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  • '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 clathrat... 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 company, a... 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 personally co... 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 issues wo... 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 presen... 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 solid... 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 trade d... Read more

  • Could Tapping Undersea Methane Lead To A New Gas Boom?

    16th of March, 2013

    NPR.org, by Christopher Joyce

    The new boom in natural gas from shale has changed the energy economy of the United States. But there's another giant reservoir of natural gas that lies under the ocean floor that, theoretically, could dwarf the shale boom.

    No one had tapped this gas from the seabed until this week, when Japanese engineers pulled some up through a well from under the Pacific. The gas at issue here is called methane hydrate. Methane is natural gas; hydrate means there's water in it. In this case, the molecules of gas are trapped inside a sort of cage of water molecules.

    Few people have actually seen methane hydrates, but Ann Cook, a geophysicist at Ohio State University, is one of the few.

    "If you think about snow freezing in mud, that's what it would look like," says Cook, who spends weeks at a time looking for methane hydrates aboard drilling ships. "You would think, 'Oh, it's not so interesting,' " she says. "But then if you decided to light it on fire, it would burn right in front of you."

    You can find methane hydrates underground in the Arctic, in frozen soil called permafrost. But most of the stuff lies under the seafloor, cold and under high pressure. It took millions of years for it to form, mostly from ocean microbes eating dead plankton. "And when those things die," says Cook, "they sort of rain down onto the ocean floor. And then later on, that organic matter i... Read more

  • Methane Hydrates: The Next Natural Gas Boom?

    16th of March, 2013

    Huffington Post: Bill Chameides, Dean, Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment

    There's a whole lot of methane in them thar seaflooor. But is it good as gold or fool's gold?

    Remember when shale gas was the next big thing? The game changer that would revolutionize the energy world, providing Americans with an abundant source of clean, environmentally friendly fuel?

    Shale gas, undoubtedly, has turned out to be a big thing. Natural gas production has been steadily climbing since 2006, and natural gas prices are so low that gas is displacing dirty coal as the fuel of choice in our power plants.

    But, with concerns over water pollution and air pollution from the process of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) -- and global warming impacts (conceivably as bad as or even worse than coal) from natural gas leakages from the extraction and piping of the fuel -- the bona fides of shale gas ... Read more

  • Japan extracts gas from methane hydrate in world first

    12th of March, 2013

    BBCNews.com 12 March 2013

    Japan says it has successfully extracted natural gas from frozen methane hydrate off its central coast, in a world first.

    Methane hydrates, or clathrates, are a type of frozen "cage" of molecules of methane and water.

    The gas field is about 50km away from Japan's main island, in the Nankai Trough.

    Researchers say it could provide an alternative energy source for Japan which imports all its energy needs.

    Other countries including Canada, the US and China have been looking into ways of exploiting methane hydrate deposits as well.

    Pilot experiments in recent years, using methane hydrates fo... Read more

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