Monday, March 03, 2003

Hydrates: Friend or Foe?

Under the permafrost, and in the colder, deeper parts of the seas, as well as the sediments of the Continental Shelf, are deposits of a crystalline substance called Methane Hydrate, or hydrates. They contain methane, or natural gas. One cubic foot of hydrate ice contains 160 cubic feet of natural gas.

In the debate over global warming, the greens have set up hydrates as some sort of doomsday mechanism. Somehow, when the world gets sufficiently warm, the naturally frozen and bound-up methane will be released, so the story goes, and this release just might result in the end of life as we know it. (NASAs take) (The view from England) While this sounds a bit far fetched, most of the global warming "science" is a bit far fetched. Today, science is at its limit when trying to predict the weather next week. Ten years ago, though, these theories were taken very seriously by governing bodies world wide. Today, of course, global warming scenarios are losing currency as the doomsday scenario fails to pan out. The more we learn, the more questions we have. The computer simulations that have been used to predict global warming have proven to be unreliable in predicting the future, and have to be constantly changed to even account for the past. But hydrates are very real. Take this summation of the effect of hydrate production:
Next source of natural gas [...] Fowler said hydrates are probably going to follow coalbed methane as the next unconventional source of natural gas for the United States and, he said, hydrate research is probably where coalbed methane research was a decade ago. [...] Successful development of gas hydrates would make tremendous quantities of gas available. [...] A one-foot cube of hydrate ice, Millheim said, holds approximately 160 cubic feet of natural gas, plus a little bit of water. [...] Hydrates occur both in the Arctic and in deepwater. Japan, he said, is involved in the Canadian Mallik project and is looking at deepwater hydrates it controls as an energy source. [...] ?It’s an immense resource. It dwarfs the known hydrocarbon resources on the planet,? Millheim said.
So, it very well may turn out that hydrates, which have been put forth as the bane of humankind, might be our boon. And what, I wonder, would be the effect of a plentiful and cheap, not to mention domestic, source of natural gas for us be on the power and wealth of our friends the Saudis?