Skip to comments.Huge Natural Gas From Methane Hydrates Process Developed
Posted on 05/03/2012 12:51:07 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu contributed a statement to an announced breakthrough in research into tapping the vast fuel resource of methane hydrates that could eventually bolster already massive U.S. natural gas reserves.
As Al Fin pointed out yesterday natural gas is priced to a barrel of oil equivalent at about $10-$11 per the estimable Geoffrey Styles view, something less than 10% of the cost of oil. For North Americans adding a viable and hopefully low cost means to make use of gas hydrates could be giant boost to low cost fuel sources and a massive kick to the economy.
For experts the methane hydrates resource is the largest reserve of hydrocarbons in the planetary crust. So far humanity has not devised a process to economically harvest this immense energy wealth. Todays DOE announcement may point the way to a new era in abundant energy to build out a bigger and better world economy.
By injecting a mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen into a methane hydrate formation (pdf link) on Alaskas North Slope, the DOE partnering with ConocoPhillips and Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp was able to produce a steady flow of natural gas in the first field test of the new method. The test was done from mid-February to about mid-April this year.
The department said it would likely be years before production of methane hydrates becomes economically viable. Secretary Chu said in his statement, While this is just the beginning, this research could potentially yield significant new supplies of natural gas.
Methane hydrates are cold ice crystal-like structures that contain methane the chemical of natural gas. The hydrates are located under the Arctic permafrost and in ocean sediments along the continental shelf and widely spread worldwide.
Gerald Holder, dean of the engineering program at University of Pittsburgh, who has worked with the DOEs National Energy Technology Laboratory on the hydrate issue, said before the announcement he had been skeptical about what researchers would be able to accomplish.
He said the main problem until now was finding a way to extract natural gas from solid hydrates without adding a whole lot of steps that made the process too expensive, which makes the success of this new test significant.
It makes the possibility of recovering methane from hydrates much more likely. Its a long way off, but this could have huge impact on availability of natural gas, said Holder.
While everyone is suggesting that methane hydrate production is some time in the future, we might note that a partner is from Japan, a country that has been buying via imports virtually all its energy and fuel inputs. A glance at the map of potential reserves shows that Japan may well pour on the intellectual and financial power to get results much quicker than many expect.
On the other hand, for North Americans natural gas is ratcheting down to dirt cheap, with more resources with the new horizontal drilling and reserve fracturing available on land and significant amounts of natural gas at sea in already developed areas.
For everyone the matter of coming up with the CO2 for the injection is going to be a significant issue. First just gathering it remains a significant problem. Making it from natural gas is the preferred method today. That raises the question if the CO2 injected is lost to sequestration or is it recycled for reuse, or what proportion is being lost or recycled? CO2 is very useful and it may become a valuable resource in its own right very soon.
Abundance makes a lot of things that werent viable at a price possible at lower costs. Abundant fission or cold fusion could make electrolysis viable freeing hydrogen for adding to coal for both liquid fuels and CO2 sources. Scaling could make such concepts usual and common thinking very quickly.
For now though the DOE and partners news is very gratifying. It must be giving the futurists at OPEC an OMG moment, again. Things are going to be changing.
Lets hope the DOE and the partners spill some more info soon so we can have a better look.
The Greenies are gonna get delirious with anger at Obama....for letting this happen.
Now we just need a process to convert methane to butanol
I’m gonna guess that this will require a new pipeline (and hence the wedge for the greenies)?
The environmentalists have a hatred of man call into question the value of economic progress in the first place.
Better yet, diesel and kerosene.
Proven technology, at least two large (commercial) sized facilities. It is only a matter of economics and regulations, not a theoretical technology.
Shell: world’s biggest gas-to-liquids plant to start soon
Jun 7, 2011
That plant is now up and running and shipping tankers to Europe.
That needs some explanation....if you could,
Haha like this will fly! The Enviros will find something that lives around there and then say how it will go extinct if we try to mine around there. Just like they said that caribou would die in ANWR because they didn’t think the caribou could walk over a couple feet of dirt mounds to cross over the pipes.
U.S. Geological Survey
Marine and Coastal Geology Program
Gas (Methane) Hydrates — A New Frontier
Methane trapped in marine sediments as a hydrate represents such an immense carbon reservoir that it must be considered a dominant factor in estimating unconventional energy resources; the role of methane as a ‘greenhouse’ gas also must be carefully assessed.
Dr. William Dillon,
U.S. Geological Survey
Hydrates store immense amounts of methane, with major implications for energy resources and climate, but the natural controls on hydrates and their impacts on the environment are very poorly understood.
Gas hydrates occur abundantly in nature, both in Arctic regions and in marine sediments. Gas hydrate is a crystalline solid consisting of gas molecules, usually methane, each surrounded by a cage of water molecules. It looks very much like water ice. Methane hydrate is stable in ocean floor sediments at water depths greater than 300 meters, and where it occurs, it is known to cement loose sediments in a surface layer several hundred meters thick.
The worldwide amounts of carbon bound in gas hydrates is conservatively estimated to total twice the amount of carbon to be found in all known fossil fuels on Earth.
Is there a simple explanation as to why the plant was so expensive?
It’s technologically feasible to convert Methane into any hydrocarbon. My off the cuff vote would be for 2,2,4 Trimethylpentane, otherwise known as isooctane. Why bother with alcohols? the Oxygen atom decreases their energy storage capacity, and all alcohols are hydrophilic.
Japan may be where it goes into production...see the text.
I have long written that we are almost literally AWASH in hydrocarbons that can be converted into suitable liquid fuels. The ONLY issue was that of total cost.
We do not burn crude oil in our vehicles and aircraft. We burn a technical product that is made, or more properly, constructed, by taking a feedstock of molecules and atoms that are taken apart and reassembled to make the fuel we want. The ONLY issue is the cost of the fuel, for the instant that a new feedstock comes along that is less expensive than the existing one, it will be used.
People who claim “peak oil” are ignorant of economics just as much as the useful idiots who claim there is a shortage of water.
Think I’ll bookmark your two last posts regarding natural gas extraction.
Forget the electic/whatever hybrid car.
Bring back the CNG car/truck technology developed decades ago.
Propane is good too.
Watts wrong with butanol?
Because it is big and complex?
There is a lot to the facility. There are multi-stages to the process. The construction site used 40,000 people and was the size of Central Park. It is one of the world's largest "single" facility.
But given the price of Natural Gas in Qatar, it makes economic sense to spend this much and essentially export very high grade crude (gasoil) versus spending less but still significant capital to export lower value LNG.
Pearl will process about 3 billion barrels-of-oil-equivalent over its lifetime. The return on investment will work. I don't think we will see the lasting return of $20 oil that would make it uneconomic.
I should have added. Most likely the mid-east countries such as Saudi Arabia must be wondering how long their fortunes can hold out. OPEC may find itself on the back door looking in.