Scientists recognize, as a result of extensive research, that methane hydrates are not unusual in nature. They are most likely to be found in the arctic regions and in ocean and sea sediments. However, exactly what do they have to offer the planet in terms of energy, and what precisely are they? Answering these questions will help you to see exactly what all the hype is about as scientists, environmentalists, and energy researchers continue to get excited about methane hydrate.
What is Methane Hydrate
Methane hydrate, also referred to as methane clathrate, fire ice, hydromethane, methane ice, natural gas hydrate, or gas hydrate are crystal like solids that look like pieces of ice. However, these pieces of ice have gas molecules trapped in what is kind of like a cage of water. The water in its ice form makes it easy to hold the gas molecules. There is, however, a big difference between this ice and the ice in your freezer. This ice will actually burn and support a flame by itself.
Methane hydrates are most common in stable ocean floor sediments. The sediments are similar to concrete in their hardness and appearance. However, it is really only found between three hundred and five hundred meters below the surface. If you go much below or above that the temperatures get too high to support the methane hydrates.
Since the 1970s, methane hydrates have generated a great deal of excitement as an energy and fuels course. There are scientists who estimate that there is twice as much fuel in the form of methane hydrates as there is in the form of the fossil fuel we think about today. Others, though, do not see there being that much. Either way, though, it is thought to be a huge and untapped source of both energy and fuel for energy.
Disadvantages of Methane Gas Hydrate
There are several disadvantages to methane hydrates. For example, it is so dispersed throughout the oceans that it is hard to imagine a cost-effective means of harvesting the gas.
Furthermore, it turns out that methane works far better as a greenhouse gas than it does as an energy source. It is actually believed that perhaps the release of this gas as the oceans temperature increases due to the greenhouse effect could lead to the quick onset of something as severe as another ice age. Quite simply, some believe that the danger of methane hydrates is almost as large as the positives.
Many energy companies, in an effort to find a large resource that has been untapped, continue to chase the methane hydrate market. While many question the impact such research and experimentation would have on the environment, the energy companies are much more interested in finding and economic and readily available energy source. This has created a great deal of debate among energy researchers, engineers, scientists, and environmental activists.
Many look on with worry as companies begin to do what they call careful testing in the arctic and in the ocean on methane hydrates. However, as methane in the earth begins to decline, it is likely that the research and experimentation with methane hydrates will continue to increase.
So as you can well imagine the debate rages on about methane hydrates, their usefulness, and their safety. Science and engineering will likely continue to butt heads with environmentalists as the fossil fuels of the earth decline. However, it is possible that there will be an efficient way of taking methane hydrate and converting it into safe and efficient fuel sources that may last the planet for centuries.