More on Methane Hydrates
Jesse Jenkins of the MIT picks up the story about a japanese firm which reported to have produced non-commercial quantities of methane from offshore methane hydrates. Methane hydrates are deposits of natural gas trapped within the crystaline structure of frozen water, leading some to refer to hydrates as “fire ice.” Estimates of the scale of hydrate resources are enormous, ranging from 10,000 trillion cubic feet (TCF) to more than 100,000 TCF. Methane hydrates may contain anywhere from 0.5-15 times more natural gas than all global shale gas deposits combined, although not all of this can be recovered economically, but the consequences for the energy market, not to mention the environment, would be staggering… dwarfing the so-called ‘shale gas revolution’. The total amount of methane hydrate in the waters surrounding Japan are estimated at more than 247 TCF, that is enough gas to supply nearly a century’s worth of Japan’s needs.
The good news is that relatively clean gas from methane hydrates could displace dirty coal, like in China and India, a process which is already taking place in the US. The bad news is that potentially there would be lesser restrictions on burning of fossil fuels with negative effects on global warming. Another big risk is leakage of methane into the atmosphere, an almost unavoidable side-effect of the production process. Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas.
Nevertheless, since the Fukushima desaster Japan has increased investment in this field. We will be hearing a lot more from this theme soon.