Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Methane Clathrates (Hydrates) and More on BTL

Up to 2500 gigatonnes of methane clathrates exist frozen in deep sea sedimentary rock. That is roughly ten times more than known global reserves of natural gas. It may take some time to develop the safest and most efficient ways of mining this methane ice.
One problem with extracting this methane is that you have to melt the ice to bring the gas to the surface. In 2002, a team of geologists from Canada and Japan tried injecting hot water into the ice beneath the delta of the McKenzie river in northern Canada. While this released some hydrates, it used a lot of energy.

Now the same group has extracted methane much more efficiently, and without hot water, by pumping air out of drill holes in the frozen structures. This reduced the pressure, and so raised the melting temperature of the ice so the methane could be removed.

The state-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, which announced the test results, wants to extract the 7 trillion tonnes of methane thought to be trapped in hydrates in Japanese coastal waters. It hopes this will be the answer to Japan's century-long search for an indigenous source of fuel. Last month, the government approved a plan to commercialise the extraction of the fuel within a decade. __NS
And here is more about the University of Massachussetts' George Huber, and his campaign to make biomass to liquid fuels (BTL) a major player in the energy industry.
Using a catalyst commonly employed in the petroleum industry, Huber and his colleagues heated small amounts of cellulose very quickly for a matter of seconds before cooling it, producing a high-octane liquid similar to gasoline. “The temperature window is very critical,” Huber says. If you heat too slowly, you produce mainly coke—elemental carbon residue. If you heat too fast, you make mainly vapors. The sweet spot, about 1000 degrees per second, transfers roughly half the cellulose’s energy into hydrocarbons. “If we can get 100 percent yield, we estimate the cost to be about a dollar per gallon,” Huber says. “Right now we’re at 50 percent. Can we get 100 percent? I don’t know. Hopefully we’ll bump those numbers up.”
Finding better ways to exploit the plentiful energy sources around us, is a potentially lucrative challenge for industry--and a test for western governments. If the US Congress cannot break its fixation on the idea of returning the superpower to the stone age through idiotic energy policy, the US government will certainly fail the test.

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