Friday, March 22, 2013

More food for the hungry

As we posted recently, the spotlight is turning from shale to methane hydrates. Especially after news from Japan about massive deposits offshore. Methane 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. Hence, the response has been 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. What are the implications of the world turning to tap this resource which is believed to be generously spread across the globe?

eveloping methane hydrates would be “game over for the climate,” believe some. Depending on how cost-effective production of gas hydrates proves, this vast new fossil energy resource could lower energy prices worldwide. These lower prices almost certainly will lead to an increase in fossil-fuel consumption on an energy basis.
The other concern is that methane hydrates contain more carbon than all the world’s other fossil resources combined. Hydrate drillers would also have to be wary of letting methane leak out of hydrate deposits and into the atmosphere. Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, and even modest leakage rates could nix any potential climate benefit of burning gas from hydrates instead of coal. But, clean-burning natural gas from hydrates could also help displace coal consumption in places like China and India, just as cheap shale gas is now driving coal out of U.S. electricity markets. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

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