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Gas Hydrates – George Wuerthner

Gas Hydrates – George Wuerthner

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Gas hydrates are a frozen form of methane found in Arctic regions as well as under the seabed. Commercially exploiting gas hydrates on any significant scale may prove to be extremely challenging—but if successful, it would prolong our dependency on fossil fuels and contribute to ever-growing greenhouse gas emissions.
Gas hydrates are a frozen form of methane found in Arctic regions as well as under the seabed. Commercially exploiting gas hydrates on any significant scale may prove to be extremely challenging—but if successful, it would prolong our dependency on fossil fuels and contribute to ever-growing greenhouse gas emissions.

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Published by: Post Carbon Institute on Sep 05, 2013
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GASHYDRATES
A DANGEROUSLYLARGE SOURCE OFUNCONVENTIONALHYDROCARBONSGEORGEWUERTHNER
 
This publication is an excerpted chapter rom
The Energy Reader: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth
, Tom Butler, Daniel Lerch, and George Wuerthner,eds. (Healdsburg, CA: Watershed Media, 2012).
The Energy Reader 
is copyright© 2012 by the Foundation or Deep Ecology, and published in collaboration withWatershed Media and Post Carbon Institute.For other excerpts, permission to reprint, and purchasing visit energy-reality.org or contact Post Carbon Institute.Photo: Hawaii Natural Energy Institute/University o Hawaii.
Methane hydrates—the ice that burns—are a massive source of hydrocarbons (and greenhouse gas) widely distributed around the globe.
about the author
George Wuerthner
is the Ecological Projects Director or the Foundation or Deep Ecology and has published35 books related to wilderness, conservation, and environmental issues.
Post Carbon Institute | 613 4th Street, Suite 208 | Santa Rosa, California 95404 USA
 
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U
nder scrutiny as one o the newest energy sourcesthat could help satisy global energy demand,gas hydrates represent an immense source o methane(the main component o what we call “natural gas”).Gas hydrates are rozen, water-based crystalline solidsthat trap methane inside; they orm at high pressuresand low temperatures. Although these deposits looklike ice, they turn to water and gas when pressure isrelieved or temperatures increase. Massive amounts o gas hydrates exist in deep-sea sediments, on land asso-ciated with Arctic permarost, and sometimes in deep-lake sediments, such as under Lake Baikal in Russia.The majority o ocean-oor gas hydrates are ound atdepths o more than 1,500 eet (500 meters).Under hydrate conditions, gas is extremely concen-trated. One unit volume o methane hydrate at apressure o one atmosphere produces about 160 unitvolumes o methane gas—thus gas hydrates are veryenergy-dense reservoirs o ossil uel. The quantity o methane in gas hydrates worldwide is poorly known,but has been estimated by the U.S. Geological Service(USGS) to be equal to twice the amount o carbon heldin all other ossil uels—all the oil, gas, and coal com-bined—on Earth.
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While highly speculative or a ossilenergy resource that has essentially zero commercialproduction at present, interest in hydrates has increasedin some parts o the world where other sources o energyare less available or more expensive.The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the UnitedStates alone holds potentially 200,000 trillion cubic eet(Tc) o natural gas in gas hydrate deposits.
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To putthat in perspective, in 2010 the United States consumedaround 24 trillion cubic eet o natural gas. However,only a small proportion o global hydrate resources mayever be developed due to the technological challengesinvolving temperature, pressure, environmental protec-tion, and other actors—all o which add to the costs(and energy) required to produce the gas.The largest known deposit o gas hydrates lies onthe continental shel o the United States betweenNew Jersey and Georgia. The Blake Ridge gashydrate deposit occurs o the coasts o North andSouth Carolina, where the USGS estimates there maybe 1,300 trillion cubic eet o methane gas.
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Another promising location or U.S. gas hydrate developmentlies in the Gul o Mexico, where the Department o the Interior has estimated the region contains 21,000trillion cubic eet o methane.
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In the near term, the most accessible hydrate depositsoccur in the Arctic. Recent drilling on Alaska’s NorthSlope suggests there may be a minimum o 85 tril-lion cubic eet o undiscovered, “technically recover-able” (i.e., recoverable with current technologies, butwithout regard to economics) gas resources withingas hydrates in northern Alaska
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; meanwhile, a USGS
 
Gas hydrates are a frozen form of methane found inArctic regions as well as under the seabed. Commerciallyexploiting gas hydrates on any significant scale mayprove to be extremely challenging—but if successful,it would prolong our dependency on fossil fuels andcontribute to ever-growing greenhouse gas emissions.

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