The amount of energy stored in methane hydrate could be twice that of all other fossil fuel reserves based on data from the US Geological Survey, the New Scientist reported on 31st August, 2013 in an article entitled ‘Buried Treasure’. At this point, most of you are probably wondering what methane hydrate is and where it is stored. Microbes on the seabed eating organic matter produce methane molecules that at high pressure and low temperature combine with the water to form a hydrate, which is white crystal. Large deposits of methane hydrate deposits are believed to lie along continental margins, mostly in ocean sediments.
Natural gas and shale gas (‘Fracking’ on August 28th, 2013) are also methane, which releases less carbon dioxide when it is burned than coal or gas and hence is regarded as cleaner. However, methane hydrate deposits might have an additional advantage because some research has shown that the methane molecule trapped in the hydrate crystal can be replaced by a carbon dioxide one. So we might be able to extract methane and simultaneously store carbon dioxide. Sounds too good to be true and the second law of thermodynamics will ensure that there is a price to be paid somewhere and somehow (see post entitled ‘Sonic Screwdriver’ on April 17th, 2013 for more the 2nd law).
Interesting subject this. I think the fuller explanation as to why natural/shale gas is regarded as the “cleaner alternative” to other fossil fuels is that it releases less carbon dioxide in relation to the amount of energy generated. I collected some data on this for a recent blog post on CarnotCycle: