China Claims Methane Hydrates Breakthrough May Lead To Global Energy Revolution

China is talking up its achievement of mining flammable ice for the first time from underneath the South China Sea. The fuel-hungry country has been pursuing the energy source, located at the bottom of oceans and in polar regions, for nearly two decades. China’s minister of land and resources, Jiang Daming, said Thursday that the successful collection of the frozen fuel was “a major breakthrough that may lead to a global energy revolution,” according to state media. Experts agree that flammable ice could be a game changer for the energy industry, similar to the U.S. shale boom. But they caution that big barriers — both technological and environmental — need to be cleared to build an industry around the frozen fuel, which is also known as gas hydrate. —CNN Money, 20 May 2017

Methane hydrates constitute the world’s No. 1 reservoir of fossil fuel. Ubiquitous along vast stretches of Earth’s continental shelves, they hold enough natural gas to fuel the world for a thousand years – and beyond. Who says so? Using the most conservative of assumptions, the U.S. Geological and Geophysical Service says so. The U.S. now produces 21 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas a year. But it possesses 330,000 tcf of natural gas in its methane hydrate resource – theoretically enough to supply the country for 3,000 years (give or take). Using less conservative numbers (for example, a methane hydrate resource of 670,000 tcf), the U.S. is good to go for 6,000 years (give or take). —Global Warming Policy Forum, 16 May 2012

Where will China get enough energy to power its huge nation in the decades ahead? One possible answer is the methane hydrate deposite at the bottom of the South China Sea. Chinese experts believe the South China Sea as a whole contains methane hydrate reserves equal to 68 billion metric tons of oil. That figure amounts to 130 years worth of the country’s energy consumption. Now it’s easy to see China’s interest in the South China Sea. —Wall Street Daily, 5 October 2015

The US is sitting on hundreds of years of oil, gas and coal which has the potential to turn North America into the 21st century’s energy superpower. The shale revolution is having huge economic and geopolitical implications while America’s major competitors are trying to shackle the US into a low-carbon future that would essentially rob it of its assets. The Paris agreement vows to cap global warming to “well below” two degrees Celsius (compared to late 19th-century levels) which, campaigners claim, would require the US to massively cut CO2 emissions from conventional energy production. It would also mean most of America’s gas, oil and coal reserves would have to stay in the ground, thus relinquishing hundreds of trillions in economic gains while the US would be forced to surrender the prospect of becoming the world’s leading energy superpower. –Benny Peiser , Climate Change Forum — Hong Kong, 27 May 2017

U.S., Norwegian, and German scientists report back on the surprising results of an Arctic Ocean research expedition. The ocean waters near the surface of the Arctic Ocean absorbed 2,000 times more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than the amount of methane that escaped into the atmosphere from the same waters, according to a study by the USGS Gas Hydrates Project and collaborators in Germany and Norway. “If what we observed near Svalbard occurs more broadly at similar locations around the world, it could mean that methane seeps have a net cooling effect on climate, not a warming effect as we previously thought,” said USGS biogeochemist John Pohlman, who is the paper’s lead author. —US Geological Survey, 8 May 2017