China Developing “Combustible Ice” as New Energy Source  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Inhabitat has a post about a Chinese discovery of large amounts of methane hydrates on the Tibetan plateau - China Developing “Combustible Ice” as New Energy Source.

Last September, China discovered a large reserve of “combustible ice” on the tundra of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. “Combustible ice” is essentially frozen natural gas – a natural gas hydrate, and is one of the newest energy sources to be discovered. The new reserves found in China reveal a very large supply equal at least 35 billion tonnes of oil, enough to supply China with 90 years worth of energy.

Combustible ice has been found in high altitude frozen plateaus as well as underwater in marine sediments. Natural gas hydrates are essentially just frozen methane and water and can literally be lit on fire bringing a whole new meaning to fire and ice. Researchers still need to get a better understanding of how best to handle the fuel, for it to be commercially exploited. The US DOE is looking into it as well and researchers expect that the hydrate will have to go through a phase change and melt it into methane and water before it can be efficiently combusted. If left to melt on its own as the earth warms though, methane could be released into the atmosphere, and it could cause even more damage than if it were just burned.

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