Ice that burns may provide clean, sustainable energy in future

March 24th, 2009 - 12:41 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, March 24 (ANI): Researchers have reported that gas hydrates, known as ice that burns, which is derived from chunks of ice that workers collect from beneath the ocean floor, show increasing promise as an abundant, untapped source of clean, sustainable energy for the future.

These so-called gas hydrates, a frozen form of natural gas that bursts into flames at the touch of a match, may one day may fuel cars, heat homes, and power factories.

The icy chunks could supplement traditional energy sources that are in short supply and which produce large amounts of carbon dioxide linked to global warming, according to the scientists.

These gas hydrates could serve as a bridge to our energy future until cleaner fuel sources, such as hydrogen and solar energy, are more fully realized, said study co-leader Tim Collett, a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Denver, Colorado.

Ice that burns, holds special promise for helping to combat global warming by leaving a smaller carbon dioxide footprint than other fossil fuels, Collett and colleagues note.

Last November, a team of USGS researchers that included Collett announced a giant step toward that bridge to the future.

In a landmark study, the USGS scientists estimated that 85.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could potentially be extracted from gas hydrates in Alaskas North Slope region, enough to heat more than 100 million average homes for more than a decade.

Its definitely a vast storehouse of energy. But, it is still unknown how much of this volume can actually be produced on an industrial scale, Collett said.

That volume depends on the ability of scientists to extract useful methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, from gas hydrate formations in an efficient and cost-effective manner, he added.
Scientists worldwide are now doing research on gas hydrates in order to understand how this strange material forms and how it might be used to supplement coal, oil, and traditional natural gas.

Although scientists have known about gas hydrates for decades, they”ve only recently begun to try to use them as an alternative energy source.

Gas hydrates, also known as clathrates, form when methane gas from the decomposition of organic material comes into contact with water at low temperatures and high pressures.

Those cold, high-pressure conditions exist deep below the oceans and underground on land in certain parts of the world, including the ocean floor and permafrost areas of the Arctic.

Today, researchers are finding tremendous stores of gas hydrates throughout the world, including United States, India, and Japan. (ANI)

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