Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Japanese energy coup?

I tend towards the view that we have enough conventional and unconventional fossil fuel to keep us going for centuries. Partly it's because I still have faith in human ingenuity and partly because stories such as this one from the Washington Post just keep on coming.

Apparently Japan has successfully extracted methane from undersea gas hydrates.

On Tuesday, Japan announced a major new breakthrough. For the first time, a team aboard the drilling ship Chikyu had successfully extracted gas from a layer of methane hydrates 1,000 feet below the seabed in the Sea of Japan.

What are methane hydrates? Methane hydrates are essentially cage-like lattices of water molecules that contain methane, the chief ingredient in natural gas. They can be found either beneath the seafloor or underneath Arctic permafrost:


How much energy are we talking about? Potentially, a staggering amount. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that gas hydrates could contain between 10,000 trillion cubic feet to more than 100,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Some of that gas will never be accessible at reasonable prices. But if even a fraction of that total can be commercially extracted, that’s an enormous amount. To put this in context, U.S. shale reserves are estimated to contain 827 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Of course these stories have to be treated with due caution. Costs and technical difficulties may make the whole thing uneconomic, but there is no doubt that the stuff is there. 

As ever, I suspect the main problem with energy supply is political. Those countries with favourable political environments will gain at the expense of those without.


Angus Dei said...

Fracking story AK?

A K Haart said...

Angus - it's fracking good news for Japan.

James Higham said...

Of course we have enough. As the man said, it's all theatre.

A K Haart said...

James - theatre with too few critics.