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Natural gas sourced from permafrost and icy ocean depths could make for risky drilling

by AirTalk

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An oil drilling platform in the Santa Barbara Channel. Could methane hydrate be what's drilled for next as we continue to search for alternative energy sources? Mike Baird/Flickr

Scientists in the U.S. and Japan are moving closer to utilizing a new form of energy called methane hydrate, a crystallized form of natural gas found at the bottom of the ocean. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, methane hydrate garnered its nickname “fire in ice” because it gives off tremendous heat at room temperature.

According to scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, there is an estimated 700,000 trillion cubic feet of methane hydrate across the world, containing potentially more energy than discovered oil and gas combined. But the actual production of this potential energy source could take a decade, and no single approach to harvest the gas has been perfected.

In the U.S, scientists searched the Gulf of Mexico to map out methane hydrate cultures believed to be underwater, but more tests and research drilling need to be done to confirm. There are concerns that methane hydrate is unstable, and drilling it could set off a landslide. Others worry there isn’t a way to make it economically viable. The cost of developing new energy can cost up to $60 per million British thermal units, while for natural gas, its just $4 per BTU.

How viable is methane hydrate as an energy source? What are the risks in production? How crucial is it to develop a new form of energy?

Ben Lefebvre, Energy Reporter, Wall Street Journal

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