Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists Create, Study Methane Hydrates in "Ocean Floor" Lab

14.03.2005


Data may help develop strategies for mining natural gas locked up in seafloor sediments

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have recreated the high-pressure, low-temperature conditions of the seafloor in a tabletop apparatus for the study of methane-hydrates, an abundant but currently out-of-reach source of natural gas trapped within sediments below the ocean floor. Michael Eaton, a Stony Brook University graduate student working for Brookhaven chemist Devinder Mahajan, will present a talk outlining the use of the apparatus for the creation and study of methane hydrates during a special two-day symposium co-organized by Mahajan at the 229th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego, California. The talk is scheduled for Sunday, March 13, at 3:05 p.m. in room Madeleine C-D of the Hyatt Regency.

“The amount of natural gas that is tied up in methane hydrates beneath the seafloor and in permafrost on Earth is several orders of magnitude higher than all other known conventional sources of natural gas — enough to meet our energy needs for several decades,” Mahajan says. But extracting this resource poses several challenges.



For one thing, methane hydrates -- which are ice-like cages made of water molecules surrounding individual methane molecules -- are only stable at the very low temperatures and high pressures present at the ocean floor. “If you try to bring it up, these things fizzle and decompose, releasing the trapped methane,” Mahajan says.

So a multi-agency team led by the Department of Energy -- as part of its mission to secure America’s future energy needs -- is trying to learn about the conditions necessary for keeping hydrates locked up so they can be extracted safely and tapped for fuel.

Mahajan’s group has built a vessel that mimics the seafloor temperature and pressure conditions, where they can study the kinetics of methane hydrate formation and decomposition. Unlike other high-pressure research vessels, the Brookhaven apparatus allows scientists to interchange vessels of different volumes, study even fine sediments, and visualize and record the entire hydrate-forming event through a 12-inch window along the vessel. In addition, mass-balance instrumentation allows the Brookhaven group to collect reproducible data in the bench-top unit. Even better, Mahajan says, they can study the kinetics in actual samples of sediment that once contained hydrates -- as close to the natural conditions as you can get in a lab.

“You fill the vessel with water and sediment, put in methane gas, and cool it down under high pressure. After a few hours, the hydrates form. You can actually see it. They look like ice, but they are not. They are stable at 4 degrees Celsius,” he explains.

One further advantage of doing this work at Brookhaven Lab is that the scientists can use the National Synchrotron Light Source -- a source of intense x-rays, ultraviolet, and infrared light -- to measure physical characteristics of the sediments under study. Using x-ray computed microtomography, the scientists gain information about the porosity and other physical characteristics that may affect the availability of nucleation sites where hydrates can form.

Such data about hydrate formation in natural host sediment samples are scarce. By studying different samples and learning what combinations of pressure and temperature keep the methane locked up, the scientists hope to identify ways to compensate for the changes the hydrates experience as they are brought to the ocean’s surface so they can be extracted with a minimum loss. The comparisons of different sediment samples might also help pinpoint the most abundant sources of locked-up methane.

“It may be at least a decade before we can even think about mining these deposits, but answering these fundamental questions is certainly the place to start,” says Mahajan, who holds a joint appointment as a Stony Brook University professor. “This is a very important issue tied to our future national energy security.”

This research was initially funded by Brookhaven’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program and is now funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy. The symposium on Gas Hydrates and Clathrates is being co-sponsored by the Petroleum and Fuel Divisions of the American Chemical Society.

Karen McNulty Walsh | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.bnl.gov

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves
17.08.2018 | Leibniz Universität Hannover

nachricht First transcription atlas of all wheat genes expands prospects for research and cultivation
17.08.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte

17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Robots as Tools and Partners in Rehabilitation

17.08.2018 | Information Technology

Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves

17.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>