Can Fire Ice Save The World?

A burning methane hydrate chunk - inlay is a lattice of the clathrate. USGS.

A burning methane hydrate chunk – inlay is a lattice of the clathrate. USGS.

Methane hydrate, colloquially known as Fire Ice, is being discussed as the energy of the future that will render peak oil and all the other expiring fossil fuel sources irrelevant. BBC News investigates the pros and cons of what is, after all, another hydrocarbon:

The world is addicted to hydrocarbons, and it’s easy to see why – cheap, plentiful and easy to mine, they represent an abundant energy source to fuel industrial development the world over.

The side-effects, however, are potentially devastating; burning fossil fuels emits the CO2 linked to global warming.

And as reserves of oil, coal and gas are becoming tougher to access, governments are looking ever harder for alternatives, not just to produce energy, but to help achieve the holy grail of all sovereign states – energy independence.

Some have discovered a potential saviour, locked away under deep ocean beds and vast swathes of permafrost. The problem is it’s a hydrocarbon, but unlike any other we know.

Huge reserves
Otherwise known as fire ice, methane hydrate presents as ice crystals with natural methane gas locked inside. They are formed through a combination of low temperatures and high pressure, and are found primarily on the edge of continental shelves where the seabed drops sharply away into the deep ocean floor, as the US Geological Survey map shows.



Methane hydrate deposits
And the deposits of these compounds are enormous. “Estimates suggest that there is about the same amount of carbon in methane hydrates as there is in every other organic carbon store on the planet,” says Chris Rochelle of the British Geological Survey.

In other words, there is more energy in methane hydrates than in all the world’s oil, coal and gas put together.

By lowering the pressure or raising the temperature, the hydrate simply breaks down into water and methane – a lot of methane.

One cubic metre of the compound releases about 160 cubic metres of gas, making it a highly energy-intensive fuel. This, together with abundant reserves and the relatively simple process of releasing the methane, means a number of governments are getting increasingly excited about this massive potential source of energy…

[continues at BBC News]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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26 Comments on "Can Fire Ice Save The World?"

  1. Although I understand the fact there really is no such thing as 100% “clean energy” I really don’t think burning more hydrocarbons is the answer. Also lets be real we really need to stop big oil (and now big natural gas) from continuing their crusade of world destruction, government payoffs, and running over small communities and anyone in their paths because they would just monopolize this form of energy as well and probably use the most destructive polluting way to mine methane hydrate.

    • There is 100% clean energy. Eating organic food, using your own muscle power, and shitting in the woods.

      • Humans produce methane in GI tract so not 100% clean 🙂

        ….and with the overpopulation of our planet like it is even mass organic farming would have effects on the environment from trying to grow food for 7billion people.

        Plus obviously I meant our current society uses electricity as a main source of energy and also no one is gonna be willing to give up a fast transportation like a car for a horse and buggie so we need to figure out cleaner way to supply the energy needed for these things.

        • Rhoid Rager | Apr 18, 2014 at 8:22 pm |

          C’mon now, don’t put that GI methane production on us! 10% of ‘our’ dry body weight is not us!

      • humanity produces a pile of shit approx equivalent to two great pyramids…every single day.

        • Rhoid Rager | Apr 18, 2014 at 8:21 pm |

          That answers a lot of questions I’ve had.

        • Imagine what it would be like if we all at curry every day. Dont get me wrong I love the stuff but woa sometimes its just rough on the old GI tract to put it in nice terms.

  2. emperorreagan | Apr 18, 2014 at 9:48 am |

    Peak oil is a myth. The earth is a magic bag that forever replenishes its oil reserves.

  3. Rhoid Rager | Apr 18, 2014 at 9:59 am |

    “They are formed through a combination of low temperatures and high
    pressure, and are found primarily on the edge of continental shelves
    where the seabed drops sharply away into the deep ocean floor”
    Yeah, I think I’ve seen that movie. Isn’t that when the Navy SEALS go down to seabed to visit the miners, see underwater aliens, go crazy and try to detonate a nuke? This whole fire ice thing sounds exciting! I hope Cheney leads the first expedition!

  4. Anarchy Pony | Apr 18, 2014 at 11:11 am |

    If the greenhouse effect didn’t exist, and I hated the ocean I’d say go for it.

    • Hate is a strong word, but with rising mercury, acidity, and other toxin levels im thinking ill probably avoid the ocean as much as possible. Also I think ill probably stop breathing and drinking water and eating too cuz thats all polluted as well. Plus those are all just crutches who really needs that shit anyways.

      • Anarchy Pony | Apr 18, 2014 at 12:05 pm |

        Not transhumanist robo people. Which is why most of them don’t give a shit about environmental problems.

  5. kowalityjesus | Apr 18, 2014 at 11:16 am |

    One thing has become abundantly clear, if there were to be an heir to oil as an energy source for industrial society, it would have to be *stupidly* easy to mine and use.

    • Are you saying its not easy to drill deep into the ground and pump millions of gallons of water and sand and solvents into it and cause fluid pressure build up to crack the rock and ground below? All while hoping pressure build up doesn’t cause it to exploid and hoping the ground cracks in a somewhat predictable manner and hoping the liquids you are pumping or gas you are mining doesn’t contaminate the ground water or the gas you are mining doesn’t escape through some other hole and hoping you don’t cause a localized earthquake.

      If this isnt *stupidly* easy then I dont know what is.

      • kowalityjesus | Apr 18, 2014 at 8:14 pm |

        That’s just stupid.

        • Haha agreed however while we are on the subject of fracking google and watch the video “the benefits of fracking” from the Daily Show. Its a hilarious video on the matter. It for some reason won’t let me post the link on here.

  6. Rhoid Rager | Apr 18, 2014 at 8:20 pm |

    That scientific article helped me in more ways than you can know.
    Thank you so much for providing it.

  7. With all the emerging clean possibilities available to us, we need to spend money on those rather than continuing down this road

  8. You can’t sell the Earth for profit
    It’s to live, not to sell
    The Earth will kill you if you try to kill it

  9. Matt Staggs | Apr 19, 2014 at 7:33 pm |

    Yeah, Disqus breaks weird sometimes and I have to come in and rescue comments from the Pending and Spam folders. I’ve got a few other jobs, and between those and meatspace obligations it sometimes takes me a little while to circle back around. Sorry for the delay.

    • No worries man I wasnt aware what the reason was it wasnt posting them. Thanks for clearing it up

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