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Power Science

Burning Ice Drilled from Alaska's Slope 233

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the snowballs-that-pack-a-punch dept.
bagboy writes to tell us that as sources of renewable energy are being sought, BP has announced a new method of extracting natural gas from ice underneath Alaska's North Slope drilling fields. "Scientists with the federal Energy Department paid $4.6 million to drill for the hot ice just below the surface of the Milne Point well, which is situated northwest of Prudhoe Bay. [...] Now, scientists from around the world are waiting for pieces of this strange ice to conduct their own tests and determine whether Alaska's frozen grounds contain untapped, clean-burning energy."
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Burning Ice Drilled from Alaska's Slope

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  • by TodMinuit (1026042) <todminuitNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @05:04PM (#18101814)
    Now, scientists from around the world are waiting for pieces of this strange ice to conduct their own tests and determine whether Alaska's frozen grounds contain untapped, clean-burning energy.

    Clean-burning? Sure. But at $4.6 million a gallon, I'll stick with oil.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by linkedlinked (1001508)

      Clean-burning? Sure. But at $4.6 million a gallon, I'll stick with oil.
      Which, coincidentally, can also be found under Alaska.
      • by flyingsquid (813711) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @05:50PM (#18102334)
        At any rate, it's not as if there's a shortage of natural gas in Alaska. There are vast quantities in the Prudhoe Bay fields; the problem is that without a gas pipeline, there is no way to get it out of Alaska and to market. There is a lot of interest in building a pipeline, but you can imagine the various considerations- environmental impacts, terrorism threats, negotiating terms with the Canadians and Native American peoples in order to cross their land, what cut the state gets of the revenues- so it's not happening immediately. However, it will eventually happen if energy demands keep growing the way they have been.
    • by johnny maxwell (1050822) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @06:03PM (#18102488)

      clean-burning...
      It should be emphasized that methane (and it is methane ice we are talking about) burns clean in that it produces but CO2 and water. However, being a fossil fuel it is dirty in the sense of CO2 emissions.
      • clean-burning...
        It should be emphasized that methane (and it is methane ice we are talking about) burns clean in that it produces but CO2 and water. However, being a fossil fuel it is dirty in the sense of CO2 emissions.

        While when methane is burned it emits CO2, methane itself is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. If because of global warming the methane trapped under ice is released it will have more of am impact on temperatures than the CO2 buring it produces will. This is a growing conc

  • by bhmit1 (2270) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @05:06PM (#18101832) Homepage
    a snowball's chance in hell of ever working.
  • chemical reaction (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zyzzx0 (935520)
    if memory serves correctly, natural gas = CH4
    so the chem reaction:
    CH4 + 2O2 -> CO2 + 2H2O

    Seems like a lot of CO2 for being such a clean energy source.... but what the hell do i know?
    • Re:chemical reaction (Score:5, Informative)

      by pz (113803) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @05:18PM (#18102006) Journal
      Clean burning fuel has nothing to do with C02, but everything to do with nitrogen and sulfer compounds, often call NOx and SOx ("x" because the number of oxygen atoms varies depending on the species). Those two classes of compounds are responsible for smog, acid rain, and, in part, the ozone layer depletion. Given the choice between burning, say, coal, which produces an excess of NOx and SOx, and methane which produce only traces of same when properly combusted, I'll take the methane, thank-you-very-much.
      • There folks in Pennsylvania that will tell you that they have clean burning coal. And compared to what is coming our of a number of mines in China, they are correct. Of course, the west tells you that we have the clean burning coal. And compared to the east coast, it is. Now the methane folks say that they are clean burning, and compared to coal, they are. But The only true clean buring is pure hydrogen. And I would not be surprised that down the road somebody will show that there is a side reaction that oc
        • by dbIII (701233)
          It's better coal in China but they are using it in some places without the sort of pollution controls you would need in Pennsylvania - so they get more NOx, SOx and dust, hence smog and acid rain.

          As for hydrogen - the problem is how to get it more eaily than using hydrocarbons without some fourth generation nuclear plant we don't have a clue how to make yet. For now natural gas (which isn't all methane) and methane looks good and it makes more sense to me to use that to burn or in your fuel cell instead of

      • by belg4mit (152620)
        True, though you should note that NOx are largely dependent upon combustion conditions
        and not so much fuel source; fuel + air (80% N2) at several thousand degrees = NOx.
        Luckily, that provides us with a reason to mobilize lots of platinum and rhodium.
      • by LoRdTAW (99712)
        The problem with NOx is that it is formed from excess oxygen and the ~78% nitrogen in the air during the combustion process. So even hydrogen and methane will produce NOx as a side effect when burned. Thats why exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) was invented for internal combustion engines. SOx and NOx was a big issue with the new 2007 diesel emissions. The answer was low sulfur fuel, aggressive EGR along with diesel particulate filters. Methane and hydrogen will eliminate sulfur emissions but not NOx unless w
    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @05:20PM (#18102030) Homepage
      Well, "clean" and "environmentally friendly" aren't always the same... Methane burns cleanly, pretty much as cleanly as combustion can possibly get. "Clean" here is implying "without partial combustion byproducts that result from burning gasoline, diesel, biodiesel, wood, or pretty much any other organic substance". So in the sense of what we traditionally think of as pollutants, the noxious fumes that come from your car's tail pipe, it's clean. Is it going to reduce greenhouse gasses? Well, not so much.

      So it turns out that this particular find is not a solution for global warming. Yet if we are going to continue burning organic materials for energy, and we assuredly are for the next decade at least, then I'd rather it be a "clean" burning hydrocarbon.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Is it going to reduce greenhouse gasses? Well, not so much.

        Except that CH4 is far worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Burning methane, especially in a system that cools the exhaust to capture liquid water, is actually better than releasing it into the atmosphere as is. "When averaged over 100 years each kg of CH4 warms the Earth 23 times as much as the same mass of CO2" - wikipedia.

        Given the rate that polar ice is already melting, the sooner this technology is used commercially, the better.

    • Re:chemical reaction (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @06:17PM (#18102680) Journal
      In hydrocarbons burning the hydrogen provides most of the energy. Burning the carbon provides some, but the carbon is mainly useful for packing the hydrogen in a form more dense than H2 gas for convenient storage and handling.

      As hydrocarbons go, CH4 has a higher ratio of hydrogen to carbon than any other molecule: Every bond on every carbon holds a hydrogen, none are "wasted" connecting to other carbons.

      So if you're going to burn hydrocarbons for energy, methane releases the least CO2 for a given amount of energy produced.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
      Burning it is better than letting the methane itself become a greehouse gas. IIRC, methane about 130x times worse than CO2 in terms of greenhouse gas potential. A lot of this stuff is naturally just bubbling out of the ocean floor. Our cattle are making some too, but I don't know if it's significant compared to other sources.
    • if memory serves correctly, natural gas = CH4
      so the chem reaction:
      CH4 + 2O2 -> CO2 + 2H2O

      Seems like a lot of CO2 for being such a clean energy source.... but what the hell do i know?

      Ah but methane is much more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2 is Methane is 30 tymes [rcn.com] more effective according to this webpage as a greenhouse gas. However according to New Scientist [newscientist.com] methane is 21 tymes more effective. One tonne of methane has the same warming effect as 21 tonnes of CO2. [newscientist.com] So it's better to burn

  • by ArcherB (796902) * on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @05:09PM (#18101894) Journal
    Scientists with the federal Energy Department paid $4.6 million to drill for the hot ice just below the surface of the Milne Point well, which is situated northwest of Prudhoe Bay

    I guess Prudhoe Bay is OK. As long as it's not in ANWR a few hundred miles away. I guess there is no wildlife at Prudhoe Bay.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      I guess Prudhoe Bay is OK. As long as it's not in ANWR a few hundred miles away. I guess there is no wildlife at Prudhoe Bay.

      So, it's ok to paint grafitti on the Washington Monument because the Lincoln Memorial is right there. Or are you saying that, given equal resources under an unremarkable farm in Iowa and under Old Faithful geyser, you might as well dig up Old Faithful because there are other geysers around?

      One area is a National Fucking Wildlife Reserve and the other is not. Do you not understand
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @05:09PM (#18101900)
    There are tons and tons of the stuff at the bottom of the oceans. It's called methane clathrate [wikipedia.org] and I'm sure it'd be easier to extract than ice.
    • by MaineCoon (12585) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @05:16PM (#18101988) Homepage
      Clathrates are exactly what the article is talking about, without using the word - methane trapped within the structure of water ice.

      Better to burn it before it melts on it's own from global warming (if there is any possibility of that). Methane is something like 23x worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas by mass.
    • by ArcherB (796902) *
      Why ruin Alaska for natural gas?

      We are already drilling at Prudhoe Bay. Are you implying that the drilling there has done no damage? The why not drill at ANWR?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jartan (219704)
      Why ruin Alaska for natural gas?

      They're trying to remove the snow. I know you've been in an igloo all your life and this probably seems frightening but trust us, it's going to be OK.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Chris Burke (6130)
        I know you've been in an igloo all your life and this probably seems frightening but trust us, it's going to be OK.

        Oh yeah, I should just trust you. That's exactly what the doctor said when he wanted me to leave the womb, and I've regretted that decision ever since. I'm not falling for it again!
  • not renewable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by polar red (215081) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @05:11PM (#18101924)
    This is certainly not renewable.
  • Clean burning energy? Only if the burning bit is our whole planet. [energybulletin.net]
  • by gardyloo (512791) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @05:22PM (#18102044)
    ... just remember that if you mod something "flamebait" in the threads for this particular submission, they should automatically also be modded "insightful".

  • by iamacat (583406)
    This is a step in the wrong direction - burning this natural gas will still produce greenhouse effect, causing all this ice to really become hot sooner than we would prefer. Even burning fast-growing wood would be more ecologically friendly.
  • by DumbSwede (521261) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @05:57PM (#18102408) Homepage Journal
    Coming on the heals of this article Fuel Tanks Made of Corncob Waste [slashdot.org], this could be quite serendipitous.

    They use lots of Natural Gas for taxis in China. I asked a driver about it, he claimed it to be about half the cost per mile compared to gasoline. Seeing how the tank dominated the trunk of these taxis, I suspect it could rupture in a rear end collision. I doubt these particular taxis would be permitted on American roads, but perhaps the new "Corncob Waste" tanks will make them smaller, safer, and economical for American use.

    While methane releases CO2, it still decreases our reliance on foreign oil sources. I think de-funding terrorism is higher on most Americans to-do lists than stopping Global Warming. You can argue whether these priorities are out of wack, but I'm sure this is the way most will see it.

    I personally think we Should drill for oil in Alaska as well as pursuing these other cleaner sources of energy. Failing to do so will only result in more reliance on Coal and even worse ecological damage as we rip up the Earth for Tar Sand and Oil Shale. Oil is a passing fad. We will have fusion someday, but for now we have little choice but to use what is at hand. This isn't to say conservation is not good also, just that some conservation measures fail the unintended consequences test. The DOE has an over 20 billion dollar year budget, the world barely can scrape together 15 billion over a 10 or 15 year time span for ITER. If we through 5 billion a year at it, I bet we'd have commercial fusion up and running in under 10.
    • by vandan (151516)

      I think de-funding terrorism is higher on most Americans to-do lists than stopping Global Warming.

      This statement carries the assumption that the main global terrorists are foreign powers with oil. They're not. They're US powers with oil. The foreign ones come a distant 2nd. They exist, sure, but they exist because of US terrorism and foreign policy, not in spite of it. But I agree with the sentiment that 'they' need to be de-funded.

      The DOE has an over 20 billion dollar year budget

      That's a drop in the

    • While methane releases CO2, it still decreases our reliance on foreign oil sources. I think de-funding terrorism is higher on most Americans to-do lists than stopping Global Warming. You can argue whether these priorities are out of wack, but I'm sure this is the way most will see it.

      However that overlooks the fact that many care about global warming and some of them may feel justified in becoming a freedom fighter/terrorist striking against the US because it is the major emitter of greenhouse gases.

  • Remember the old ice bullets? Just imagine tanks firing flaming snowballs! They might not do much damage but they're likely to scare the hell out of the enemy. Just dress our troops in red suits with horns and they'd think they were fighting the devil himself with a legion of demons.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @06:05PM (#18102518) Homepage
    Those three words come up in searches revealing some interesting, if not bizarre porn...
  • by DuckWizard (744428) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @06:21PM (#18102726) Homepage
    When you take energy that has been stored for millions of years (such as oil or methane in the ground) and burn it, you are releasing its energy (which has been out of circulation for a while) as heat into the atmosphere. Do some calculations and see that since we started burning oil, we've unleashed a disturbing amount of energy into the atmosphere - enough to cause some global warming on its own without even considering the greenhouse effect.

    It's like printing an enormous amount of new currency. Sure, you can spend it, but there are consequences to releasing that much new currency into the economy.
  • Sweet! (Score:5, Funny)

    by DigitAl56K (805623) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @06:33PM (#18102860)
    So now instead of burning fuel which causes global warming and in turn melts the ice, we'll have cleaner fuel which doesn't melt the ice, and all we have to do is melt the ice to get it!

    I love it when a plan comes together.
  • by radtea (464814) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @07:37PM (#18103500)
    Sigh.

    It would be nice to see a science article linked on /. whose author or editor does not feel it necessary to include outright falsehoods.

    Clathrates have been known about for a long time. Extracting them economically is an interesting interim move to extend the natural gas supply. Here's a nice summary of the potential and problems with this fossil-fuel energy source [energycommission.org], in which the authors somehow manage to convey information and not wilfully and deliberately mislead their readers.
  • FTFA

    BP says it new this form of methane was under the tundra all along.

    Sean Doogan the author of this article is certaintly qualified to be a Slash editor...
  • Am I the only one that saw "hot ice" and thought "ice-nine"? .... ah-whoom.
  • We really need to take some of our melting ice caps and burn them so we can melt more of our ice caps away.

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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