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  • Developing nations join R&D race for gas hydrates

    17th of April, 2014

    21/01/14, Katia Moskvitch

    China, India and Latin America are exploring a potential game-changer for global energy markets. Katia Moskvitch investigates. It looks like chunks of ice — but put a flame to it and it goes ablaze. Touch it, and you’ll feel an odd sizzling sensation. This peculiar compound is methane hydrate. Not only might it become the source of the world’s next energy bonanza, but it could also let some coastal developing nations leapfrog coal and other ‘dirty’ sources of energy. Methane hydrate — also known as ‘fire ice’ — is a mixture of methane and water frozen into solid chunks. It forms when methane is produced by bacteria feeding on decomposing organic matter at the bottom of cold oceans. There, the combination of cold and extreme pressure can lock methane into a crystalline cage of frozen water molecules. Methane hydrate can be found in permafrost that was once under the ocean and under the sea floor in deep water along most continental margins. Developing nations are starting to take note. For one thing, there is a lot of this strange stuff out there — potentially lying in deep water off their coasts. The United States Geological Survey estimates that the amount of energy trapped in hydrates is more than all the world’s other fossil fuels reserves combined. On top of that, fire ice burns much more cleanly than dirtier fossil fuels and so may power development in a greener fashion. Several developing nations are beginning research into the possibility of harnessing methane hydrates — and potentially replacing their dependence on energy imports with huge stocks of relatively clean fuel. When burned, the gas hydrates release ... Read more

  • Is 'burning ice' the solution to Japan's energy crisis?

    17th of April, 2014

    By Danielle Demetriou, in Tokyo, 18 Feb 2014

    A Japanese company is planning to extract methane hydrate from the seabed with the goal of creating a new domestic energy source for resources-poor Japan.

    Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding Co. (MES) hopes to become a pioneer in the field of extracting methane hydrate, also known as “burning ice”, a compound believed to exist in abundance beneath seas around Japan.

    The company, which has previously developed offshore oilfields, has set up a new department devoted to tapping into the nation’s underwater energy extraction potential.

    It has also designed an underwater robot capable of diving to depths of nearly 23,000 ft to assist the test-mining of mineral ores, with manufacturing discussions reportedly underway with an undisclosed North European company.

    Although a timescale has not yet been made public in relation to when they will start the extraction process, Masatoshi Inui, a spokesman at MES, told the Telegraph: “It’s true that the company plans to ... Read more

  • Energy Department Seeks Methane Hydrate Proposals

    17th of April, 2014

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska April 13, 2014 (AP)By DAN JOLING Associated PressAssociated Press

    The U.S. Department of Energy is soliciting for another round of research into methane hydrates, the potentially huge energy source of "frozen gas" that could step in for shortages of other fossil fuels.

    The department is looking for research projects on the North Slope of Alaska that could explore how to economically extract the gas locked in ice far below the Earth's surface.

    DOE is also seeking researchers to document methane hydrate deposits in outer continental shelf waters of coastal states.

    The DOE anticipates federal funding of $20 million over two years that could be leveraged into research costing $80 million, according to its "funding opportunity announcement." The department could award money for both methane hydrate extraction research and for documentat... Read more

  • Methane hydrate: Dirty fuel or energy saviour?

    17th of April, 2014

    April 16, By Richard Anderson Business reporter, BBC News

    The world is addicted to hydrocarbons, and it's easy to see why - cheap, plentiful and easy to mine, they represent an abundant energy source to fuel industrial development the world over.

    The side-effects, however, are potentially devastating; burning fossil fuels emits the CO2 linked to global warming.

    And as reserves of oil, coal and gas are becoming tougher to access, governments are looking ever harder for alternatives, not just to produce energy, but to help achieve the holy grail of all sovereign states - energy independence.

    Some have discovered a potential saviour, locked away under deep ocean beds and vast swathes of per... Read more

  • The ice gas cometh

    9th of October, 2013

    Brisbane Time, September 29, 2013 Katia Moskvitch

    Crowded around a hole in the ice, the dozen or so people clad in thick jackets could be local fishermen. But the rope winch, carefully lowering a long, fat pipe into the frigid Siberian water, hints that it is not dinner they are here to catch.

    The men on the ice are researchers from the Limnological Institute in nearby Irkutsk, and the treasure they are after, hidden at the bottom of Lake Baikal, is a trove of white, ice-like chunks called methane hydrates. Put a flame next to them and they'll ignite, burning what may be the cleanest fossil fuel currently known.

    For over a decade, scientists from around the world have trekked to this remote corner of the Russian wilderness, funded by governments eager to understand how to exploit these peculiar accumulations. ''We've hosted scientists from everywhere - Japanese, Belgian, Indian and others,'' says Oleg Khlystov, a geologist at the Limnological Institute. They make the journey to Baikal because the lake's combination of storm-free waters, and - in the winter - a one-metre-thick ice platform, provide ideal conditions for studying the icy crystals below. This year, the effort finally paid off, and a race is now on to harness them. Whoever succeeds could usher in the world's next energy bonanza, and redraw the world energy map in the process.

    You wouldn't have thought that these odd little compounds held such promise. When hydrates were first discovered at the beginning of the 19th century, their weird structure made them little more than curiosities in a chemist's lab: cage-like structures of fr... Read more

  • State, DOE map plan for methane hydrate testing

    14th of August, 2013

    By TIM BRADNER Morris News Service-Alaska Alaska Journal of Commerce

    State and U.S. Department of Energy officials are working toward on a plan for a long-term production test of methane from hydrates on the North Slope. The state Department of Natural Resources announced July 31 it was setting aside 11 tracts of unleased state lands on the slope for methane hydrate research.

    Methane, the main component of natural gas, is locked in immense quantities in ice-type formations held in permafrost. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates resources of 84 trillion cubic feet across the North Slope.

    In recent years industry and government scientists have been gaini... Read more

  • Environmentalists warn of hazards in extracting gas from methane hydrate

    5th of August, 2013

    The trillions of cubic feet of methane hydrates contained in the ocean's floor are in geologically unstable areas. The fear: One wrong move and an undersea landslide could send massive amounts of a particularly potent greenhouse gas to the ocean's surface and into the atmosphere.

    Keywords:

    By BEN LEFEBVRE

    Tapping methane hydrate for natural gas might have a positive impact on global energy production, but critics say the potential fuel source could have a negative impact on global warming.

    The trillions of cubic feet of methane hydrates contained in the ocean's floor are in geologically unstable areas. The fear: One wrong move and an undersea landslide in the muddy sediment containing the methane hydrates could send massive amounts of a particularly potent greenhouse gas to the ocean's surface and into the atmosphere.

    "Adding more methane to the atmosphere is a really bad idea," said Kert Davies, research director at Greenpeace, which is known for its use of direct action as well as lobbying and research to sway public opinion on issues including global warming and commercial whaling.

    Although methane remains in the atmosphere for a shorter time than carbon dioxide, "pound for pound, the comparative impact of methane on climate change is over 20 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period," according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

    Japan, the country making the most aggressive push into methane-hydrate development, will concentrate its efforts on relatively flat stretches of the seafloor off its coast. That will minimize the chances of a landslide, according to the Research Consortium for Methane Hydrate ... Read more

  • 'Fire ice' discovery key to Japan's power future

    9th of July, 2013

    AUSTRALIA NETWORK NEWS, MARCH 12, 2013: In what they are claiming as a world first, a consortium is drilling for the hydrate, a fossil fuel that looks like ice but consists of very densely-packed methane surrounded by water molecules, one kilometre below sea level.

    The solid white substance burns with a pale flame, leaving nothing but water.

    One cubic metre of it is estimated to contain many times the equivalent volume of methane in gas form.

    The consortium, led by Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, began initial work in February last year and on Tuesday started a two-week experimental production, an economy, trade and industry ministry official said.

    "It is the world's first offshore experiment producing gas from methane hydrate," the official said, adding that the team successfully collected methane gas extracted from the half-frozen substance.

    Officials said under the government-led project, the consortium is to separate methane - the primary component of natural gas - from the solid clat... Read more

  • Japan cracks seabed 'ice gas' in dramatic leap for global energy

    9th of July, 2013

    THE TELEGRAPH, TUESDAY JULY 9, 2013: Japan has extracted natural "ice" gas from methane hydrates beneath the sea off its coasts in a technological coup, opening up a super-resource that could meet the country's gas needs for the next century and radically change the world's energy outlook.

    The state-owned oil and gas company JOGMEC said an exploration ship had successfully drilled 300 metres below the seabed into deposits of methane hydrate, an ice-like solid that stores gas molecules but requires great skill to extract safely.

    "Methane hydrates available within Japan's territorial waters may well be able to supply the nation's natural gas needs for a century," said the compan... Read more

  • Will Methane Hydrates Become a Domestic Energy Resource?

    26th of May, 2013

    By Ishikawa Kenji, Nippon.com

    On April 1, 2013, the Japanese government’s Headquarters for Ocean Policy announced draft guidelines that would steer marine strategy over the next five years. One item drew particular attention: methane hydrates. The new Basic Plan on Ocean Policy calls for assessing the extent of methane hydrate deposits surrounding Japan while simultaneously developing the necessary technology for commercially viable production of gas from this potential energy resource.(*)

    Interest is growing following the first successful extraction of methane gas from sub-seafloor hydrate deposits, which took place on March 12 in the Nankai Trough, offshore of Aichi Prefecture. However, the prospects for methane hydrates are somewhat unclear. The media is touting them as a game-changing domestic resource, while others have dismissed them as worthless.

    Below I use information I have personall... Read more

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