Gareth Hughes

Japan and Gas Hydrates-Fire in Ice

by Gareth Hughes

In news out this week, it’s clear the new frontline of climate change is deep at the bottom of the ocean.

Deep, in the dark depths of the ocean huge quantities of methane gas are safely stored as ice crystals, held in place by temperature and pressure, and now plans are afoot to bring this gas to the surface. These gas hydrates are crystalline solid deposits that exist naturally on the ocean floor, and contain massive quantities of greenhouse gasses. The US Geologic Survey estimates that the worldwide amounts of carbon bound in gas hydrates is conservatively estimated to total twice the amount of carbon to be found in all known fossil fuels on Earth

In the quest to seek new ways to produce its own fuel, Japan has successfully tapped into underwater deposits of methane hydrate and successfully extracted natural gas. With the world on the verge of reaching the tipping points of runaway climate change going to the bottom of the ocean for fossil fuels is the last place we should look for energy. Japan has many energy challenges but opening up one of the largest sources of stored fossil fuels threatens the planet.

But it’s not just Japan that’s interested.

Last year, I revealed the National government had allocated $3.2 million funding for gas hydrate exploration in New Zealand. There is a massive quantity found in our waters, potentially 20 trillion cubic feet of hydrates.

Mining methane hydrates shows we currently are living in the age of extreme energy, where methane hydrates, fracking, deep sea oil drilling, lignite coal and underground coal gasification are seen as rational responses to increasing conventional energy prices.

A better option than this surely must be investing and developing in clean energy, that builds more jobs, brings more economic benefits and doesn’t fry the planet.

Published in Environment & Resource Management by Gareth Hughes on Thu, March 14th, 2013   

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