hydrate could be a gigantic addition to global gas resources -- if these
preliminary estimates are right.
hydrate is right where it's needed -- off the coast of Europe, the United
States and Japan. This worldwide distribution of gas hydrate could simplify
The new finding electrified -- can we say gasified? -- the energy biz. "What they found was extremely favorable," says William Dillon, who directs the USGS gas hydrate effort. "It was more than anybody expected, in coarse sediment with good permeability and porosity. It was filled with gas hydrate, and that's created a lot of interest worldwide in gas hydrates."
Keep in mind that the preliminary estimates may be nothing more than educated guesses. The only other gas hydrate well was drilled into permafrost in Canada's Mackenzie Delta. The Japanese well, which sparked the excitement, is a small data set, observes Dillon. "This was the first offshore wildcat well anywhere in the world, and you can't carry that too far."
Even if gas hydrates are as common as the estimates say, nobody knows how to extract hydrates safely, and none is being used today, with the possible exception of one well in Siberia that may be inadvertently producing gas from hydrate.
Given the uncertainties, the U.S. Department of Energy does not expect gas hydrate to play a major role until 2015 or beyond. Before that, the Department wants to increase production from existing wells by, for example, raising the permeability of underground rocks that already supply gas.
The cost of production can kill the most promising energy plans, and Sassen says known deposits cannot be exploited economically with existing technology. Furthermore, what about global warming? Even though a unit of energy from methane makes less carbon dioxide than the same unit from coal or oil, the new source could actually accelerate global warming. We'll get to that shortly, but first things first:
What do we really know about gas hydrates?
are 1 2 3 4
5 pages in this feature.
Bibliography | Credits | Feedback | Search