Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fiery Ice From The Sea: A New World Energy Source?

Date:
November 5, 2002
Source:
Office Of Naval Research
Summary:
Start thinking about methane hydrates - a crystalline form of methane gas and pure water that exists when pressures are sufficiently high, or temperatures sufficiently low. There is at least twice as much of it around as fossil fuels (some say 10 times as much). And, when burned as a fuel, it releases less carbon dioxide pollution than anything else around.

If you know anything about methane gas – and the Office of Naval Research thinks you should – it probably has something to do with swamp gas, and a faintly unpleasant sulfurous smell that rises from country marshes on sultry, summer evenings, or perhaps – for more romantic types – stories of Will-o'-the-Wisp, the flickering lights seen at night above that very same swamp (mundanely, methane igniting spontaneously with traces of odorous hydrogen sulfide found in the bog's rotting organic matter).

Forget it.

Start thinking about methane hydrates - a crystalline form of methane gas and pure water that exists when pressures are sufficiently high, or temperatures sufficiently low. If you manage to keep that pressure high or that temperature low, it looks like a lump of ice. There are mega-tons of the stuff at the bottom of the ocean all over the world and in the Arctic permafrost (about 300,000 trillion cubic feet of it) and it is the cleanest and most abundant source of energy in the world. There is at least twice as much of it around as fossil fuels (some say 10 times as much). And, when burned as a fuel, it releases less carbon dioxide pollution than anything else around.

So why aren't we using it?

Plain and simple, methane hydrates are hard to get at, and once gotten at, hard to transport. Its crystalline form will change to gas when pressures are lowered, or temperatures rise (like when it's brought to the sea surface) and in doing so it will expand 164 times, representing definite storage and transport issues. There are geo-political considerations, too – who owns it? What about global warming (because extra methane, when released, is another addition to the greenhouse gases)? And, naturally occurring submarine landslides, which in turn create tsunamis and cause costly damage to pipelines and undersea cables, may be caused by hydrate dissociation and sediment failure; that is, landslides may occur if the substrate becomes lubricated when the crystalline form reverts to gas and water. If we exploit the resource, are we exacerbating the problem?

All these issues are being addressed in a series of international conferences entitled 'Fiery Ice from the Sea.' "Many technological problems need to be resolved," says Nick Langhorne, science officer in ONR's London office, "And these need a coordinated international effort. There will always be nuclear energy, of course, but nuclear power comes with a lot of emotional baggage and, while it's good for generating electricity, chances are you'll never run your car on it. It's time to put the necessary resources toward methane hydrates R&D."

The world consumes 3 billion gallons of oil a day. The Navy alone uses over 4 million gallons of it a day, and that's in peacetime. Production and supply of all the traditional hydrocarbon fuels – coal, gas and oil – are well established but will peak by the year 2010.

"And there's another bonus in all this," says Rick Coffin, of the Naval Research Lab. "When methane, which is a gas, combines with seawater to make methane hydrate, it rejects the salt in the water. Therefore, fresh water is produced when the concentrated hydrates are melted. It's a desalination process where the methane can be recycled to continue the process. For areas thirsty for water, this could be a real windfall. Perhaps I should have said 'waterfall.'"


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Office Of Naval Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Office Of Naval Research. "Fiery Ice From The Sea: A New World Energy Source?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 November 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021105081158.htm>.
Office Of Naval Research. (2002, November 5). Fiery Ice From The Sea: A New World Energy Source?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021105081158.htm
Office Of Naval Research. "Fiery Ice From The Sea: A New World Energy Source?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021105081158.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dolphins and Turtles Under Threat in Pakistan

Dolphins and Turtles Under Threat in Pakistan

AFP (Oct. 2, 2014) — The turtles and Dolphins of Pakistan's Indus river - both protected by law - are in a fight for their survival as man's activities threatens their futures. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Japan Volcano Rescue Video Released

Raw: Japan Volcano Rescue Video Released

AP (Oct. 2, 2014) — The Tokyo Fire Department released video of rescue efforts following Saturday's eruption of Mount Ontake in central Japan. It shows firefighters and military troops carrying injured people as plumes of smoke pour from the volcano behind them. (Oct. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: 12 More Bodies Found on Japan Volcano

Raw: 12 More Bodies Found on Japan Volcano

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) — A dozen more bodies were found Wednesday as Japanese rescuers resumed efforts to find survivors and retrieve bodies of those trapped by Mount Ontake's eruption. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) — Cultural transmission — the passing of knowledge from one animal to another — has been caught on camera with chimps teaching other chimps. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins