Sadly, the EPA this week ruled CO2 a pollutant harmful to human life, so we may have some squabbling about production.
However, if developed, this source can be "carbon-neutral."
Methane hydrate cages "prefer" to have carbon dioxide at their cores, so if carbon dioxide is pumped into the hydrate, it spontaneously takes the
methane's place. As a result, it should be possible to simultaneously extract methane and store carbon dioxide.
According to Tim Collett of the United States Geological Survey, this could be a bridging fuel. The exchange process has been shown to work in the
lab. Pumping carbon dioxide into rock cores containing hydrate successfully released the methane, and stored the carbon dioxide.
The US Department of Energy is now working with ConocoPhillips on a field trial in Alaska to test whether the technique can be scaled up. The USGS
believes that the technique could make it possible to sequester CO2.
Natural gas normally contains a percentage of CO2, which under industry regulations must be pumped back into the gas wells when it is extracted.
The first CO2 to be utilized in this methodology would be the CO2 'cleaned' from raw natural gas produced in nearby wells. The CO2 sequestered in the
extraction of methane in ice will then be the stuff separated from conventional gas reservoirs.
Globally, there are over 1000 cubic meters of methane stored in hydrates which should be recoverable. Much of it is in sediments just below the sea
floor, or trapped under permafrost. Some of the best-studied reservoirs are in Alaska, and beneath the Gulf of Mexico and the Sea of Japan.
The deposits on the North Slope of Alaska are among the richest. A 2008 USGS study showed that there are 2.4 trillion cubic meters (85 trillion cubic
feet) of methane in hydrate form, which could be recovered using existing technology.
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