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Japan extracts 'fire ice' gas from seabed

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25psotMar. 14, 2013 - 05:30AM JST

This deposits may last only 0.1 of the century so better not use them now and keep it as spear tire in case of fuel emergencies caused by some unpredictable world events

That's just in that one place, there's another five times that elsewhere in Japanese waters and nearby, and 80x that around the world. And of course, you forget that they still have contracts with other countries for gas shipments, so that bed could last much longer time wise, perhaps 20-30 years. Still doesn't make it the amazing energy source the Japanese media is touting it as.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@Open Minded

Basroil: the point is to use energy efficiently.

No argument that people should definitely use energy more efficiently, however I stil maintain that it isn't the energy consumption by regular folk that causes energy shortages. By far, the lion's share of electricity is consumed by industry, and it is industry that needs a reliable base load of energy to continue functioning.

It's a question of targeting the actual problem, instead of something that we would like to see get done. Those folk who are marching and protesting nuclear power are not there to address the actual cause of the problem; they are there because they want their political desires to be realized. The same is true for the general eco-movement for non-industry. The purpose of people advancing that angle isn't to save the environment or to produce energy more efficiently; heck people are still arguing about whether human influence is a significant factor in climate change. We have absolutely no way of knowing what the effect of everyone going green will be. People want to go green because they feel a personal need for it, whether it is because they want to feel more "natural", or dislike the thought of pollution, what-have-you. The issue of energy production, however, is a matter of numbers; no matter how one feels about the situation, when all is said and done, it was numbers that got us here and it is numbers that will get us out.

There is nothing wrong with having emotionally based concerns or arguments, however, in an argument about energy efficiency, they don't have as much significance as actual data.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

This deposits may last only 0.1 of the century so better not use them now and keep it as spear tire in case of fuel emergencies caused by some unpredictable world events.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Open MindedMar. 14, 2013 - 12:08AM JST

the point is to use energy efficiently.

Didn't argue that. Just argued that even that wouldn't do enough to convince Japan to stop fossil fuels exploitation, especially this method that has not yet been tested. That and that a bad heat pump wouldn't be better than a good a/c unit, especially when you take into account the energy cost of getting to the ground source. Most places would benefit from better engineering, but the change over is just too slow and gains too small to help in this situation. It's a worthy long-term goal though.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Basroil: the point is to use energy efficiently. I am not saying that there is any "out of the blue" energy. But if rich countries with cheap energy - rolling eyes - would make a small effort, it would greatly contribute to the whole planet.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Open MindedMar. 13, 2013 - 10:37PM JST

heat pumps or using cold/warm water are energy efficient means. A heat pump for instance gives you 3-4 time energy output vs. input

Refridgerators/ AC units are just as efficient actually(Energy Star rating requires 2.4). So what's the actual point?

And actually, a good heat pump should be in the 6+ range, and even a minimally effective ground source heat pump should be 4+.

But even if you were to put ground source heat pumps in every home and business, it still wouldn't do much against the need for gas and oil.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Fadamor: heat pumps or using cold/warm water are energy efficient means. A heat pump for instance gives you 3-4 time energy output vs. input (I had one in Montreal that was still efficient at -10 Celsius. The problem is that it requests investment and in cheap energy countries like US or Canada, none wants to make it even if you have an ROI of 5 years.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

would probably be cheaper to put in hydrothermal tubes like Deep Lake Water Cooling in Toronto to handle all the air conditioning costs for any city along the ocean (which would be a lot of projects). Why continue to search for energy sources instead of just using the energy properties of the land water and air around you? Japan has the engineers, it just needs the will

Q: What do the pumps used in Toronto need to operate?

A: Electricity

Q: How many pumps would be needed to pump cold water from the depths in large enough quantities to chill a city's A/C requirements?

A: A LOT. And each of those pumps will need... electricity.

Q: How much will Toronto's solution help with heating in the Winter?

A: Not one iota.

Q: What is the byproduct of Toronto's solution?

A: Toronto's tap water comes out of the faucet a bit warmer than normal.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Open MindedMar. 13, 2013 - 09:31PM JST

The solid white substance burns with a pale flame, leaving nothing but water.

Water and CO2 obviously!

Can't believe I skipped over that! Good eyes there

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

The solid white substance burns with a pale flame, leaving nothing but water.

Water and CO2 obviously!

The only exothermic reaction that releases only water is Hydrogen + Oxygen!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Open MindedMar. 13, 2013 - 09:11PM JST

Bermuda triangle might be a myth, but the physical theory seems very valid. Hence I would not be on the drilling boat. Ridiculous or scientifically correct?

It's certainly possible to reduce the density (and therefore buoyancy) of the above water, though it would require some extreme circumstances to sink a platform. Most likely any release would make a boat bob a bit but not sink it. Still wouldn't want to be on it though, the issue of methane being flammable is still there, as well as other health issues it can cause. Planes on the other hand are more sensitive to atmospheric conditions, but engine stall is the real threat (though falling out of the sky is because of engine failure rather than sinking). Not so ridiculous, but something you shouldn't really worry about considering the number of far more likely problems.

http://hilo.hawaii.edu/academics/hohonu/documents/Vol07x10HowareMethaneHydratesFormed....pdf has a reasonable overview of methane hydrate, including some of the popular theories against the use of these deposits.

Also, the one above wasn't explained well enough when describing an exposed bed, but the risks are still due to the same pressure change principle.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Thanks Basroil for your comment.

One more point. If again I am not mistaking, seabed methane release is one of the most serious theory for the Bermuda triangle. Massive release create a flash drop down in water and air density which makes/made ships and planes sinking.

Bermuda triangle might be a myth, but the physical theory seems very valid. Hence I would not be on the drilling boat. Ridiculous or scientifically correct?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hopefully this will persuade Japan to give up its claims to the islands it claims for itself that belong to China.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Open MindedMar. 13, 2013 - 08:38PM JST

Just wondering if these drills and then potentially removing this solid/liquid fire ice might trigger earthquakes.

The risk is non-negligible, but quite small. The 1.1 trillion cubic meters are about 1 trillion tons of mass, so if the entire thing detached it would most certainly reduce enough pressure to cause a major earthquake in the area (which would immediately trigger another two, maybe 3 quakes in Nankai with total magnitude in excess of 9.0). The biggest issue however, is global warming, since that mass released straight into the atmosphere would release the equivalent of 250 years of CO2 (at 2010 rates).

Well, that and likely killing everyone in a hundred mile path downwind as well as raging infernos. Lets just say an instant release of all that gas would be catastrophic for not only Japan, but the earth.

In terms of slower release, it is probably more likely that the fairly imminent Nankai earthquake would release any stress built up by draining the area before it could trigger a quake. It could increase the strength or frequency of the Nankai quake though.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Just wondering if these drills and then potentially removing this solid/liquid fire ice might trigger earthquakes. I remember a deep drill in Switzerland that had this effect not that long ago apparently. If anyone can elaborate on that, it would be appreciated.

And definitely the risk of releasing massive methane quantity in the atmosphere would kill all the effort done to manage more or less the greenhouse issue. If I am not mistaking the second biggest contributor is the cow/sheep methane emission.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Jason Santana

What ever happened to geothermal energy? Why isn't anyone using it?

It's mostly about convenience. Even in a place like Japan, there aren't that many places with the required temperature differential, and the ones who do make good candidates are filled with onsen, who have, historically, been opposed to geothermal plants in their area, and with fair reason.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Jason SantanaMar. 13, 2013 - 07:24PM JST

What ever happened to geothermal energy? Why isn't anyone using it?

In general:

Pollutes the ground water

Causes earthquakes

Quickly exhausts the water supply

Equipment tends to break down more often than other steam driven systems

In Japan:

All water released from it has illegally (but naturally) high concentrations of heavy metals, and thus can't be recirculated without expensive (in cost and energy) filtering.

All water released from it is illegally hot, and would require a nearby stream of cold water to cool it to legal limits

Closed systems are ineffective due to earthquakes

CO2 cycle geothermal never worked out the kinks it had

There's plenty more things where those came from, but those are some of the issues that are similar to those that would be applicable to methane hydrate.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

So the extraction of methane hydrate off the coast of Shikoku turns into China-bashing with lots of thumbs up. Perhaps we should just have a thread entitled 'Why I hate China' and let people let off steam. Feeling relieved, some might be able to discuss the matters in the articles.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

What ever happened to geothermal energy? Why isn't anyone using it?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Now, what is an economically viable (at least, in a few places in Japan), very safe, and possibly even a radical boost to the local environment, would be a land-based OTEC platform. I wonder why this hasn't become more popular.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The reports I read said that drilling for methane ice was proven on the land but not the sea. Methods used in the past (pumping warm water) used too much energy to generate benefits. The new technique involved lowering pressure.

Japan will not license the new technology for a number of years, which is a good move on their part.

Still, every bit of fuel pulled out of the earth eventually goes into the atmosphere. So, cutting green house emissions in one place means they show up somewhere.

I support energy independence like this, but Japan needs to become the world leader in renewable energy. So, I have more hope for all the PV and wind farms being considered than new fuel sources.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I do not know the cost ratio for japanese energy. But I am going to go out on a limb and say they are using a formula similar to alberta oil sands. Oil has to be over $30 a barrel to break even and then they need enough of a buffer so that it wouldn't slide under $30. It is porbably higher now. But you get the idea. Has the cost of power doubled? That would be a good sign that its viable choice.

I understand oil sands oil is considered/probably more dirty then regular crude. But if there is an accident here we are talking lakes and local area. Isn't fireice extremly dangerous? Like globally dangerous?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some interesting links

http://blogs.plos.org/retort/2011/06/01/energy-from-methane-hydrates-better-to-burn-out-than-fade-away

The report from Japan Oil, Gas and Metal National Corporation

http://www.jogmec.go.jp/english/information/news_release/docs/2012/newsrelease_130312.pdf

Let's hope that this can benefit mankind.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I see opportunity in this endeavor. First, the Engineers learn how to extract the clathrates economically. Then, they take their expertise to other places such as the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean and make a ton of money.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Western world obviously needs an enemy, not that Mr. Bin Ladin is gone, the focus should be on China. The Chinese are hackers, theifs of islands, bullies and blah blah blah. If the Japanese people are to buy into this story, I'm sorry, we are going down the route of Western simple mindedness. We all better than that!

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

DeploreMar. 13, 2013 - 12:34PM JST

If the anti-nuclear activists have their way, I imagine it will become much more economical.

Wishing for or against something doesn't change the economics. Deep sea mining is expensive, and one of the reasons oil drilling in deep sea didn't make sense until the price per barrel shot up. The profit point for methane hydrate is still pretty high by all accounts, due to difficulty working at the depths involved.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

There's nothing particularly new or impressive about extracting methane hydrate from fire ice. The question has always been whether it can be done economically. Up until now, it hasn't been, so I am wondering about how they intend to collect it and bring it in.

If the anti-nuclear activists have their way, I imagine it will become much more economical.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Perhaps it's been mentioned, but I've missed it.

This gas field (the largest) lies along the Nankai trough/fault line which has only recently been assessed as the most dangerous region for a massive earthquake / tsunami to occur in Japan.

Hopefully no tepco "amakudari" handshakes take place in this opaeration.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

cabadaje, not sure it it's outdated, but certainly is dependent on the pressure and temperature of the field compared to it's boiling temperature. Considering they are planning to mine it though, it can't be that stable or else they would have a hard time extracting it.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

@basroil

And whether or not it can be done safely. A single wrong move can destabilize the field, releasing enough greenhouse gasses to double the effects of the last 50 years of CO2.

That's true, shoot, I had forgotten about that...

Unfortunately, the way methane hydrate forms, the sort of environment it requires, also tends to be somewhat fragile in terms of geology. You can't just jump in and start scooping out tons of mud. A sudden collapse or settlement could potentially move enough mud off the underlying hydrates (meaning the weight and pressure of the protective cover is removed) causing a large amount of hydrates to "boil" (so to speak), out of their stable ice crystal form.

But that information could be outdated; I haven't really kept up with this branch for several years.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Not only will China start looking at claiming Shikoku, their hackers are this minute attempting to hack into the website of Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation. They will want the know-how and the going ons. This is said not out of spite, though there is plenty of it, but cold-objective reasoning, knowing the past deeds of the CCP controlled China.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

cabadajeMar. 13, 2013 - 09:07AM JST

There's nothing particularly new or impressive about extracting methane hydrate from fire ice. The question has always been whether it can be done economically. Up until now, it hasn't been, so I am wondering about how they intend to collect it and bring it in.

And whether or not it can be done safely. A single wrong move can destabilize the field, releasing enough greenhouse gasses to double the effects of the last 50 years of CO2.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

At least the search for new ways to produce energy other than nuclear is on. This is a step in the right direction.

This has been going on for years, and it has cost quite a bit of money. The problem now lies with mass production and what the final cost to the consumer is. Cost vs worth......

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@ rickyvee - I've never heard anywhere that Korea is claiming senkaku. As for this find, does it burn much cleaner than other fossil fuels? A decade or so of use would be good - but after it runs out?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My first thought hearing about this was the same as many of the above comments. They should have kept that a national secret because now China will claim the seabed. Using a map from 1204AD. Great minds think alike.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

No matter how often we are informed that continuing to find and burn fossil fuels is leading to climate changes that will make the human prospect more tenuous, we persist in doing this sort of thing. Some have remarked on the possible exhaustion of current fuel reserves sometime late in this century as a limiting factor in the process, but our ingenuity seems perfectly capable of finding and producing more than enough of these substances to damage the planet in ways we can only begin to understand. Sensible people will recognize that we need to stop this process and reverse it as rapidly as possible, but it requires enough wisdom and foresight to actually do the long term planning and embrace the necessary changes (including higher energy costs during the transition period and a major expansion of nuclear power), so we continue to blunder ahead on the same path to really bad outcomes. Can the human race grow up and act responsibly in time to avert environmental Armageddon? Maybe, but we need to look past the siren call of instant gratification and commit to some minimal sacrifices in the name of generations yet unborn.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Northern Canadian waters abound with clatherites, Canadian Prime Minister Harper seeks Asian trade and economic ties now. U.S. Branch plants in Canada closing quickly, causing under and unemployment here. Quebec's northern shores have some too! Google and see.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No doubt China will now try and claim Shikoku as some part of Ancient China.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

couldn't agree more with sf2k. We are constantly bombarded by pleas to "save the earth" and "separate garbage" and "conserve energy". The plundering spirit is alive and kicking.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If they have found a bed with an estimated 1.1 trillion cubic meters of gas, I am willing to spot them sufficient quantity. I still want to know how they intend to mine it efficiently. It isn't about the physical collection as much as the economic viability of how they do it.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

and now you further understand why Korea and China are desperately trying to claim the Senkoku islands.

@cabadaje i don't think collection has been the issue. i think it's more of finding enough fire ice in one location to make it economically viable. the technology has been around to collect it for a while now.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

would probably be cheaper to put in hydrothermal tubes like Deep Lake Water Cooling in Toronto to handle all the air conditioning costs for any city along the ocean (which would be a lot of projects). Why continue to search for energy sources instead of just using the energy properties of the land water and air around you? Japan has the engineers, it just needs the will

1 ( +2 / -1 )

You can't get 100% of any fossil fuel find. What are the economics of this? Spending energy to get only equal or less back isn't worth the effort. So why does this find mean it's worth it? More data would be useful

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

At least the search for new ways to produce energy other than nuclear is on.

This is a step in the right direction.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

There's nothing particularly new or impressive about extracting methane hydrate from fire ice. The question has always been whether it can be done economically. Up until now, it hasn't been, so I am wondering about how they intend to collect it and bring it in.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

new age "gold" rush.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Japan should be thinking about purchasing natural gas from the U.S. Start replacing some of the nuclear power plants with clean burning natural gas. Yes, there will be a carbon cost, but it may provide Japan a buffer while shifting power plants over to solar and wind and tidal electrical power generation.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

...Nope, now China wants it.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Let's hope the "ocean floor off the coast of Shikoku" belongs to Japan.

13 ( +15 / -1 )

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