Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Methane Hyrates and Climate Risk

The energy needs to the US could be provided by the extraction of "Methane Hydrates" that lie temptingly close to the US coast. The problem? The extraction of methane hydrates could rapidly accelerate climate change and ultimately bring about a decline in civilisation as we know it.

Forbes comment:

Energy's Most Dangerous Game [Forbes]

All the energy America needs for the next 100 years lies under the sea off the coast of South Carolina. One problem: Digging it out could cause a global climate disaster.

Welcome to the final frontier in fossil fuels, the wild card in climate change theories and the dark horse in the scramble to secure access to clean energy. Meet methane hydrates, the world's most promising and perilous energy resource.

As you can see from the paragraph below, any human error on extraction could have very serious implications.

A substantial amount of evidence suggests that weakening the lattice-like structure of gas hydrates has triggered underwater landslides on the continental margin. In other words, the extraction process, if done improperly, could cause sudden disruptions on the ocean floor, reducing ocean pressure rates and releasing methane gas from hydrates.

A mass release of methane into the sea and atmosphere could have catastrophic consequences on the pace of climate change. More than 50 million years ago, undersea landslides resulted in the release of methane gas from methane hydrate, which contributed to global warming that lasted tens of thousands of years.

Even so, research continues across a wide range of countries. One can be sure a mistake is just around the corner. How big will it be?

Major government research initiatives have been launched in China, India, Germany, Norway, Russia, Taiwan and several other countries. The Japanese government has estimated that producing gas from methane hydrates is commercially viable when oil prices rise above $54 a barrel.

The bottom line is that mass extinction risk is very low and this industry will develop and take off and could again alter the geo-political landscape.


No comments: