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  • 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.



    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

  • Canada drops out of race to tap methane hydrates

    26th of May, 2013

    By Santiago Ortega Arango, CBC NewsPosted: May 7, 2013 5:42 AM ET

    Canada is abandoning a 15-year program that was researching ways to tap a potentially revolutionary energy source, just as Japan is starting to use the results to exploit the new fossil-fuel frontier: methane hydrates.

    Methane hydrates are crystals full of methane gas found both offshore and under the permafrost. Low temperatures and high pressure cause methane and water to crystallize into ice-like deposits.

    They represent an unexploited source of energy estimated to be larger than all the world's known coal, oil and gas reserves combined.

    Methane is considered to be cleaner than other fossil fuels, and if methane is used instead of oil and coal, significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions could be achieved.

    Producing gas from hydrates could also avoid the water pollution issues connected with the extraction of shale gas through "fracking" techniques. The environmental impact of methane production has yet to be completely assessed, but researchers say they expect the issue... Read more

  • Methane hydrates – bigger than shale gas, “game over” for the environment?

    20th of March, 2013

    Scientific American By Melissa C. Lott | March 19, 2013Methane hydrate deposits could hold up to 15 times the amount of gas as the world’s shale deposits. At the same time, they represent more carbon than all of the world’s fossil fuels combined. So, it’s no wonder that the response to recent announcements by the Japanese has been a bit mixed.

    Methane hydrates (a.k.a. methane clathrates or fire ice) are solid compounds where methane is literally trapped in water. The substance looks like ice and can be found deep on the ocean floor, locked under layers of sediments.

    Last Tuesday, Japan announced that researchers have successfully produced natural gas from offshore methane hydrates in the the Eastern Nankai Trough. In the words of energy analyst Jesse Jenkins, this success could have explosive implications. In his article, posted Friday on The Energy Collective, Jenkins explains his views on the impact of unlocking this resource, stating that:

    “Of course, just as with shale gas, not all of this potential energy resource will prove technically recoverable. Yet if (or should we say when?) technology to commercially extract gas from hydrates is developed, the implications for global energy markets are staggering nonetheless.”

    Below if a portion of his piece, which was originally published on Friday on The Energy Collective. In it, Jenkins pr... Read more

  • Gas extracted from seafloor / Methane hydrate 'burnable ice' could help meet energy needs

    16th of March, 2013

    The Yomiuri Shimbun

    The deep-sea drilling vessel Chikyu is seen off the coast of Aichi Prefecture on Tuesday, with a gas flare apparently from methane hydrate extracted from the seafloor.

    Methane hydrate, a form of natural gas, was successfully extracted from the seafloor about 80 kilometers off the coast of Aichi Prefecture, the industry ministry announced Tuesday.

    The feat is believed to be a world's first.

    The seas near Japan are estimated to hold enough methane hydrate to supply the nation with natural gas for 100 years at current consumption levels.

    The government is aiming to commercialize methane hydrate by fiscal 2018, according to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry. If stable production could be achieved, it could serve as a rich source of domestic energy.

    Before 6 a.m. on the day, the deep-sea drilling vessel Chikyu lowered an excavator to the seafloor about 1,000 meters below, where it began separating solidified methane hydrate into water and natural gas, and transporting the gas up to the surface.

    About four hours later, around 10 a.m., a flare appeared from a burner on the stern of the boat, indicating that gas was being produced.

    The area around the test site is believed to hold enough natural gas to fuel the nation for more than 10 years at current consumption levels.

    The government plans to continue the experiment for about two weeks to see if stable production can be achieved.

    Methane hydrate consists of crystallized methane gas molecules trapped in water. It is called "burnable ice" because at high pressures and low temperatures, the s... Read more

  • An Energy Coup for Japan: ‘Flammable Ice’

    16th of March, 2013

    New York Times: By HIROKO TABUCHIPublished: March 12, 2013

    TOKYO — Japan said Tuesday that it had extracted gas from offshore deposits of methane hydrate — sometimes called “flammable ice” — a breakthrough that officials and experts said could be a step toward tapping a promising but still little-understood energy source.

    The gas, whose extraction from the undersea hydrate reservoir was thought to be a world first, could provide an alternative source of energy to known oil and gas reserves. That could be crucial especially for Japan, which is the world’s biggest importer of liquefied natural gas and is engaged in a public debate about whether to resume the country’s heavy reliance on nuclear power.

    Experts estimate that the carbon found in gas hydrates worldwide totals at least twice the amount of carbon in all of the earth’s other fossil fuels, making it a potential game-changer for energy-poor countries like Japan. Researchers had already successfully extracted gas from onshore methane hydrate reservoirs, but not from beneath the seabed, where much of the world’s deposits are thought to lie.

    The exact properties of undersea hydrates and how they might affect the environment are still poorly understood, given that methane is a greenhouse gas. Japan has invested hundreds of millions of dollars since the early 2000s to explore offshore methane hydrate reserves in both the Pacific and the Sea of Japan.

    That task has become all the more pressing after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis, which has all but halted Japan’s nuclear energy program and caused a sharp increase in the country’s fossil fuel imports. Japan’s rising energy bill has weighed heavily on its economy, helping to push it to a tra... Read more

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