Sunken Treasure Or Pandora's Box ?  

Posted by Big Gav

Another article on the quest to exploit methane hydrates.

Far beneath the shifting waves of the earth's oceans lie frozen crystals containing enough natural gas to meet the nation's growing energy needs for decades — maybe even centuries. It may sound far-fetched, but nations around the globe are racing to find and ultimately tap vast deposits of gas-bearing methane hydrate, an energy source that could dwarf the planet's remaining accessible oil, coal and natural gas reserves.

Roger Sassen, a gas hydrate geochemist at Texas A&M University, sees methane hydrates as the country's best shot at meeting its ravenous thirst for energy, particularly in the face of an ever-diminishing supply of oil and natural gas.

"It's the last chance," he said. "There is an awful lot of it out there, and unless it works there is going to be a problem. People are complaining about gas prices at $2 a gallon, but we may have to live with prices 10 times that high all of a sudden."

Unfortunately, no one is sure how to accurately find large accumulations of crystals, or safely and economically withdraw the gas from the depths - and some scientists are warning that a misstep in the pursuit of methane hydrate could lead to catastrophic consequences — ruining the ocean environment and speeding up global warming.

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