Burning methane hydrate
Burning methane hydrateCourtesy United States Geological Survey

What is Methane ice?

Huge amounts of methane are being found on the ocean floor, trapped within cages of water molecules.

Methane clathrate, also called methane hydrate or methane ice, is a solid form of water that contains a large amount of methane within its crystal structure (a clathrate hydrate). wikipedia

Geologists estimate that significantly more hydrocarbons are bound in the form of methane hydrate than in all known reserves of coal, natural gas and oil combined. India and China plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars learning how to tap into this huge reservoir of energy (Spiegel online).

Carbon curse or cure

Relying on this carbon based energy instead of renewable energy sources could worsen global warming by releasing more greenhouse gases. To be carbon neutral the carbon dioxide from burning carbon fuels needs to be captured and sequestered (locked up). Harvesting methane ice offers just this opportunity.

When a certain amount of pressure is applied to the cage-like crystal structure, carbon dioxide can penetrate the layer of ice, at which point it displaces the methane. Then a new cage of frozen water molecules forms around the carbon dioxide. Klaus Wallmann, Uni Kiel

Wallman is also impressed by the ratio at which the gases are exchanged. For each dissolved molecule of methane released, up to five molecules of carbon dioxide disappear into the ice cage. Wallmann hopes to see, in the not-too-distant future, tankers filled with CO2 heading out to sea to pump their climate-damaging cargo into the depths.

You might also read about research being done at Columbia University, "Carbon Neutral Methane Production Via Hydrates".

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Gene's picture
Gene says:

Japan is planning to drill for methane hydrate.

posted on Sat, 01/05/2008 - 6:59pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

carbon monoxide + water + fuel = fire

posted on Thu, 02/07/2008 - 1:50pm
JARVIS's picture
JARVIS says:

So if we know about this alternative fuel why dont we at least try to use it. We could easily find a way to change our motors to use this new fossil fuel.

posted on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:04am
Hanzeman's picture
Hanzeman says:

This technology of driving CH4 out of its ice phase on the ocean floor by spent CO2 gas looks great !!!

Reminds me to the key-solution to prevent depletion of the agrocultural soil by the invention of the nitrogen fixation by the pioneers Birkeland and Haber.

posted on Tue, 03/25/2008 - 8:44pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

There is some evidence that if you start to mess around with the seabed methane clathrate you will start large scale erosion at the site powered by ocean currents that will eventually lead to run-away relase of massive amounts of methane and then lead to catastrophic global warming and further melting and release of more methane from clathrates - enough to eliminate 80% of all living things on earth - it has happened repeatedly before in the history of the earth - why do we need to go this way and possibly trigger such an event? Are we that addicted to material shit? I think the corporations really don't care at all if they speed up doomsday as long as they get their money now. I think greedy people are evil period. We have met the enemy and he is us!

posted on Tue, 04/03/2012 - 5:51pm

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options