Could this be a needed change?

Japan extracts gas from methane hydrate in world first

Methane hydrate is also known as burnable or flammable ice

Japan says it has successfully extracted natural gas from frozen methane hydrate off its central coast, in a world first.

Methane hydrates, or clathrates, are a type of frozen “cage” of molecules of methane and water.

The gas field is about 50km away from Japan’s main island, in the Nankai Trough.

Researchers say it could provide an alternative energy source for Japan which imports all its energy needs.

Other countries including Canada, the US and China have been looking into ways of exploiting methane hydrate deposits as well.

Pilot experiments in recent years, using methane hydrates found under land ice, have shown that methane can be extracted from the deposits.

Methane clathrate – ‘Fire ice’

Offshore deposits present a potentially enormous source of methane but also some environmental concern, because the underwater geology containing them is unstable in many places.

“It is the world’s first offshore experiment producing gas from methane hydrate,” an official from the economy, trade and industry ministry told the AFP news agency.

A survey of the gas field is being run by state-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC).

Engineers used a depressurisation method that turns methane hydrate into methane gas.

Production tests are expected to continue for about two weeks.

Government officials have said that they aim to establish methane hydrate production technologies for practical use within five years.

A Japanese study estimated that at least 1.1tn cubic metres of methane hydrate exist in offshore deposits.

This is the equivalent of more than a decade of Japan’s gas consumption.

Japan has few natural resources and the cost of importing fuel has increased after a backlash against nuclear power following the Fukushima nuclear disaster two years ago.

  • Hydrates, or clathrates, are a frozen mixture of water and gas, primarily methane
  • The methane molecules reside inside a water molecule lattice
  • The methane will ignite in ice form – hence the “fire ice” moniker
  • Clathrates tend to form under frigid temperatures and high pressures
  • They are found in ocean sediments and under the permafrost on land
  • Vast deposits are thought to exist, rivalling known reserves of traditional fossil fuels



Could this be the much needed drift away from nuclear and traditional fossil fuels?


6 responses to this post.

  1. Japan may be very happy that this “fire ice” will help them get away from nuclear energy, but methane is still a fossil fuel, and burning it will still contribute to climate change. I say it a two-edged sword, both edges very, very sharp.



    • >CelloMom, it has to be cleaner than coal, no sulphur and other pollutants, just CO2, and any move away from nuclear is good.



      • It is not necessarily cleaner than coal. Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, and when it leaks (of course it leaks) it makes the effective carbon footprint of natural gas larger than that of coal. The math, in the case of leaking fracking fields, in my post of 12 Jan, if you’re interested.


      • Agreed, and knowing our ineptitude, there will be leaks.

        Feel free to add that link here, others may find it interesting as well.



  2. yeah, what are the risks of releasing excess methan here?



    • >pj, there’s always a risk of accidental releasing of methane, as there are will all forms of petroleum type products. To say that one is safer than another is wrong, but the world is looking for more energy availability and this is another option. Look forward to more posts on your blog.

      Thanks for your visit here and the comment, appreciated.




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