Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) scientists have developed the world’s first x-ray computed tomography (CT) scanner capable of examining entire core samples at remote drilling sites. The portable device, which employs the same high-resolution imaging technology used to diagnose diseases, could help researchers determine how to best extract the vast quantities of natural gas hidden under the world’s oceans and permafrost.
Berkeley Lab’s portable scanner has sailed the high seas and endured arctic cold, imaging more than 2000 feet of core sample along the way
A CT scan of a permafrost core reveals a mixture of sandstone and quartz fluvial grains cemented in an ice-sand matrix
The scanner images the distribution of gas hydrates in core samples pulled from deeply buried sediment. These hydrates are a latticework of water and methane that form an ice-like solid under high pressures and temperatures that hover just above freezing, conditions found in deep oceans and under Arctic permafrost. Scientists estimate the methane trapped in this crystalline mix may yield far more energy than the planet’s remaining reserves of fossil fuel.
But they must first determine how to find and remove it. As part of this investigational legwork, researchers drill into likely gas hydrate reserves and extract core samples. Select samples are then shipped to laboratories for analysis, and the resulting data is used to develop computer models that predict how gas hydrates behave in sediments, which may help researchers determine how to most efficiently locate and extract methane.
Dan Krotz | EurekAlert!
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