The Good and Evil of Methane Hydrates

Extreme environmentalists claim that Methane Hydrates are a curse that will put mankind over the global warming tipping point.

They claim, that as the Earth warms, the tundra will melt and release methane into the atmosphere, and that an ice free Arctic will also result in a massive release of methane.

Methane, of course, is purported to be 20 times worse than CO2 as a cause of global warming.

Methane is evil in the eyes of extreme environmentalists.

Like so many assertions by extreme environmentalists, it’s pure speculation. It’s another hypothesis that can’t be proved or disproved, so it’s perfect subject matter for creating fear.

It’s something for the believers to grab onto.

Fortunately, many reputable scientists disavow the hypothesis, and based on the poor track record of extreme environmentalists, I’ll cast my lot with the reputable scientists, such as Judith Curry, Professor and chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

But there is another face to methane hydrates … the good side.

Methane hydrates are, in fact, methane, or natural gas, trapped in an ice lattice. They form under very low temperatures or high pressures, or a combination of the two.

Methane molecule trapped in cage. From NETL
Methane molecule trapped in cage. From NETL

They were what blocked BP’s attempt to relieve the pressure of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico as BP tried to cap the well and stop the blow out and oil spill.

The allure of methane hydrates is their potential to supply the world with a nearly inexhaustible source of energy in the form of methane, or natural gas.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) recently issued its estimate of 51,338 Tcf recoverable natural gas from methane hydrates in the Outer Continental Shelves (OCS) of the lower 48 states of the United States.

The estimate is without regard to technical recoverability, but it’s over twenty times larger than the estimate made by the Potential Gas Committee’s (PGC) of 2,384 Tcf of technically recoverable reserves of natural gas in the United States.

In short, the potential for obtaining natural gas from methane hydrates is huge, and a tremendous blessing to mankind.

Naturally, those who believe in global warming try to discourage the mining of methane hydrates. The Sierra Club has declared war on methane, or natural gas.

Aside from unreasonable fears, the real issue is whether natural gas can be recovered from methane hydrates at a competitive cost.

Japan has a program for producing natural gas from methane hydrates located near its coast, and predicts it will be successful by 2019.

DOE recently issued $5 million in grants to several universities to research the development of Methane hydrates.

Considering the progress that has been made for sea floor technologies for drilling and extracting oil and conventional natural gas, it seems very likely the technologies required for mining methane hydrates are within our grasp.

There are two sides to methane hydrates, the dark, evil side, put forth by the Sierra Club and other extreme environmentalists, and the bright side, the illuminating side that can bring low cost energy to millions around the world … people who live in abject poverty with little hope for a life free from fear, starvation and an early death.

We should be rooting for Japan and the other groups trying to develop technologies to release natural gas from methane hydrates.

Humanity will be better off.



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