Energy - Fuel of the future?
Methane hydrate isn't a familiar term to most people, but it's gaining popularity in the energy sector. Researchers believe there may be enough of this resource, which is methane locked in ice-like crystals, to supply energy for perhaps hundreds of years. Methane hydrates, which form at low temperatures and high pressure, are found in sea floor sediments and the arctic permafrost. The question is whether the resource can be tapped economically without hurting the environment by releasing methane, a greenhouse gas. There is even some evidence that methane hydrates have released methane gas to the atmosphere via natural processes. Another immediate concern is whether methane hydrate deposits in the ocean floor sometimes destabilize, thus resulting in seafloor instability that damages oil and gas production platforms. Researchers at ORNL hope to answer some key scientific questions by using a new seafloor process simulator, which is the world's largest, most highly instrumented pressure vessel for methane hydrate studies.
November 01, 2000