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Methane hydrate extracted from Sea of Japan

Kyodo

The government has succeeded in extracting samples of a next-generation resource called methane hydrate from the bottom of the Sea of Japan, the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy said Thursday.

Researchers conducted drilling surveys and were able to obtain samples of the “fiery ice” under the ocean floor off Niigata, Akita and Yamagata prefectures. The samples collected were up to a meter thick.

The agency, an arm of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, will continue its three-year survey on methane hydrate — a frozen substance consisting of methane and water — through fiscal 2015 and aims to assess the amount extant in the Sea of Japan.

The agency also said a sonic survey of some 20,000 sq. km Japan’s coastal waters found geological structures — suggesting possible reserves of the natural gas — at 746 locations. That comes on top of 225 locations found earlier.

It is estimated that there is enough methane hydrate beneath coastal waters to meet the nation’s natural gas needs for 100 years.

But technology to extract methane hydrate has yet to be fully developed. There are also concerns about environmental damage linked to extraction, partially because methane is a powerful greenhouse gas.

  • John Higson

    Methane Hydrate(or Clathrate) is a ,seemingly, extremely attractive energy source.It is extremely abundant,relatively transportable,non-dangerous compound of carbon and hydrogen trapped in a water/ice matrix.Hurray!! We’re all saved!…..Until you look a bit deeper. Yes,it is very abundant in deep sea sediments(also in permafrost,but let’s ignore this),but it’s also very diffuse(not concentrated),there are no ‘reservoirs’ to tap,nothing to drill into to access it.It is almost impossible to harvest on an industrial scale.Yes,maybe some small/medium amount has been extracted,but I’ll guarantee that the energy extracted from this amount of methane was less than it took to harvest this methane in the first place(a negative energy returned on energy invested: EROEI).It’s relatively transportable because we already have ways to carry and distribute natural gas(methane),but our transport infrastructure runs on longer chain hydrocarbons and our engines can’t run on it without enormously expensive and disruptive overhauls(the Pickens’ Plan).
    In theory methane hydrates are seductive in the extreme,in practice they are just another distracting pipe-dream(like the hydrogen economy) from our long term goal of living within the energy budget that is sustainable for the long term i.e. the amount of energy we receive from the sun(in the form of Biomass,Solarvoltaic,Wind,Wave etc).