Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

'Ice that burns' may yield clean, sustainable bridge to global energy future

24.03.2009
In the future, natural gas derived from chunks of ice that workers collect from beneath the ocean floor and beneath the arctic permafrost may fuel cars, heat homes, and power factories.

Government researchers are reporting that these so-called "gas hydrates," a frozen form of natural gas that bursts into flames at the touch of a match, show increasing promise as an abundant, untapped source of clean, sustainable energy. The icy chunks could supplement traditional energy sources that are in short supply and which produce large amounts of carbon dioxide linked to global warming, the scientists say.

"These gas hydrates could serve as a bridge to our energy future until cleaner fuel sources, such as hydrogen and solar energy, are more fully realized," says study co-leader Tim Collett, Ph.D., a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Denver, Colo. Gas hydrates, known as "ice that burns," hold special promise for helping to combat global warming by leaving a smaller carbon dioxide footprint than other fossil fuels, Collett and colleagues note.

They will present research on gas hydrates here today at the American Chemical Society's 237th National Meeting. It is among two dozen papers on the topic scheduled for a two-day symposium, "Gas Hydrates and Clathrates," March 23-24, held at the Hilton Salt Lake City, Grand Ballroom A. The symposium begins at 8 a.m. on Monday, March 23.

Last November, a team of USGS researchers that included Collett announced a giant step toward that bridge to the future. In a landmark study, the USGS scientists estimated that 85.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could potentially be extracted from gas hydrates in Alaska's North Slope region, enough to heat more than 100 million average homes for more than a decade.

"It's definitely a vast storehouse of energy," Collett says. "But it is still unknown how much of this volume can actually be produced on an industrial scale." That volume, he says, depends on the ability of scientists to extract useful methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, from gas hydrate formations in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Scientists worldwide are now doing research on gas hydrates in order to understand how this strange material forms and how it might be used to supplement coal, oil, and traditional natural gas.

Although scientists have known about gas hydrates for decades, they've only recently begun to try to use them as an alternative energy source. Gas hydrates, also known as "clathrates," form when methane gas from the decomposition of organic material comes into contact with water at low temperatures and high pressures. Those cold, high-pressure conditions exist deep below the oceans and underground on land in certain parts of the world, including the ocean floor and permafrost areas of the Arctic.

Today, researchers are finding tremendous stores of gas hydrates throughout the world, including United States, India, and Japan. In addition to Alaska, the United States has vast gas hydrate deposits in the Gulf of Mexico and off its eastern coast. Interest in and support of hydrate research is now growing worldwide. Japan and India currently have among the largest, most well-funded hydrate research programs in the world.

"Once we have learned better how to find the most promising gas hydrate deposits, we will need to know how to produce it in a safe and commercially-viable way," says study co-author Ray Boswell, Ph.D. He manages the National Methane Hydrate R&D Program of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, W. Va. "Chemistry will be a big part of understanding just how the hydrates will respond to various production methods."

One of the more promising techniques for extracting methane from hydrates involves simply depressurizing the deposits, Boswell says. Another method involves exchanging the methane molecules in the "clathrate" structure with carbon dioxide. Workers can, in theory, collect the gas using the same drilling technology used for conventional oil and gas drilling.

Under the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000, the U.S. government has already spent several million dollars, in collaboration with universities and private companies, to investigate gas hydrates as an alternative energy source. Scientists are particularly optimistic about the vast stores of gas hydrates located in Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico. Research is also accelerating under the U.S. Department of Energy and USGS to better understand gas hydrate's role in the natural environment and in climate change.

"Gas hydrates are totally doable," Collett says. "But when and where we will see them depends on need, motivation, and our supply of other energy resources. In the next five to ten years, the research potential of gas hydrates will be more fully realized."

Other highlights in the symposium include:

Expert provides overview of gas hydrates for energy production, climate change — Scientists predict that natural gas hydrates will play a major role in both energy and climate change in the future. E. Dendy Sloan, Ph.D., of the Colorado School of Mines, will provide an overview of this rapidly evolving field. He is the author over 200 publications, including the third edition of "Clathrate Hydrates of Natural Gases," (2008), co-authored by Carolyn Koh. (FUEL 041, Monday, March 23, 8:05 a.m., at the Hilton, Grand Ballroom A, during the symposium "Gas Hydrates and Clathrates.")

Japan's promising national gas hydrate program – Japan has one of the world's largest gas hydrate research programs and is well on its way toward using these hydrates as an important fuel source. Masanori Kurihara, Ph.D., of Japan Oil Engineering Co., Ltd., will describe Japan's National Methane Hydrate Exploitation Program, including research on promising methane hydrate deposits in the Eastern Nankai Trough of offshore Japan. (FUEL 042, Monday, March 23, 8:45 a.m., at the Hilton, Grand Ballroom A, during the symposium, "Gas Hydrates and Clathrates.")

Overview of gas hydrate research in Canada — Canada has been involved in gas hydrates research since the 1970s and now plays a leading role in hydrate production technology. Scott R. Dallimore, of Geological Survey of Canada, will provide an overview of the country's contributions toward gas hydrate production. (FUEL 045, Monday, March 23, 11:05 a.m., at the Hilton, Grand Ballroom A, during the symposium, "Gas Hydrates and Clathrates.")

Michael Bernstein | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.acs.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New insights into the ancestors of all complex life

29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences

New photocatalyst speeds up the conversion of carbon dioxide into chemical resources

29.05.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA's SDO sees partial eclipse in space

29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>