assembly collects gas in a chamber while continuously measuring the position of the gas-water interface that forms as gas accumulates. Interface position is determined from the differential pressure between the chamber and ambient seawater. A spar buoy provides flotation and stability to reduce vertical motions due to surface waves. The gas collection assembly and spar, referred to as a flux buoy, is suitable for deployment from small boats under conditions of light wind and small waves. We are using the flux buoy to determine the spatial distribution of natural hydrocarbon seepage off the south-central California coast. Hydrocarbon seepage from continental shelves may be an important source of atmospheric methane.