Gas-rich ice is super source of fuel: Canadian experts

July 9th, 2008 - 11:14 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, July 8 (IANS) As global fuel prices skyrocket, Canadian experts claim to have found a new source of natural gas that could outlast other conventional sources of fossil fuels. According to a report by the Council of Canadian academies, Canada has abundance of gas-rich ice buried deep beneath its Arctic permafrost and underlying coasts.

Called gas or methane hydrates, the council said, these new sources of gas are formed under conditions of high pressure and low temperature when water combines with natural gas (largely methane) to form an ice-like solid substance in regions of permafrost and in sub-sea floor sediments.

The natural gas can be extracted from these gas hydrates by inserting pipes about 1,000 metres into the permafrost and then lowering pressure so that the gas dissociates itself from the hydrate and flows up the pipe.

“Gas hydrates exist in abundance worldwide. Some estimates suggest that the total amount of natural gas bound in hydrate form may exceed all conventional gas resources, or even the amount of all hydrocarbon energy - coal, oil and natural gas combined,” the council said in a statement.

If natural gas is harnessed from gas hydrates in the Arctic permafrost and underlying coasts, the council said, Canada could become a global leader in natural gas.

“Canada is well positioned to be a global leader in exploration, research and development, and eventual production of natural gas from gas hydrate.

“However, given the need for further research to better quantify the large Canadian gas hydrate resource and the economic, environmental and technical uncertainties involved, commercial production is not likely to take place (within Canada) for at least two decades,” the council said.

John Grace, who headed the 13-member exploratory panel of experts, said: “The panel has focused on identifying and assessing the science and technology needs for the production of natural gas from gas hydrate in Canada, and analyzing the potential jurisdictional, community impact, safety and environmental issues.”

He said Canada has the world’s most favourable conditions for the occurrence of gas hydrate on its continental margins and under Arctic permafrost.

The profitability of extracting natural gas from gas hydrate, he said, will depend on development of efficient technologies.

According to him, the natural gas extracted from gas hydrate would produce less carbon dioxide per unit of energy than coal or oil.

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