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Sat Jan 26, 2013, 05:45 AM

New lab could unlock vast potential of seabed methane ice

The University of California, Irvine has been granted $1 million to develop a unique laboratory for the research of clean energy obtained from methane hydrates, an as-yet untapped source of methane gas that exists in huge quantities in some ocean-floor environments.

Methane hydrates are clathrate compounds, where the methane molecules are trapped in a lattice of water ice—hence their alternate names, methane clathrate and methane ice. They occur where methane and water are present at favorable combinations of low temperatures and high pressure. These conditions restrict clathrates to undersea locations at polar latitudes and along continental shelves, where they are distributed within the sedimentary bed.

Such environments are plentiful, of course, and so it's unsurprising that methane hydrate is thought to be abundant on planet Earth. However, as our understanding of methane hydrate formation has grown, our best guess as to the extent of the reserves has become smaller. Currently, the most conservative estimate is that there are between 500 and 2,500 gigatonnes of carbon in submarine gas hydrate deposits, the majority of which are in the form of methane.

Even at the low end, however, this is more than double the Earth's 230 gigatonnes of natural gas from other sources. According to the Department of Energy, methane hydrates are Earth's largest untapped fossil fuel resource. But quantity isn't everything; it's the size of the deposits that may one day prove commercially viable to tap that are key. This category of methane hydrates may prove to be a small proportion of the total.


I only came across this by accident this morning. I recall reading years ago of an investigation into the merits of mining methane hydrates off the coast of NC. The conclusion was that it could destabilise the continental shelf.

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Reply New lab could unlock vast potential of seabed methane ice (Original post)
dipsydoodle Jan 2013 OP
mopinko Jan 2013 #1

Response to dipsydoodle (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 10:36 AM

1. seems like if it could be done in a responsible manner, it would be good.

considering their potential to add to greenhouse gases, wouldn't it be a good thing to tap them?
i know, tho, responsible mining

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