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Fire and Ice 19

Neter writes: "There is a story over at the CBC about wanting to solve the worlds long term energy problems with ICE."
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Fire and Ice

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    It sounds good but, what will the extraction process cost?

    Also, how does one pull an ice like solid out of a well? I picture trying to suck an ice cube through a straw. Hasn't worked for me, yet.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The artic is a VERY fragile eco system

    So fragile, in fact, that nothing lives there.
  • Indeed, I remember seeing an article in a recent Popular Science (I think it was PopSci, anyway), that there's significant quantity near the shores along the Gulf of Mexico. Of course, it ain't renewable, but...
  • There is a story over at the CBC about wanting to solve the worlds long term energy problems with ICE

    Yeah, well that's the headline, but if you read more than the first paragraph you realize that that's not at all what they're saying. They're trying to get at methane (natural gas) that happens to be locked in ice, but that (duh!) isn't itelf ice.

    It may be methane in a frozen state, but that is hardly the conventional meaning of the term "ice". This is a bit like saying $oil_company is trying to meet energy needs with dirt, because they're digging an oil rig that happenes to bore though dirt.

    The fact is, these methane deposits seems to exist along a lot of the world's continental shelves, but we haven't yet found a way to bring them to the surface. So these people happen to be going after one of these deposits that happens to be sitting in some arctic ice. Nifty, but not news, and certainly not news in the way this was written up.

    Nothin' says editorial integrity like a Slashdot writeup....

  • Isn't that a happy thought? Although supposedly according to 60 million year old air samples trapped in amber the amount of carbon in our atmosphere is approximate to that at the time of the dinosaurs. As I recall the theory is that this would mean the approximate level of warmth we could expect would equate to that of the mid Triassic.

    On the other hand, as has been pointed out methane is 250 times better than CO2 at trapping warmth. I wonder if scrubbing large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere (iron sulphate in the Antarctic oceans) would be able to balance warming, or would the release of all the methane clathrates put us over the top irregardless of CO2 PPM?

    What a gamble to make with an entire world ... :/
  • Yes, the methane is trapped within ice crystals -- it is not itself in ice form. Along the sea floor it is estimated that several hundred years' worth of methane fuel is trapped in clathrates, there is a real tricky question:

    How stable are the formations? If our mining practices introduce warmer water into the vicinity of the clathrates we could trigger a gas release, which would dump lots of methane into the atmosphere.

    Even if we don't mine them, proponents of global warming believe that even a slight warming of the ocean depths could release large quantities of methane, which would further increase warming.

    Because the Canadian clathrates are land-bound it may be possible to extract the gas they contain without causing a catastrophic release, but maybe we should just leave clathrates alone and dump some of the money we would spend on researching their exploitation on creating affordable, efficient solar-powered hydrogen-separation stations, an effective distribution system for liquid hydrogen, and engines that burn hydrogen safely and efficiently?

    I realize the technologies for exploiting methane are much more evolved, but to me increasing our reliance on any carbon-based fuel seems short-sighted.
  • Large-scale melting of clathrates as a result of too much warming could actually bring the greenhouse effect to such levels that it sustains itself, which means that even if we would then stop producing ALL of our own greenhouse gases, the warming would STILL continue as long as there is methane trapped somewhere ready to be released.

    If that happens, then we are screwed.
  • I wonder how much, if any research has been put into that. The artic is a VERY fragile eco system, so it would be prudent to study the possible effects of excevating the "ice" before doing so. But I didn't see a single reference to this in the article. Worrysome.
  • Fabulous. Just what the world needs. Another source of carbon based fossil fuels. Phil
  • "It's not exactly fossil... it's produced by micro-organisms, in 'realtime'. "

    Are you sure? It seemed to me that were suggesting mining ice which was quite deeply laid. As some of the ice fields takes 10's of 1000's of years to get from formation to the sea this would be "fossil". Or well not exactly fossil, but not exactly "real time" either. Phil

  • Heh heh, give me enough ice [], and I can solve all the worlds problems too.

    At least I think I can... for a while... and then I start to think it's all my fault... and I want the voices to stop...

  • by jayteedee ( 211241 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2001 @01:26PM (#202645)
    But a hydrate is (in this case) methane which happens to be surrounded by water molecules so it is indeed 'ice' surrounding the methane. You might consider it contaminated ice. Plus the article that was linked actually used ice in the title, so it isn't exactly a /. problem. This of course doesn't mean that FUD shouldn't be applied to /. titles in general. :)

    But to keep this on topic. If microbes are responsible for the formation of the methane, why isn't there a method to get the methane directly from the microbes work? There is plenty of organic waste available. That would seem to be the bigger story since melting the ice to get to the methane you have to pass through that nasty latent heat of fusion barrier. Or drag the ice to warmer climates.

  • Scientists have now descovered the benifits of frozen fire. The fire is frozen into 1 foot blocks and shipped to communities worldwide, where it is melted down and used as needed. Frozen fire saves energy. :)
  • To be fair, even in technical publications it would be refered to as methane ice, even water ice, or what have you. Usually if there is the possiblity of ambiguity in a technical circle that is squashed at the earliest opportunity. In the press for the larger public, however, uses ambiguity as a hook to pique peoples interest. You can't really blame anyone but the editors. And even then it's a tricky proposition, because they're right. There might be an argument in that slashdot, specifically, is a somewhat more technical audiance and so methane hydrates might actually be MORE interesting to it's members. Usually, unless everyone present for the discussion knows what the ice in question is, it will be specifically stated.

    But to bring this post back on track. I would say getting your hydrated methane from the tundra is fine. But I'm not so big on getting in from the continental shelf (Unless it's off NJ). Extreamly large landslides along the continental shelf are suspected to be related to releases of the hydrated methane. Sure, its barely a hypothesis at this point, but I would say the probability of a value sized tsunami would warrent a lot of investigation. Not to mention some atmospheric scientists think that huge releases of hydrated methanes (I think in the north sea) may have contributed greatly to createing a tropical earth before the last big iceage. A mistake in recovering this particular resource could prove quite devistating. As I understand it, it's the pressure that essentially traps the methane in the ice, and in the abscence of that you get liquid water and methane gas.

  • They've been dealing with hydrates for decades. They know how to drill it, how to pipe it, etc. The environmental impacts could be studied from the Siberian fields. One of the more interesting issues with hydrates is their instability. They can flash over into a gas pretty easily. In water, this causes your boat/rig to sink under the water. On land, I'd imagine it could be a bit more explosive.

    For the person who asked about using the microbes directly: we already do. If you live in a big city, your city already has a private company sucking up methane from those same microbes working away in our landfills.

  • with an auger (sp?) break it up into relative small dustlike powder, and then you've got the old screw-in-cylinder... hold the screw at constant height, and twist, and the powder comes to the top.
  • This stuff is apparently all over the place, and in vast quantities. As I recall, more than enough to replace oil (maybe even oil and coal). Many oceans have it not just the arctic. The problem is extraction, and people have been working on it for years.
  • While I agree with a lot of the sense of your complaints, I think you're being overly critical. Especially when you come down to this:
    It may be methane in a frozen state, but that is hardly the conventional meaning of the term "ice".
    When cometary scientists talk about "ice", they mean not only frozen water but also frozen methane, ammonia, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen cyanide... In some contexts "ice" is a term of art which has a somewhat different meaning from the common usage.
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  • by Spamalamadingdong ( 323207 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2001 @02:19PM (#202652) Homepage Journal
    If microbes are responsible for the formation of the methane, why isn't there a method to get the methane directly from the microbes work? There is plenty of organic waste available.
    There are several such methods. HOWEVER:
    1. Digesting organic waste (such as municipal garbage or crop stalks) only yields a relatively small amount of fuel.
    2. The amount of carbon currently inventoried in arctic permafrost and continental shelf sediments is thousands (millions?) of times as much as the annual turnover on farms.
    3. We wouldn't want to harvest the biomass of the arctic to digest it directly, because we'd disturb the ecosystem rather badly. Grabbing some methane that's only going to escape into the atmosphere anyway is much less of a disturbance.
    4. Methane is a greenhouse gas some 200 times as powerful as carbon dioxide, so harvesting and burning this methane for fuel may be better for the environment than letting it escape freely.
    5. We may have no choice about this, because warming already on the way is likely to free up a lot of methane currently trapped in hydrates; we can either let it give the warming trend an enormous push, or use this methane ourselves (and perhaps replace lots of coal and oil with it).
    That's just a few things off the top of my head.
    ... melting the ice to get to the methane you have to pass through that nasty latent heat of fusion barrier. Or drag the ice to warmer climates.
    Or just use warm surface water (continental-shelf hydrates) or heat pipes from the surface during the summer (arctic hydrates) to do it essentially for free.
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