Monday, May 14, 2012

Peak oil passé: crystal meth(ane) gas

Well there has been some recent "developments' in the area of extracting methane hydrates from the frozen arctic sea bottom to keep our high energy economic system powered up.  There is enough of this stuff to bring out the usual 1,0000 year supply.  As is typical of these claims, the amount of fuel started off to be enormous, but has declined as decades of further research limited its area of distribution.

Going by a variety of names, it is methane gas that has been trapped within the crystalline structure of frozen water.  One of the primary fears within the global warming community, is that warming in the arctic region will cause this methane to be released into the atmosphere.  Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) that we have spent so much time worrying about. 

US claims 'unprecedented' success in test for new fuel source
Migel Llanos,,  5 May 2012 (hat tip: The American Energy Crises)

The drilling has its environmental critics, but there’s also a climate bonus: The technique requires injecting carbon dioxide into the ground, thereby creating a new way to remove the warming gas from the atmosphere.

"You're storing the CO2, and also liberating the natural gas," Christopher Smith, the Energy Department's oil and natural gas deputy assistant secretary, told "It's kind of a two-for-one."

 The Energy Department, in a statement last week, trumpeted it as "a successful, unprecedented test" and vowed to pump at least $6 million more into future testing.
The process in questions appears to be an advance in extracting the methane from the associated hydrates in a practical manner.  Previous tests had only produced natural gas for a few days, whereas this test was productive for 30 days straight.

It has been pointed out that this methane is not a "contained" product, and that it scattered around in small pockets.

Methane Hydrates: What are they thinking?
Richard Embleton, Energy Bulletin, 17 December 2012

There are many projects underway, funded by governments throughout the world (Japan, India, China, South Korea, Russia, Norway, Canada, the U.S.), aimed at developing commercially viable technologies for exploiting the planet's vast methane hydrate deposits. The selection of sites for these projects are, themselves, a clear indication of one of the primary roadblocks to using methane hydrates as a societal-supporting energy source. They have sought out test sites with high methane hydrate concentrations.
Most hydrate deposits are too small or too dispersed to be commercially exploited. Also, unlike oil and natural gas, those deposits are generally not capped in such a way that the geology can be used to contain releases. Most of those deposits on the sea floor, in fact, exist in unconsolidated, sandy or silt sediment. The geology surrounding them is inherently unstable, difficult to contain. Once the deposit, or any large portion of it, is destabilized it is very difficult to prevent unintended, uncontrolled methane releases into the atmosphere.
 Within the original article, they put the extraction process at decades away with an optimistic forecast as being ten years from now.

What is interesting is that the energy squeeze, has people like the Obama Administration's Eric Holder sounding a lot like Rush Limbaugh: tooting of the wonders of all those fossil fuels that are out there waiting to be extracted.  I guess that whole solar deal didn't work out so well for them.

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