05 Dec 2008 05:12:47
Methane hydrate project to start
The first large-scale production test of a fossil fuel source previously deemed too dangerous and costly to exploit is set to start.
Methane trapped in ice-like structures, known as methane gas hydrates, is abundant in Alaska's North Slope permafrost, where BP and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) are preparing to drill.
There are an estimated 85 trillion cubic feet of gas in Alaska and the USGS has identified a variety of other places where the crystalline hydrocarbons might be found, with the Arctic being home to a large concentration.
According to the USGS, because the gas is held in crystal structure it is more densely packed than in other gas traps.
It also reports that there is 3,000 times the amount of methane currently in the atmosphere bound in methane hydrates.
There is concern at the potential for the release of methane into the air as a result of exploiting the fossil fuel. The gas is 20 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
A former USGS member who has studied hydrates for over 30 years told the Christian Science Monitor: "If you still want to produce CO2, natural gas is much better than coal, but as a geoscientist I just get angry that you ever have to burn methane or coal."
Meanwhile oil prices fell to their lowest in four years yesterday (December 4th), reaching $44 a barrel, having reached a summer high of $147 a barrel.http://energy.usgs.gov/other/gashydrates/