China Claims Methane Hydrates Breakthrough May Lead To Global Energy Revolution

Via CNN Money h/t to GWPF

China is talking up its achievement of mining flammable ice for the first time from underneath the South China Sea.

Image result for methane hydrates China

Methane Hydrates: China’s Real South China Sea Goal?

Estimates of the South China Sea’s methane hydrate potential now range as high as 150 billion cubic meters of natural gas equivalent. That’s sufficient to satisfy China’s entire equivalent oil consumption for 50 years.

The fuel-hungry country has been pursuing the energy source, located at the bottom of oceans and in polar regions, for nearly two decades. China’s minister of land and resources, Jiang Daming, said Thursday that the successful collection of the frozen fuel was “a major breakthrough that may lead to a global energy revolution,” according to state media.

Experts agree that flammable ice could be a game changer for the energy industry, similar to the U.S. shale boom. But they caution that big barriers — both technological and environmental — need to be cleared to build an industry around the frozen fuel, which is also known as gas hydrate.Image result for methane hydrates revolution

Image result for methane hydrates revolution

China, the world’s largest energy consumer, isn’t the first country to make headway with flammable ice. Japan drilled into it in the Pacific and extracted gas in 2013 — and then did so again earlier this month. The U.S. government has its own long-running research program into the fuel.

The world’s resources of flammable ice — in which gas is stored in cages of water molecules — are vast. Gas hydrates are estimated to hold more carbon than all the world’s other fossil fuels combined, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

china flammable ice
An image from Chinese state television shows gas extracted from flammable ice burning in the South China Sea.

And it’s densely packed: one cubic foot of flammable ice holds 164 cubic feet of regular natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua says that makes the fuel a strong contender to replace regular oil and natural gas. But like any fossil fuel, flammable ice raises significant environmental concerns.

Experts worry about the release of methane, a superpotent greenhouse gas with 25 times as much global warming potential as carbon dioxide. And although burning natural gas is cleaner than coal, it still creates carbon emissions.

The fuel source has a lot of potential in China, analysts at Morgan Stanley said Thursday, citing the country’s successful trial and government support to develop the industry.

But commercial production is unlikely in the next three years due to high costs, potential environmental concerns and technological barriers, the analysts said in a research note.

“If there is a real breakthrough,” they wrote, “it could be as significant as the shale revolution in the United States. Under such a bull case scenario, we’d expect a significant increase in offshore exploration and production activities.”

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101 thoughts on “China Claims Methane Hydrates Breakthrough May Lead To Global Energy Revolution

    • And we get another example of the damage to real environmental science that the climate cult dogma has caused.

      “Experts worry about the release of methane, a superpotent greenhouse gas with 25 times as much global warming potential as carbon dioxide. And although burning natural gas is cleaner than coal, it still creates carbon emissions.”

      Yeah… China is proposing to strip mine thousands of square kilometers of sea floor, and it’s the potential release of methane into the atmosphere that the “experts” are worried about, not the literal destruction of the benthic outer shelf and slope environments.

      • Interested in the technology; I don’t think it would be technically feasible to “strip mine” the sea floor. First problem; as soon as sea water hits that frozen hydrate it’s going to sublimate/melt and all the methane will be lost. I think the best way to do it will be to drill an injection well and inject sea water into the hydrate layer, and allow the resulting methane to be produced from a ring of surrounding production wells. However, this is a lot of undersea drilling, and given that these layers aren’t very deep, the risk of an underground blowout would be constant.

        There’s a lot of methane there, but getting to it in a safe and economic matter is going to be quite difficult. And it’s easy to say that China won’t care too much about safety; but think Deepwater Horizon if you want to visualize how bad an underground/underwater blowout can get.

        Methane has a way of making you respect it, whether you want to or not.

    • Every 5 years or so, for the last 20 years there have been “breakthroughs” with respect to marine gas hydrates as an energy resource. However, as long as you have to dig them out of the ground, they will not compare with more available shale gas, shallow gas, and biogenic methane resources. When you depressurize gas hydrates, they cool adiabatically and will freeze up with water ice. Thus, they are self conserving. If you use heat to dissociate them, you tend to end up using more energy than you gain. The flame you see in the picture only lasts for some short time (days / a week or so), before they freeze up and you have to dig them out.

  1. The unpredictability of technological advance rears its head once more. If this can be brought to market in the form of cheaper energy that is no more difficult to use than what we have now then everything changes, again.

  2. Thank God for fossil wonder fuels. Meanwhile, over at Google, the top (ad) hit for “methane” is this: “What is methane – A potent climate pollutant – edf.org‎”

  3. If the greenies want to ever prevail, they had better get behind nuclear pronto. Carbon based fuels are everywhere and we are developing better ways to find and extract it faster and faster.

    The greenies may get Europe and North America to waste their resources on wind and solar, but everywhere else will be burning carbon because it is cheaper, is 365×24, has a high energy density and whose leaders don’t really believe all the bull crap about what they say. And the only non-carbon alternative in a grand scale to this is nuclear.

  4. If China has found a way to economically exploit methane hydrate deposits, that is great news.
    As always, I’ll wait until commercial production has been established to start celebrating.

    • Another article was claiming commercial quantities of production. Time will temp if the production is sustainable and if there are unanticipated costs.

  5. This headline is similar to “scientists say mining Titan’s atmosphere could solve future methane shortages”. Mining methane hydrates poses technologic and economic hurdles which we are unlikely to solve.

    You are starting to follow a mirror image behavior to alarmists who claim the earth is going to fry due to CO2. The planet’s resources are limited, and we do face fossil fuel depletion which leads to much higher prices and gradual replacement by other energy sources. Given that population is headed towards 8-9 billion, the ability to prepare for change is critical. I think the Chinese realize what’s going on, and are going for extremely long shots because they think they have few options.

    It’s evident Australia won’t be able to supply China with coal and natural gas for 50 years. The Australians will curtail their exports to satisfy their own needs.

    • curtail their exports to satisfy their own needs
      ==============
      the ozzies will make it illegal to use their own resources. they will have no choice but to export them. for fun ozzies like to sit quietly in a corner, hitting themselves on the head with a hammer.

    • This headline is similar to “scientists say mining Titan’s atmosphere could solve future methane shortages”. Mining methane hydrates poses technologic and economic hurdles which we are unlikely to solve.

      Big time hurdles…

      Japan cheers world-first gas from methane hydrates

      News Wires

      12 March 2013

      Japan has achieved the world’s first gas extraction from offshore methane hydrate deposits, said energy explorer Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp (JOGMEC), who is targeting commercial production within six years.
      A Reuters report on Tuesday stated that since 2001, several hundred million dollars have been invested in developing technology to tap methane hydrate reserves, estimated to equate to about 11 years of gas consumption, off Japan’s coast.

      State-run JOGMEC said the gas was tapped from deposits of methane hydrate, a frozen gas known as “flammable ice”, near Japan’s central coast.

      Japan imports almost all of its energy needs and is the world’s top importer of liquefied natural gas. The lure of domestic gas resources has intensified following the Fukushima nuclear crisis two years ago, which triggered a shake-up of the country’s energy sector.

      According to Reuters, Japan’s trade ministry said the production tests would continue for about two weeks, followed by analysis on how much gas was produced.

      […]

      Upstream Online

      Based on this economic analysis, methane hydrate production would be uneconomic…

      42-174 JPY/m^3 works out to about $12-$45/mcf… Equivalent to oil prices of $71 to $269/boe.

      Natural gas prices in the $12-$45/mcf range would lead to so much conventional and shale gas production, that no one would risk capital on marginal methane hydrate production.

      • The economics change over time: Depletion of low cost sources causes prices to rise, new demand causes prices to rise, and unreliable sources can also cause the price to rise. Also, China may be thinking about the strategic value of becoming less dependent on potentially hostile source countries. So it makes sense to start working the technology out now as insurance in the future, even if it isn’t yet economically viable.

        The U.S. is in a much better strategic position because of Shale Oil, even if it’s only marginally economically viable.

        The U.S. could dramatically improve its position by developing a state of the art STANDARD nuclear power module – one that is used at all future nuclear power plants. And by recycling nuclear wastes. And deciding where to bury the wastes we can’t recycle.

        I am not sure the U.S. will ever need hydrates, but studying its extraction is another good insurance policy.

      • Studying it is very worthwhile. The US has about 1,000 years worth of methane hydrate deposits. However, the US also has vast natural gas resources that would out-compete methane hydrates for capital.

        At $12/mcf, every shale gas play would be booming, Gulf of Mexico gas would be extremely economic again and it would probably even make a gas pipeline from the North Slope make sense.

      • David Middleton: 42-174 JPY/m^3 works out to about $12-$45/mcf… Equivalent to oil prices of $71 to $269/boe.

        Natural gas prices in the $12-$45/mcf range would lead to so much conventional and shale gas production, that no one would risk capital on marginal methane hydrate production.

        Yet.

        Invest the time, effort, and ingenuity to bring down the cost, and who knows?

      • The problem is that methane hydrates are kind of analogous to the Athabasca oil sands or Green River Oil Shale. These resources have to essentially be mined.

        While there certainly is room for technology to deflate the costs at least a little bit, these types of resources are generally dependent on prices. And the prices which make them marginally economic, generally make competing resources extremely economic.

      • DM “The problem is that methane hydrates are kind of analogous to the Athabasca oil sands or Green River Oil Shale. These resources have to essentially be mined.”

        Rather the opposite I think. Given the right situation, methane hydrates will spontaneously decompose into Methane and water. Makes mining easy if you can induce decomposition. The problem is likely to be to keep the hydrates from breaking down when one doesn’t want them to. Having your hydrocarbon resource convert itself to a huge bubble of unconstrained (flammable) gas likely will not be viewed as a positive event by either the authorities or your shareholders.

      • In the Gulf of Mexico, we go to great lengths to avoid converting hydrocarbon resources into huge bubbles of unconstrained flammable gas… Blowouts are expensive.

    • I think China knows full well that national economies will collapse with the move to renewables, so they are more than happy to spend a lot of their own money to do just that. All the while shoring up their own supplies and production of oil. Once everybody who came to China to buy their cheap renewables technologies has become too weak to fight back, China will move in and take everything without a drop of blood spilled.

      They know exactly what they are doing, and the plan is long term.

    • Basic economics Thomas Sowell

      As more and more of the known reserves of oil get used up, the present value of each barrel of the remaining oil begins to rise and, once more, exploration for additional oil becomes profitable.
      But, as of any given time, it never pays to discover all of the oil that exist in the ground or under the sea. In fact, it does not pay to discover more than a minute fraction of that oil. What does pay is for people to write hysterical predictions that we are running out of natural resources. It pays not only in book sales and television ratings, but also in political power and in personal notoriety.

      In the early twenty first century, a book titled Twilight in the Desert concluded that “Sooner or later, the worldwide use of oil must peak” and that is because “oil, like the other two fossil fuels, coal and natural gas, is nonrenewable.” That is certainly true in the abstract, just as is true in the abstract that sooner or later the sun must grow cold.

  6. That’s one reason China claimed the entire South China Sea for itself during the Obama years and proceeded to build a man-made island complete with missile defense and air strip. So much for green China , Obama priorities, and rising seas threatening low lying islands and islets. China and Russia each got a land grab out of Obama years.

  7. Clathrate methane is old news, and we have had the technology to produce it from continental slopes and the high arctic for several years. The USA has enormous resources of this stuff. BUT, it remains more expensive to produce than tight shale gas. Thus, it will be of marginal interest for some years, until our great-grandchildren exhaust the available tight shale gas. That will be a long time comin’.

    Yes, methane is a potent greenhouse gas, but it oxidizes very quickly in our oxygen-rich atmosphere.

    • We don’t have the technology to produce methane from offshore clathrate deposits. We can take samples and play around with it, but there’s no solution to the technical and economic hurdles to produce a meaningful volume (“reasonable” being about 100 mmcfd per day per offshore vessel or module).

      • People were saying the exact same thing about producing economic quantities of hydrocarbons from source rocks just 15 years ago.

      • We don’t have the technology
        ============
        someone pony’s up the money and someone will build it. the basic technology is simple, a water lift, powered by compressed air, to vacuum the sea floor. the gas will separate itself as the mud and ice warm.

        the bigger problem will then be global cooling, as the cold ocean bottom is brought to the surface in large volumes.

      • in point of fact, we could probably work out exactly how fast to bring the cold methane hydrate to the surface to match the hypothetical warming from the CO2 produced. we could do this today, rather than reduce CO2, increase the amount of cold deep water brought to the surface.

    • I’m sure you’re right about North America with it’s vast and accessible shale hydrocarbon resources. I think the situation is different for China and especially Japan. Japan has essentially no domestic hydrocarbons except some low quality coal. AFAICS (I’m not an expert on this) Japan is paying $6-$7 per thousand cubic feet of imported LNG. If they can get costs down to that range by improving technology and perhaps finding more attractive deposits, they will likely find clathrates to be attractive at costs that would be way too high in North America.

      • Thats today. When Japan did the methane clathrate Nankai trough test, they were paying $16. Still did not pay to develop the clathrate productiin technology. And Nankai trough is one of only two known clathrate deposits worldwide with sufficent clathrate in a suitable sediment (~20% by volume in sand) to even conceive of tapping it. Nakai is biogenic. The stuff on the North slope is thermogenic, an upward extension of the underlying conventional oil and gas deposits.

  8. The Japanese have been working on this for years. They are not issuing breakthrough press releases. And, I rather suspect that they will get the thing under control before the Chinese.

    There are lots of methane clathrates (that is what the stuff is called) on the continental shelves, even the US Continental Shelves. Shale gas is more accessible, and cheaper for the time being.

    “Experts worry about the release of methane” What would we do without experts? Would we have to worry about non problems for ourselves?

    Methane cannot be a problem. Its residence time in the atmosphere is very shorty. It seldom lasts longer than the first sunny day or thunderstorm.

    • It is of no real importance who gets there first, the Chinese or the Japanese (except,perhaps, to those two players).

      • Other than who gets to pocket the profits from selling the technology to folks who can’t work it out on their own, I think you’re correct.

    • This article from The Atlantic says Japan has been working on it for decades. And that “…by some estimates, it [methane hydrate] is twice as abundant as all other fossil fuels combined.”

      Geologists and petroleum engineers have always consistently underestimated traditional fossil fuel reserves. They did the best with the technology they had available at the time. But as new technologies emerged, their estimates of reserves were revised up. Experts may be underestimating methane hydrate reserves, too, because they are based on current technologies. When/if it is commercialized, incentives will be in place to invent new, cost efficient technologies to extract it. And as new technologies are developed, our understanding about its presence will also have to be revised. Presumably higher, as happened with oil.

      https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/05/what-if-we-never-run-out-of-oil/309294/

  9. The amount is unknown, mere guesstimates. The depressurization production process is very expensive, even more than LNG at the peak in Japan. And most methane clathrate is too sparse and in the wrong sediment (mud rather than sand) to be produced at all. Iklustrated all that in essay Ice that Burns.

      • ristvan: (mud rather than sand)

        That sounds as bad as shale oil, oil shale, tar sand, and the heavy Venezuelan oil that can’t be extracted and refined.

        But 20 years from now? The two things about technology that are never forecast correctly are what will be invented and what won’t be invented. Will energy from methane clathrates be economically viable before or after energy from fusion?

  10. As usual, the journalists got their math wrong.

    The article says 150 billion cu. meters of natural gas equivalent. Using the USGS conversion of 170 cu. meters per barrel of oil equivalent – that yields .88 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

    The Chinese currently use about 3.9 billion barrels of oil/year. Therefore the gas hydrate resource is 82 days worth of oil production equivalent, not “50 years” as the article claims.

      • LOl, I’ve never heard of such a thing. European billion?

        I think they got the 150 billion cu m wrong, it’s got to be more than that or there would be very little interest. That’s what, 1.45 TCF of gas? That is a really small amount compared to some conventional gas giants like the Hugoton, let alone resource plays like the Marcellus. I think they might mean that the methane clathrates are estimated to be 150 billion cu m, which is 24.6 T cu m of methane equivalent under 1 psi, which is 145 billion barrels equivalent, which is about equal to 37 years of China’s consumption today.

      • Fernando, thanks for the reminder – sometimes I forget that I am a provincial American.

        If I change it to a European billion, then I get 225 years of oil consumption. That is a big whopping resource number. I wonder how much is technically recoverable at the current low price of natural gas?

        (I guess it is too much to hope for that journalists strive for clarity in their articles. Can they use 10 to the 9th power or 10 to the 12th power behind their “billion” word usage?)

      • I don’t think anyone uses that ‘European billion’ any more and have not for about 40 years.

      • “I don’t think anyone uses that ‘European billion’ any more and have not for about 40 years.”

        We Germans do.

        It goes like this:
        Millionen-Milliarden-Billionen-Billiarden-Trillionen-Trilliarden.

        American:
        Million-Billion-Trillion-Whatsitzname?…

      • We Germans do.

        It goes like this:
        Millionen-Milliarden-Billionen-Billiarden-Trillionen-Trilliarden.

        American:
        Million-Billion-Trillion-Whatsitzname?…

        I’m not sure what the Germans are doing there then. Maybe it’s like the French who seem to have had difficulty with 70, 80 and 90? They use sixty-ten, four-twenties, and four-twenties-ten instead. My theory is that they got to soixante-neuf and got distracted :)

        BTW, ‘what its name’ is ‘quadrillion’. It’s quite a sensible progression.

  11. Yeah, but the enviro-loonies would go crazy about disturbing the sea floor to such extents.

  12. “Gas hydrates are estimated to hold more carbon than all the world’s other fossil fuels combined, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.” Can’t be true! It doesn’t show up in conventional Carbon Cycle accounting and “The science is settled!” sarc/

    • Actually, in a round about way it does show up. It is guesstimated that 90% of ocean methane clathrate is biogenic. That means it was produced by methanogens (Archaea ‘bacteria’) from biologic matter sunk in the oceans. The ocean carbon sink generally is accounted for, and has two components: photosynthesis (hence biogenic methane clathrate as one outcome, kerogen shale being the other) and calcification (e.g eventually limestone).

      • Woefully misunderstood. Chitin is one misunderstood carbon sources precipitating out of the oceans. Its magnitude is known but sediment dredges show a lack of it on the ocean floor.
        Certain Methane producing bacteria have necessary enzyme activity to rapidly digest Chitin. Voila, methane clathrate.

  13. I always find it amusing when I read “the other guy can’t do this because we can’t,” or words to that affect. I do worry about the continuous ramp up of carbon based fuels in use, however, since at some point it is going to have to affect the oxygen content of the atmosphere, and I really DO enjoy breathing oxygen.

    • But the oxygen in the atmosphere comes from CO2 via photosynthesis, therefore more CO2 equals more plants equals more oxygen.

  14. “150Bn Cubic meters….That’s sufficient to satisfy China’s entire equivalent oil consumption for 50 years.”

    Are you sure as that’s only 3Bn cubic meters per year. With a population of 1.5 Bn approx thats only 2 cubic meters per person per year?

  15. One cuft of gas hydrate contains 164 cuft of methane at STP! My my, this looks like a possibility for fueling cars and trucks. Is it easy to fabricate? Can we make solid propane and richer gases? I’m glad my job isn’t to stop CO2 growth. From an axiom that has never failed me, there will be no stopping it’s development if it can be garnered economically.

    Another axiom that has never failed me and which I take provisional ownership of, since I’ve not found it expressed anywhere else, is:

    “There can be no damage to the planet done by its inhabitants that is other than localized and temporary.”

    Even after the horror that was the Hiroshima atomic bombing, radiation returned to background level within a year, and the city was rebuilt. Chernobyl similarly killed people locally, did damage and caused mutations in a variety of animals. These damaged creatures were eaten up by predators and in a short time, the exclusion zone became the Serengeti of Europe.

    Even large bolides (not caused by inhabitants of course) slamming into the planet, severe as they were, healed up and stimulated an evolution of life that the biosphere clearly already possessed the capacity for. Malthus was wrong, Jevons (coal will run out and starve out the industrial revolution) was wrong, The Club of Rome was spectacularly wrong and continues to sound the impotent alarm.

    Many of these end of world prognoses had much more going for them than today’s whimpering CO2 and warming which needs continuing ‘scientific Viagra (TM)” to keep it’s end up. The planet had revelled in the bounty of higher temperatures and much higher CO2 on previous occasions. Climate change indeed! How about a California climate near the Arctic Circle 50 million years ago : redwood chunks were found encased and preserved in the ore of the Ekati diamond mine in NW Territories at a depth of 300m in the open pit mine. These are not fossils. They are wood, red in color and with sugary seams of sap. Fox News was the only MSM disturbed in this finding.

    http://www.livescience.com/23374-fossil-forest-redwood-diamond-mine.html

    I think ‘The (Pearse?) Axiom’ will eventually be part of the debate one day.

    • Gary — I think that methane hydrates are not very stable at room temperature and pressure. My impression is that Compressed Natural Gas presents fewer handling problems than Liquified Natural Gas and the vast majority of natural gas powered vehicles use CNG. I suspect that the same would be true for natural gas hydrates.

    • CNG – compressed natural gas can be up to 400x the energy density of atmospheric natural gas.

      LNG (liquefied natural gas) is about 600x the energy density

      Globally 10% or so of all natural gas consumed each year was liquefied for transport prior to burning. That should hit 15% in the next decade or so.

      At $2/gallon, diesel is ~$15/mmBTU

      If you have $20M or so in cash, Cheniere will sell you a tanker full of LNG for $5-$6/mmBTU right now. That price should be good until the winter price increase hits, but by March or April next year, you can do it all over again.

      The trouble is the US only consumes about 1 million mmBTU of LNG per week as truck fuel, that one tanker would be enough for an entire month’s worth of current US LNG fuel usage.

      Cheniere is producing about 15 tankers per month of LNG. Good thing it isn’t dependant on US truck drivers to buy it all.

      If you want to go into the LNG as fuel market and are willing to buy a tanker at a time, you have a $10 / mmBTU price spread to handle distribution and price undercutting to encourage truck drivers to make the switch. A few thousand LNG trucks are already on the roads.

      • The problem with LNG is that it needs continuous refrigeration to keep it liquid. Compressed can be stored at normal temperatures without refrigeration costs. It makes sense to liquefy if transporting for other uses, but when actually used CNG works out better.

      • Except no one keeps LNG cold via refrigeration. The keep it in well insulated tanks and allow it to slowly boil. The boil-off is either used or re-liquefied.

        For truly large tanks (millions of gallons) it is typically around 0.15%/day. So for month long delivery run via tanker from the US to Asia, about 5% has to either be re-liquified or used to power the tanker engines. Modern tankers tend to use the boil-off as fuel. Remember how cheap LNG is per mmBTU compared to diesel, annd the have to carry the LNG regardless.

        For semi-trucks, tanks are designed to keep the LNG cold/contained for up to 8 days. After that, they have to start releasing some of the boil-off to the atmosphere. But, if you run the truck’s engine for a few hours once a week at a minimum, it will keep the pressure in the tank at safe levels with no release of boil-off to the atmosphere.

  16. “release of methane
    ===========
    bacteria eat methane.”

    Really? I know bacteria produce methane but I do not think bacteria eat much methane.

    • There are a few types of bacteria that live in anoxic conditions which consume methane.

      • No, anaerobic bacteria produce methane. That is what happens in nature and sewage water treatment plants.

        Aerobic bacteria will take a tank of diesel fuel and turn it into dirt and water. Very bad for diesel engines but the same bacteria can be used for remediation of petroleum spills or underground fuel tank leakage.

        I have a bookshelf of text books on the subject. However, just because I have not heard of something does not [mean] that it does not exist.

        However, when my BS meters alarms it is accurate. What say you rwtuner, are you full of BS?

        [The mods would point out that, even if full of bs now, any given contents and container may – at some time in the future – become fruitful methane. .mod]

    • RKP there are a surprisingly large number of ocean dwelling methanotrophs that ‘eat’ methane. That is why almost none of the methane released by the Macondo blowout reached the atmosphere. They are all prokyrotes, most are aerobic but some are anerobic.

      • Thanks ristvan, I stand corrected and now better informed.

        A link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methanotroph

        “They are of special interest to researchers studying global warming, as they are significant in the global methane budget.[1][2] They have also been used to produce animal feed from natural gas.[3]”

        My interest in bacteria was to produce methane to be used to making electricity from animal manure. Unless I could market ghg credits, I was not concerned about AGW. As it turns out, the benefit is mostly in capturing the nutrients for use as fertilizer.

        The hard lesson for me was that there is irrational fear of bacteria just as for radiation.

    • CH4 + 2O2 –> CO2 + 2H2O + energy. (803kjoules / mole. So sayeth the all knowing and omniscient internet)

      No reason that the same reaction that powers a natural gas furnace shouldn’t work for bacteria.

  17. I have considered a method of recovering ch4 from methane hydrates for many years. A drill ship could lower a large diameter cylinder (perhaps 100 meter Dia.) using a heavy oil field drill string to lower it to the ocean floor. The cylinder would be similar to a caisson or open bottom cylinder with only a few feet of depth.

    The drill ship would then pump warm surface water down to the bottom of the caisson and recover the returning water thru a second channel in the drill pipe. The returning water would then be sent to a large recovery container where the ch4 would be pumped off compressed and piped to a holding facility on board or piped ashore.

  18. Thus fat, none of the petroleum engineers, geologists, or economists who contribute to this site have commented, as far as I know. The cost is likely to be impractical right now.
    The other issue is that the map shows exploration wells is what are Vietnamese waters. The politics of this is going to be dicey.

  19. The USA consumes about 800 billion cu meters of ch4 per year; and imports about 6 to 8 Percent of that.

    • Dipchip, you may want to revise those import numbers.

      https://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n9180us1M.htm

      Note that net imports hit zero in Feb 2017 for the first time since 1973.

      Mind you, they will still be importing gas from Canada for a long time while simultaneously exporting it from gulf and atlantic coasts.

      As an educated guess, 2017 will be a net exporting year.

  20. This is good news for achieving and maintaining a healthy CO2 level (~2,000ppm or 0.2%). It means we may not have to burn limestone for quite some time.

  21. Recent news of a nanotechnology based method of manufacturing conventional cathodes used
    in lithium ion auto batteries is of great import, mostly because there is no claim of any fundamental change in the lithium batteries, although the new process makes for a far superior cathode and at a very reduced cost, and uses forms of lithium that are the most plentiful and cheap. A pilot manufacturing facility in Canada has already gone into demonstration production mode. The astounding estimate is that battery costs can be cut in half. And the batteries last longer and perform better. In my mind, that’s the ball game , folks. The final nail in the coffin of the gas powered
    internal combustion engine. So often, technological leaps come from left field, totally unexpected.

  22. This is not a new development. Over 15 years ago I recall a paper by the USGS stating that the amount of hydrocarbons available in submarine methane hydrates was several times that of all coal deposits. The earth is literally awash in hydrocarbon resources. The only issue is the total cost (financial and environmental) of their extraction and use. Any claim that we are running short of energy is either naive or a lie.

    Beyond burning hydrocarbons, one gram of matter (any matter) when converted totally to energy provides 25 million kwh of energy.

  23. I really question the supposed effectiveness of methane as a greenhouse gas. It has only one absorption band in the outgoing infrared, a very narrow one at about 7,900 nm. Half of it overlaps the tail of a water vapor band that goes from 100% absorption at 6,000 nm to almost zero at 10,000 nm. Smack in the middle of it is a somewhat narrower nitrous oxide absorption band that is 50% saturated. The methane band itself is almost 50% saturated, so it doesn’t have very far to go. If it became fully saturated, it couldn’t affect the outgoing IR by more than a small fraction of a percent.

    • water vapour has not a fixed percentage in the air. So with dry air methane has a bigger effect.

      BTW, what means saturation?

      AFAIK, grennhous gasses absorb IR radiation and instantly give away the heat to the surrounding air molecules, making them warmer. So as long radiation is, as long this process goes on.

      • Saturation refers to the percentage of radiation absorbed by a particular species in its given band. Methane absorbs about 45% of the outgoing IR in its absorption bands, and the rest is transmitted. If the atmosphere were saturated with methane completely, it would absorb 100% of the radiation, and transmit none.

        You’re right about the water vapor. The absorption band of methane is right near the maximum of the Planck curve, but is so narrow that it doesn’t represent much total energy. And nitrous oxide accounts for nearly half of what it could possibly do.

        But what you say is interesting. There are two places on earth where water vapor plays no part in warming of the lower troposphere (most of the time). The deserts (especially the Sahara) and the poles. In those places, the surface radiates to space impeded only by CO2, and a tiny amount of methane and nitrous oxide. Increases in CO2 won’t do anything more, since it already absorbs 100% of the IR in its bands. Increases in methane will do only slightly more. It would be interesting to see just how big a contribution the desert and pole radiation makes to the earth’s energy balance, though. They are different from the rest of the earth.

      • But the air isn’t really “dry” enough anywhere except the polar regions in winter. Even deserts, while having low relative humidity, have plenty of water to “saturate” the spectrum overlay with methane.

    • In your reply to Naturb.. you mention: “Increases in CO2 won’t do anything more, since it already absorbs 100% of the IR in its bands.” Is there a simple proof for that will shut up the warmists and consensus nuts, and give an easy explanation to non-scientific friends? There are also ‘luke warmist scientists’ who believe increasing CO2 will cause more warming but not to any great extent.

  24. I’m not buying any announced breakthrough of methane clathrates. One only has to recall the video of the Deepwater Horizon flow at the seabed to understand how fast that “methane ice” is made. As soon as the hot gas hits the cold sea water it flashed into that ice, even so much as clogging the funnel-shaped “hat” they used in an attempt to capture the runaway break.

    I would imagine most “breakthroughs” would be coatings on pipes that would prevent the sticking of the ice and therefore prevent clogging as the material rose to the surface facility. Then all it would take is a simple(!) dredging process. One would hope the mud would then be shunted to the ocean floor in another pipe.

  25. The presence of clathrates is not news, the complexities and costs of mining it are not news, neither are the issues of whether methane is good or bad for the environment. With all of this “non-news”, I am left wondering why the Chinese have released this report?

    The past history of Chinese “news” is that there is always an underlying reason – often manipulating markets (I could go into great detail how they managed to game the phosphate fertiliser market, but that is hardly news either). I suspect this report is calculated to further depress oil (and gas) prices, particularly in the US where margins for shale plays are already very tight. They could even be trying to undercut the Japanese investment in the extraction technology. Forgive me for being cynical, but the Chines have a history here that I can’t get past.

  26. @Texas

    “Also, China may be thinking about the strategic value of becoming less dependent on potentially hostile source countries. ”

    Then China should avoid developing energy sources in hostile waters. Not very strategic!

    “The U.S. could dramatically improve its position by developing a state of the art STANDARD nuclear power module – one that is used at all future nuclear power plants. And by recycling nuclear wastes. And deciding where to bury the wastes we can’t recycle. ”

    US nuke plants are state of the art. Worked at many.

    We have been recycling nuclear fuel for many years. Been there done that, got a pocket knife for working on a project.

    We have decide long term storage of spent fuel will be in tunnels at Yucca Mountain. It is not actually buried. Worked on that project too.

    You may be confused by statements made by Obama and Reid. The court of appeals explained it to them. When I say ‘we’ I am referring to the US Congress. ‘We’ would have to decide another place and that will not happen.

    We are currently living near Las Vegas. The local media is also confused. The county that has Yucca Mountain wants the project because it creates lots of jobs. While many local communities do not have a problem with nuclear jobs, to change the location you have to find a state that does not have the equivalent of Obama and Reid.

    Texas and New Mexico come to mind. Clear there are places there that are geologically suited.

    My point is that the energy industry is not having a problem providing the finite amount of energy the world needs. We have numerous practical choices. Impractical choices are discussed by those not responsible for providing energy.

    • “US nuke plants are state of the art.”

      Maybe on the nuclear reaction side, but not on the cooling / safety side. From what I understand all operational US reactors require active cooling. The Fukushima disaster was caused because it needed active cooling and after the tsunami, it couldn’t be provided.

      The Westinghouse reactors currently being built in Georgia and South Carolina are state of the art and have passive cooling capability. In the event of a disastrous loss of active cooling, explosive charges blow out plugs that hold the cooling water in. After the cooling water is drained, the reactors are passively cooled by the air.

      • @Greg

        How can they be safer, no one was hurt?

        Did you work on the Westinghouse design? Can you provide provide probability risk analysis numbers showing a significant difference between active and passive features?

        “After the cooling water is drained, the reactors are passively cooled by the air.”

        Wow! I would be interested in seeing that statement in the FSAR. Go to the NRC web site and look it up.

      • http://www.westinghousenuclear.com/New-Plants/AP1000-PWR/Safety

        “In the event of a design-basis accident, such as a main coolant-pipe break, the plant is designed to achieve and maintain safe shutdown condition without operator action, and without the need for ac power or pumps. Rather than relying on active components, such as diesel generators and pumps, the AP1000 plant relies on natural forces – gravity, natural circulation and compressed gases – to keep the core and the containment from overheating.”

        From the FSAR:

        19.1.2.1.1 Passive Safety-Related Systems

        “The AP1000 design relies on passive safety-related systems for accident prevention and
        mitigation. The passive systems rely on natural forces, such as gravity and stored energy, to
        perform their safety functions (once actuated and started). For such systems to actuate and
        start, certain active components, such as air-operated valves (AOVs) or check valves (CVs),
        must open. Such components do not require ac power for operation (to open) or for control,
        and no support systems are needed after actuation. This reduces significantly the risk
        contribution from loss of offsite power (LOOP) and SBO events, as compared to operating
        nuclear power plants. In addition, because of the passive systems, the AP1000 design
        eliminates several important contributions to risk for operating nuclear power plants. These
        risks are associated with failure of support systems (e.g., ac power and component cooling)
        and failure of active components (e.g., pumps and diesel generators) to start and run. Finally,
        the passive nature of the safety systems reduces the reliance on operator actions to mitigate
        accidents, as compared to operating reactor designs. To fairly compare the AP1000 design to
        operating and evolutionary reactor designs, using mostly active safety-related systems, the
        potential impact of T-H uncertainties on the performance of passive systems must be
        considered and appropriately included in the PRA models. The applicant’s analyses concluded
        that the AP1000 design is robust with respect to T-H uncertainties. Section 19.1.10 of this
        report includes a discussion of the staff’s review of this issue.”

  27. The reason this has not been economically exploited in the US is because methane hydrate is well known in the pipeline industry. It is a major problem in wet gas pipelines so its properties are well studied. Heat alone is a very poor remedy and the most expensive. Reduction of pressure is far more efficient even considering loss of flow and stored energy over miles of pipeline. Inhibition chemicals like alcohols and glycol with pressure reduction are the primary methods.
    What does this mean to mining ? Mechanical disruption and slurry transport to the surface are the most likely and these are expensive considering the energy density and mineral location.

    You would need a fleet of autonomous underwater vehicles tethered to the surface, working with FM chirp sonar for formation identification and location. My shoot from the hip target price is more like 20-25$ per thousand cubic feet. For break even.

  28. “Estimates of the South China Sea’s methane hydrate potential now range as high as 150 billion cubic meters of natural gas equivalent. That’s sufficient to satisfy China’s entire equivalent oil consumption for 50 years.”

    A cubic meter is about 5297 cubic feet. That means 150 billion cubic meters is 5.3 trillion cubic feet, enough to build one terminal for export.

    Either the reported number 150 bn m3 is wrong or the reporter did not understand what he was told.

  29. “The world’s resources of flammable ice — in which gas is stored in cages of water molecules — are vast. Gas hydrates are estimated to hold more carbon than all the world’s other fossil fuels combined, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.”

    I recall about 15-20 years ago, Tight Shale gas & oil was a pipe dream. (no pun intended) I vividly recall that in 2007/08, I bet NG would keep going up and shale gas would never really materialize. The reason I remember so well, was that I lost a lot of money on that bet in certain stocks. Shale gas, and a stranded NG market on the NA continent has ensured NG prices will remain low until sufficient LNG is built out, which maybe looks like USA will be very successful at. Canada, maybe not so much. Canada will continue to sell NG and oil below world price, because of failed societal grid lock and no substantial political leadership to have multiple access to tidewater on both coasts. And the USA has such a ready to access surplus continental supply of heavy oil and surplus gas.

    I heard on the business news today that the USA is planning to sell down up to half half the the Strategic Petroleum Reserves capacity over the next 10 years(SPR capacity of 722 million barrels) it has over the next 10 years, up to $500 Million worth this year alone, and $16.6 Billion in the next 10 years to bring it down from a total supply of 688 million barrels today, (a 32 day supply) drawing it down to 432 million barrels within 10 years. (a 22 day supply) The oil and gas is already strategically located in situ ready for development and extraction, so in effect we now have an SPR wherever we have huge deposits and supplies. And in the homeland and friendly neighbors to the north where there is enough fossil energy to keep things going for quite some time. We won’t need the middle east in a few more years. And the price of oil will be capped globally at whatever price the US decides to sell at. A brilliant proposal by Trump designed to bring stability to global energy markets.

    I wouldn’t bet against Methane Hydrates, knowing now what I failed to learn about the Shale revolution. And just wait until the shale fracking gets adopted all over the planet. We are no where near peak hydrocarbons. If flammable ice is someday available en masse, and we have natural cooling over the next 15 years making the whole climate debate a history lesson, then all the renewable energy that has or gets built will never be replaced in its short useful lifetime. Because we will have multiple century access to the cleanest fossil fuel energy that we are already familiar with, with infrastructure already in place.

  30. @Greg (3.59am)

    Gregs questionable statement, ‘…the reactors are passively cooled by the air.

    What the Westinghouse web site says, ‘….and by providing natural convection air currents to cool the steel containment.’

    The reactor is not air cooled.

    While Greg did a good job of finding a link, The reason I asked was I did not think he understood the complexity of the issues.

    ‘State of the art’ is not a regulatory requirement. I am so old that PRA was not a tool we had. However, since existing operating plants have applied this tool and made design improvements, it is certainly could be argued that they are state of the art.

    “in-vessel Retention of Core Damage. The AP1000 plant is designed to drain the high capacity in-containment refueling water storage tank (IRWST) water into the reactor cavity in the event that the core has overheated. ”

    This a feature that BWR already have. The point is that there is more than one way get the job done. The limitation with passive system is the reactor power is limited.

    Since the purpose of a power plant is to make electricity, bigger is better. From the standpoint of ‘state of the art, the AP1000 is going the wrong direction.

    • Barents and Chukchi Seas are shallow epicontinental seas, like the South China and North Seas.

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