Why Canada Needs to Unlock the Unknowns of Its Icy Methane Reserves

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Why Canada Needs to Unlock the Unknowns of Its Icy Methane Reserves

Posted by Zoey Walden of Canadian Energy Research Institute
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Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - 4:30pm

It is often called “fire ice”:  Around the world, cage-like lattices of water molecules trap untold stores of methane gas.  Petroleum engineers have been familiar with these frozen compounds—properly known as methane hydrates—for years, because they block the flow of oil in pipelines. The effects of methane hydrates were highlighted in 2010, when British Petroleum’s attempts to halt the flow of oil after the Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico were complicated by the formation of methane hydrates that kept clogging pipes and valves.

Yet methane hydrates are potentially a cleaner burning, enormous energy resource, one that may contain enough natural gas to power the world for millennia and firmly secure the use of fossil fuels to meet energy demand. While study is under way to exploit this resource, little is understood about the effect of methane hydrates on climate or sea bed stability. Even their physical properties remain mysterious. (Vote and comment: “Can Natural Gas Be a Bridge to Clean Energy?“)

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Keywords: Energy | Canada | Energy | Environment | Great Energy Challenge | National Geographic | methane hydrates | natural gas

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