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Mining “Ice that burns”

Chunk of burning methane hydrate. The inset image shows the hydrate's molecular structure: A lattice of water ice that traps the methane inside. Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey. Via Wired

Chunk of burning methane hydrate. The inset image shows the hydrate's molecular structure: A lattice of water ice that traps the methane inside. Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey. Via Wired

New discoveries of frozen methane hydatres deep under the ocean coupled with new drilling and recovery techniques could make these enormous reserves of natural gas both safe and possible to recover.

Previous methods were dangerous, as they used reserves near the surface which meant huge amounts of methane could be released into the atmosphere. However tests using these new techniques and deeper drilling depths have been successful.

While no one believes that all of the world’s methane hydrates will be recoverable, the scale of global reserves has been described by the U.S. Department of Energy as “staggering.”

Via Peak Energy

  • For some definition of “safe”. Burning methane produces CO2, on a one-for-one molecule basis. That’s a good deal for methane that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere; it’s not such a good deal for methane that’s securely sequestered.

  • DJ

    A sudden influx of new fossil fuel will likely put alternative energy on the back burner… again. Not to mention dropping prices to make waste and extravagance even more affordable than they already are.

  • I think gas from methane hydrates in commercial quantities is a long way off – and price wise it seems unlikely to be all that cheap (the Tech Review article notes that extracting the gas requires a 20% energy input, which equates to a narrow band EROEI of 5 – which won’t make it compelling economically compared to many alternative energy sources).