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Here the methane hydrate trapped within the muddy sediment is showed fueling a golden flame. Methane hydrate resources are estimated to surpass coal, oil, and natural gas supplies combined.  (Source: Spiegel Online)

Japan's Chikyu research drilling vessel is the largest research drilling vessel in the world.  (Source: Spiegel Online)

There are rich deposits of methane hydrates surrounding much of Asia.  (Source: Spiegel Online)
China, India and numerous other developing nations bet on new carbon fuel to complete their ascent to economic dominance

China may just be a lot closer to writing a ticket to free itself from foreign oil.  Faced with an eventual power crisis when the nation's coal and oil resources run out, the world's top CO2 emitter, is scrounging around looking for new energy sources -- be they "clean" or "dirty."

Chinese scientists with the Guangzhou Marine Geological Survey have made a major discovery which may provide a major source of future fuel.  When dig a core sample out of the ocean floor in the deep waters of the South China Sea.  The scientists were astonished when they held a small flame to the sample and it ignited, burning with a yellowish-red flame.

The leaders of the expedition Shengxiong Yang and Nengyou Wu realized were all smiles when they returned to port an announced their discovery -- a wealth of sea floor methane hydrate. 

Methane hydrate is a flammable fuel, which consists of methane trapped within a crystal lattice of water.  On the earth it forms in small quantities in permafrost and in substantial quantities on the deep sea floor, either on continental shelfs or in deep semi-enclosed seas (like the South China Sea).  The methane hydrate discovered by the expedition was part of a 15 to 20 m layer of sediment which included a large amount of mud and silt.  These soft sediments should allow for easily drilling, which is an encouraging sign to fossil fuel companies.

China, India, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan all are expressing a large interest in and financial commitment to developing a harvesting infrastructure for this promising resource.  While the west has only expressed marginal interest in it, these Asian nations see it as an invaluable tool to pass their western competitors which they are fast approaching in terms of economic power.

China in particular has shown the largest desire for growth, each year upping its power consumption by an amount that approximately equals the total yearly power consumption for France.  Despite its superpower status, China is legally treated by the Kyoto treating as a developing nation and is free to run rampant with carbon emissions, which some fear will cause significant global warming damage.  China has pledged to try to reduce them and is apparently making some initial steps to back up its talk.  China's Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao used the terms "pollution" and "environment" 48 times in his address to the National People's Congress this year and said that China refused to repeat the mistake of "polluting first and cleaning up later."

Despite its vocal promise of reform, China has showed no intention of slowing its accelerating fossil fuel consumption.  China is thrilled about the prospect of using its neighboring sea's rich methane-hydrate resources.  Fossil fuel prospecting companies are considering using drilling and heating pipes to melt the crystals and release the methane, which will be subsequently captured.

China is not alone in its zealousness for the fuel.  Japan built the world's largest research drilling ship to aid in its prospecting chances and India has invested almost 300 million USD to begin a national program of methane prospecting and harvest.  India has achieved a significant early success, discovering an extremely thick 132 m methane-hydrate containing layer of sediment has been found in the Krishna-Godavari Basin in the Indian Ocean. 

German researchers have proposed a solution which may take away some of the environmental fears of harvesting this fuel source.  When a certain amount of pressure is applied to the methane-hydrate's crystal lattice and it is exposed to carbon dioxide, the methane is freed and up to five CO2 molecules take its place.

The Chinese and Indian governments have expressed wariness at the researcher's efforts though, as they see the process as potential attempt by the west to stifle and slow their growth by temporarily preventing them from exploiting this resource.

People must face that it is a reality that we live with every day that China and India are on a rampant and frantic pace of growth which affects our lives in many ways.  From the possible eventual loss of economic world dominance by the U.S. and its ramifications to concerns about quality of China's massive manufacturing infrastructure, these growing pains are effecting American lives more and more. 


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Sound like all you need is...
By Hawkido on 12/14/2007 6:37:08 PM , Rating: 5
A giant sized pup tent and a waterproof space-heater.

There is a specific frequency of radiation will sublimate this stuff right out of the silt, combined with sonic vibration for churning. Once in gas form it will rise to be caught in the "Pup tent" and continue up till it enters the pipeline at about 1000 feet below surface where it is still greatly pressurized due to water pressure, there it will be pressurized into liquid form and pumped back to shore via pipeline or stored in sub-oceanic tanks till a supertanker can arrive to offload the liquid methane for refining elsewhere.

Intellectual Property of Craig Jarvis.




RE: Sound like all you need is...
By Captain Orgazmo on 12/14/2007 8:45:22 PM , Rating: 2
I have thought of that before, and I am sure it has been thought of before that. But practically, it isn't that likely to work. If the gas could be released (which is a problem in itself... building off-shore steam injection facilities would be too much of a capital expense, and the reserves are too thinly spread) I think it would remain in liquid phase due to the pressure of the water column (depends on depth and water temp).

I'm a petroleum engineering student, and we study some unconventional hydrocarbon sources like oil shale, cbm, and tarsands but basically the view is hydrates have been known about for 30 years or more, and it it'll probably be another 30 till they are profitably recoverable (just like the Athabasca Oilsands: people have known about them for years, but it took 30 years of government subsidized production before rising oil prices made them profitable... and natural gas is priced damn low right now).


RE: Sound like all you need is...
By Ringold on 12/14/2007 9:32:57 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I'm a petroleum engineering student


Well, you won't have any problem with the ladies. You'll probably spend most your life setting your own pay grade there's such a shortage! Probably the number one complaint for oil firms of all stripes is the impossibility of finding sufficient skilled labor. Nice pick for a focus. :)


By Captain Orgazmo on 12/15/2007 12:58:45 AM , Rating: 2
Well kind of a no-brainer: Here in Alberta we have as much oil (in the form of bitumen) as the Saudis, and 40,000 unfilled jobs (to be 80,000 in another decade). As the profs said during first year orientation, our job will be to pump money out of the ground so we can afford our Lamborghinis and trophy wives :P


"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard














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