Japan extracts ‘fire ice’ fuel from seabed

Japan extracts ‘fire ice’ fuel from seabed

10:42 AM, 13th March 2013
Japan extracts ‘fire ice’ fuel from seabed
Japan said that it had successfully extracted methane hydrate, known as ‘fire ice,’ from its seabed, possibly unlocking many years’ worth of gas for the resource-starved country.

TOKYO, JAPAN: Japan has successfully extracted methane hydrate, known as ‘fire ice,’ from its seabed. A consortium, led by Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation is drilling for the hydrate, a fossil fuel that looks like ice but consists of very densely-packed methane surrounded by water molecules. The solid white substance burns with a pale flame, leaving nothing but water. One cubic metre of it is estimated to contain many times the equivalent volume of methane in gas form.

According to trade and industry ministry official, it is the world’s first offshore experiment producing gas from methane hydrate. The team successfully collected methane gas extracted from the half-frozen substance.

Under the government-led project, the consortium is to separate methane, the primary component of natural gas, from the solid clathrate compound under the seabed using the high pressures available at depth. A huge layer of methane hydrate containing 1.1 trillion cubic metre (38.5 trillion cubic feet) in natural gas, equivalent to Japan’s consumption of the gas for 11 years, is believed to lie in the ocean floor off the coast of Shikoku island, western Japan, the government officials said.

The move comes as resource-poor Japan has struck out in search of new energy supplies after it shut down its stable of nuclear reactors in the wake of 2011’s tsunami-sparked nuclear crisis. This has meant energy costs have shot up for Japan as it has been forced to buy pricey fossil-fuel alternatives.

© The Economic Times News

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