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Gas On Ice - experts met in December in Tokyo

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  • npat1@juno.com
    Century may bring unprecedented climate change to southern hemisphere February 6, 2004 http://www.brightsurf.com/news/feb_04/EDU_news_020604.php Forwarded
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 6, 2004
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      Century may bring unprecedented climate change to southern hemisphere
      February 6, 2004
      http://www.brightsurf.com/news/feb_04/EDU_news_020604.php


      Forwarded message from: powertothepeople
      Date: Fri, 06 Feb 2004 16:29:31 -0800
      Subject: Re: [powertothepeople] Re: National Acadmy of Science and Ex
      Lovings Colleague Slams Hydrogen
      harelbarzilai wrote:

      ... hydrogen is not an
      energy source, it's an energy storage medium.
      That message still is not out to the public.When
      they understand that, the question becomes
      what is your energy *source* mix if
      fossil fuels are on their way
      to being off the table...

      Here's the good news:

      Once dubbed an energy pipe dream, the prospect of extracting significant
      quantities of natural gas from frosty hydrate deposits just got a major
      boost. Scientists have demonstrated for the first time that they can
      produce natural gas from an existing gas hydrate deposit in nature. ...
      the world's total supply of hydrate is more than double the amount of all
      other known fossil fuel deposits combined. If we could produce gas from
      only 1 percent of all the hydrates in the world ... we would have enough
      natural gas to last more than 170,000 years at the present U.S.
      consumption rate
      <http://www.local10.com/technology/2805989/detail.html>


      And the bad news ...

      Methane clathrates are increasingly thought to play a role in mass
      extinctions associated with significant climate change in the Earth's
      history, and they are a large and exceedingly unstable source of
      greenhouse gas, greater than the equivalent of instantaneously burning
      all the oil reserves on Earth.

      "Linking these dramatic climate events to changes in the methane
      clathrate pool has important implications for the stability of our
      current climate," said Martin Kennedy, an associate professor of geology
      at UC Riverside. "The Earth has a large unstable pool of these clathrates
      in ocean sediments today, and it is thought that a few degrees of ocean
      warming could trigger large-scale release into the atmosphere. We now
      have strong evidence of this doomsday scenario in one of the most
      important intervals of Earth's biologic history".
      <http://www.brightsurf.com/news/dec_03/EDU_news_121803_b.php>

      Ken Johnson

      <http://www.local10.com/technology/2805989/detail.html>

      Content by Technology Review Magazine
      http://www.technologyreview.com?trk=ibsys>

      Gas On Ice
      Once dubbed an energy pipe dream, the prospect of extracting significant
      quantities of natural gas from frosty hydrate deposits just got a major
      boost. Scientists have demonstrated for the first time that they can
      produce natural gas from an existing gas hydrate deposit in nature. An
      international consortium of researchers and gas industry experts met in
      December in Tokyo to discuss results from an experimental drilling
      project conducted at the hydrate-rich well site known as Mallik, in the
      Mackenzie Delta of northern Canada.Hydrate forms when gas, usually
      methane, mixes with water under just the right temperature and pressure
      conditions. A lattice-work of frozen water molecules encases each
      molecule of the gas, creating a flammable, ice-like substance. When it
      was first discovered in the 1950s, hydrate was considered a nuisance,
      often clogging pipelines at drill sites. Hydrates were a �gold-plated
      pain in the rear,� says gas industry veteran Robert Maddox, an emeritus
      professor of chemical engineering at Oklahoma State University.

      In the past few decades, however, interest in hydrate has soared. The
      biggest reason for hydrate's appeal is the sheer volume of deposits
      buried beneath marine sediment and permafrost regions of the globe. Keith
      Kvenvolden, senior scientist (emeritus) at the U.S Geological Survey,
      estimates that the world's total supply of hydrate is more than double
      the amount of all other known fossil fuel deposits combined. If we could
      produce gas from only 1 percent of all the hydrates in the world, says
      USGS researcher Tim Collett, we would have enough natural gas to last
      more than 170,000 years at the present U.S. consumption rate of 23
      trillion cubic feet annually.

      Drilling for gas hydrates in the Mackenzie Delta of the northwestern
      Canadian Arctic. Images courtesy of USGS.

      As a source for natural gas, hydrate today is about where coal bed
      methane was 15 years ago, says Michael Max, a hydrate expert formerly
      with the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. �Coal bed methane
      was a classic, unconventional gas play,� with more than a few doubters,
      Max says. �Now it supplies around eight percent of the U.S natural gas
      supply. We think hydrate has a similar trajectory.�

      Yet hydrate�s evolution has, until the December announcement, hinged on
      the giant "if" of technical feasibility. Engineers and geoscientists
      worked for years studying how changes in temperature and pressure affect
      hydrates in deposit. Reduce pressure or increase temperature just enough,
      and hydrate will melt. When that happens, the gas and water molecules go
      their separate ways and the gas, everyone assumed, could then be captured
      much like gas from conventional deposits. Computer models had predicted
      the resulting release of gas, but the idea had never been tested, making
      the successful melting and recapture of natural gas at Mallik a milestone
      for energy science.

      The Mallik project followed years of research into the behavior of
      melting hydrate, as well as geophysical assessments of the Mallik
      deposits themselves. For the most recent findings, scientists used fiber
      optics instruments to characterize conditions within the different wells,
      together with seismic studies to estimate the extent to which released
      methane might seep into the surrounding geologic formations. After that,
      it was time to melt the hydrate first through depressurization and then
      through heating, both of which proved to be effective methods for
      releasing methane that could then be captured. So much was known about
      the wells that the team was able to adjust the rate of hydrate
      dissociation, and thus the rate of gas release.What's more, Mallik also
      demonstrated that large amounts of natural gas are likely to be
      attainable in areas with high concentrations of hydrate. Because this was
      a first-time endeavor, scientists weren�t after maximum well output, but
      rather a carefully controlled reaction that could then be analyzed with
      greater precision. Yet models built using the Mallik data suggest that
      production could indeed yield rates of �several million cubic feet of gas
      per day,� says Collett an output as good or better than that of
      conventional gas well. That could make hydrates a significant addition to
      global natural gas supply especially in resource-poor parts of the
      world.)

      Though countries from Canada to India have been investing heavily in
      hydrate research, the biggest effort has been in Japan. With the world's
      second-largest economy, Japan imports roughly 98 percent of its oil and
      gas, and the Japanese are itching to find a domestic energy resource. Off
      the eastern coast of the main island of Honshu is a massive hydrate
      deposit similar in composition and concentration to the Mallik site,
      which helps explain why Japan bankrolled the bulk of the Mallik project.
      Some Japanese industry leaders have gone as far as to claim that hydrate
      development will make Japan energy self-sufficient by 2015.

      That may be overly optimistic. For one thing, Japan may not have enough
      hydrate within its borders to power the country. It is also too soon to
      say whether other deposits would be as cooperative and productive as
      Mallik was in this first set of tests. In addition, the economics of
      hydrate production are not yet competitive with oil and gas from
      conventional sources. Nevertheless, the unpredictability of global energy
      markets (the price of natural gas, for example, was surging just before
      the New Year), the almost pathological commitment of the Japanese when it
      comes to energy security, and the money being thrown at hydrate research
      collectively indicate that gas from hydrate may very well play a major
      role in our energy picture over the long term.
      A hydrate-rich energy future is not, of course, inevitable. For one
      thing, recent discovery and development of enormous new natural gas
      reservoirs means that conventional supplies of gas will be on hand for a
      long time to come. Economic viability remains the key wild card: no
      company will invest in the science and infrastructure needed to extract
      gas from hydrate if they can make more money finding and tapping
      conventional wells. And lastly, though burning natural gas is far cleaner
      than burning oil or coal, it does emit greenhouse gases. �If we get
      serious about climate change, we�ll have to look beyond carbon-based
      fuels, whether to solar, nuclear or something totally new. In that sense,
      we could be leaving all that hydrate untouched where it is," says David
      Victor, Director of Stanford's Program on Energy and Sustainable
      Development.

      Still, knowing that it is technically feasible to unlock gas from hydrate
      means development of this resource is possible. And than means more
      choices about fueling the future.

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