Methane Hydrates: Renewable Hydrocarbons w/ More Energy than Earth’s Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas Combined

… methane hydrate deposits are believed to be a larger hydrocarbon resource than all of the world’s oil, natural gas and coal resources combined. [1] If these deposits can be efficiently and economically developed, methane hydrate could become the next energy game changer.

Methane Hydrates Basic Chart  USDOE

Methane Hydrates Basic Chart USDOE

Japanese researchers at Okayama University have unlocked some the mysteries of how methane is stored and released from methane hydrates. Methane hydrates are formed in sediments around the world, and have been most frequently found in sedimentary deposits along continental margins.

World reserves of the frozen gas are enormous. 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. “There is simply so much of it that it cannot be ignored,” says leading expert Gerhard Bohrman of the Research Center for Ocean Margins (RCOM) in the northern German city of Bremen. __ Gerald Traufetter in Der Spiegel

Massive Untapped Natural Gas Hydrate Resource

Massive Untapped Natural Gas Hydrate Resource

Image: Der Spiegel

Some recent estimates of the size of the global methane hydrate reservoir have been scaled down from earlier estimates. But such “minimalist” estimates fail to take into account the regenerative nature of underlying natural gas which eventually becomes methane hydrate (or clathrate).

Short Chain Hydrocarbons and Methane as Renewable Energy

Short Chain Hydrocarbons and Methane as Renewable Energy

There are at least two ways in which methane hydrates and continental shelf methane can be seen as renewable. First, abiogenic methane is constantly being generated in the mantle, much of which moves upward into crustal layers and sediments. Second, biogenic methane is constantly generated by methanogenic microbes in seafloor sediments, from organic matter always forms a part of ocean sedimentary layers.

Some information on biotic vs abiotic methane. Methane “reservoir levels” are a moving target. Just when you think you have it figured out, you get hit in the head by something you didn’t know was there. The same is true for oil & coal resources.

A study on seafloor methane seeps and their effect on oxygen consumption. We should keep in mind that undersea oil & gas seeps are a natural part of the undersea ecosystem worldwide. Entire biomass ecosystems have evolved to deal with this ever present phenomenon.

Meanwhile, here is what Obama is doing about US oil & gas production, while he is claiming to be doing something entirely different. How you know a politician is lying, is when you see his mouth moving and hear sounds coming out of it. He has other ways of lying, of course, but that is one good way to know.

More: A recent article on methane hydrates

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7 Responses to Methane Hydrates: Renewable Hydrocarbons w/ More Energy than Earth’s Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas Combined

  1. bob sykes says:

    You might be interested in this,

    Putin claims Russia’s budgetary break even point for oil is $85 to $90 per bbl, not the $125/bbl you have estimated. He thinks Saudi Arabia’s break even point is about the same.

    By the way, abiogenic oil and gas was Thomas Gold’s pet theory, but as I recall most geologists disagreed with him. Are there any recent developments in this area?

    • alfin2101 says:

      Putin said that? Well, let me think . . . Putin is a politician. The way you know if politicians are lying, is if their mouths move and you hear sounds coming out.

      “My” estimate of $125 bbl breakeven for Russia’s budget is probably on the low end, particularly after Tsar Vlad’s brave new spending programs.

      But seriously, folks. Oil & gas prices are an existential question for the Russian government. Putin has bet it all on oil & gas prices. If the government is overextended on that front, do we expect Putin to be honest about it — at this time of all times? Clearly not.

      Neville Chamberlain trusted Hitler, and see where that got him. Putin is making many of the same moves as did Hitler, but Putin has better economic reasons for what he is doing.

      Abiotic gas (methane, ethane, propane) is an exciting field of hydrocarbon geology on Earth and other planets. Abiotic oil is something quite different, involving longer chain carbons which have greater difficulty surviving in the conditions dominant in most of the mantle.
      The link above provides a pointer to a recent classic paper in the theory.

      • bob sykes says:

        Thanks for the link.

      • bob sykes says:

        You might be interested to know that the leading theory for the earliest bacterium is that it was a methanogen using hydrogen from natural iron oxidation processes to reduce carbon dioxide. Bacteria only catalyze reactions that occur spontaneously (thermodynamic sense) but slowly. Descendants of these early methanogens still exist and make up the great majority of all methanogen bacteria (actually archaea) and are believed to be a major source of methane in various environments, including deep rocks.

  2. jabowery says:

    I wonder if in situ electric generation might provide early economy for CH4*n(H2O) exploitation.

    Basically, what you do is take advantage of the low temperature of the hydrate’s environment as a heat sink in a carnot cycle that burns the hydrate. By dumping heat into the hydrate’s environment, you liberate more CH4. Since you are at-depth already, sequestering CO2 as liquid in situ should be far economical if it is ever going to be.

    The biggest capital expense would be the air pipe from the surface and the biggest operational expense would be the air compressor.

    I have no idea how expensive or cheap the electricity at the air intake would be but one thing is for certain: it would be baseload.

    • jabowery says:

      Another thing occurs to me: The integration of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion. The largest expense of OTEC, like the aforementioned CH4*n(H2O) burner, is the pipe from the surface to the cooling depth*.

      In addition, during compression of the air for the hydrate burner, heat will be liberated along the length of the air pipe (presumably this compression will be done in stages). On the way back up to the surface, cold N2 would be depressurized and heated. These heat and pressure changes could regeneratively drive the compression stages.

      *This also points to a potential environmental problem with macroengineering-scale deployment of OTEC: What if it heated up the deep ocean and caused a mass extinction event like the Permian?

  3. Dan_Kurt says:

    Suggest you read:

    Hydridic Earth:
    the New Geology of Our Primordially Hydrogen-rich Planet
    by Vladimir N. Larin,
    C. Warren Hunt, editor on translation

    Dan Kurt

Comments are closed.