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China Power Technology

China Successfully Mines Gas From Methane Hydrate In Production Run (oilprice.com) 132

hackingbear writes from a report via OilPrice.com: In a world's first, China has successfully extracted gas from gas hydrates in production run in the northern part of the South China Sea. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), global estimates vary, but the energy content of methane in hydrates, also known as "fire ice" or "flammable ice," is "immense, possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels." But no methane production other than small-scale field experiments has been documented so far. The China Geographical Survey said that it managed to collect samples from the Shenhu area in the South China Sea in a test that started last Wednesday. Every day some 16,000 cubic meters (565,000 cubic feet) of gas, almost all of which was methane, were extracted from the test field, exceeding goals for production mining. This is expected to help cut down China's coal-induced pollution greatly and reduce reliance on politically sensitive petroleum imports controlled by the US. "The production of gas hydrate will play a significant role in upgrading China's energy mixture and securing its energy security," Minister of Land and Resources Jiang Daming said on Thursday.
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China Successfully Mines Gas From Methane Hydrate In Production Run

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  • Great.. Methane.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by erlando ( 88533 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @06:14AM (#54447347) Homepage
    What does it matter to cut down on carbon emissions if all you are doing is replacing them with methane?
    • Re:Great.. Methane.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by volodymyrbiryuk ( 4780959 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @06:29AM (#54447385)
      The CO2 emission per KW produced by burning coal is nearly twice as high as from methane. Not a final solution but still better than coal.
      • Re:Great.. Methane.. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @07:01AM (#54447467) Journal
        IIRC methane is a seriously nasty greenhouse gas. What are the effects of mining, treating and burning this gas? Negative because of extra nasty emissions, or positive because harvesting it this way means the methane as such never makes it into the atmosphere (which was / is a big worry for instance when this ice melts and the methane is released)
        • by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @07:23AM (#54447515) Homepage
          From what I've read on the Methane (CH4) vs. CO2, it's not at all clear cut. CH4 is indeed a far worse greenhouse gas than CO2 - figures of 20-30x the heat trapping potential are often mentioned - but lingers in the atmosphere for a much shorter span of time than CO2 as natural processes tend to remove it within a decade or so. An additional problem is that those natural processes might be in the process of being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of CH4 being introduced into the atmosphere, both from natural sources (about a third of the total) and human sources like transportation and intensive livestock farming.

          Getting back to the question at hand, whether it's better for the environment to burn the CH4 vs. something else, you'd need to take into account exactly what is getting released into the atmosphere for a given amount of energy output. There are already technologies in place to limit CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants, so if it's possible to do something similar for burning CH4, then there's no reason why it wouldn't be a much cleaner source of power than coal, GWh for GWh.
          • As I recall the primary process that removes methane from the atmosphere is light-catalyzed degradation into CO2 and water. At which point you're in exactly the same position as if you had burned it, except that you didn't get to harvest the energy, and got a bunch of years of methane-induced warming first.

          • Lingering? Methane tends to stay close to the ground. Think of all the auto's, trucks. furnaces, power plants, etc, etc, Taking in methane. One would think that we have to burn and recycle the troposphere pretty rapidly. The methane is burnt.
            • Methane tends to stay close to the ground.

              Why would it do that when it's considerably less dense than air?

              • Let's see, water vapor density is 0.804 and Methane is 0.769.. If you don't suck it in at ground level, the Jets will take care of the rest. Besides air circulates up and down as air cools and heats. It eventually gets taken out.
                • Last time I checked, water vapour wasn't even close to being the main component of the atmosphere.

                  • The main point I was showing was the weight of water vapor and methane are close.. They circulate, up and down with temperature in the troposphere. We even have downdrafts. We even have microbursts, capable of 170mph velocities.. Air moves.
          • From what I've read on the Methane (CH4) vs. CO2, it's not at all clear cut. CH4 is indeed a far worse greenhouse gas than CO2 - figures of 20-30x the heat trapping potential are often mentioned - but lingers in the atmosphere for a much shorter span of time than CO2 as natural processes tend to remove it within a decade or so.

            depends on where in the atmosphere, unfortunately. the chemical process by which the atmosphere oxidizes methane into CO2 is based on hydroxyl radicals created in the upper atmospher

          • "CH4 is indeed a far worse greenhouse gas than CO2 - figures of 20-30x the heat trapping potential are often mentioned "

            That's 20 the heat trapping potential when averaged over a century.

            Now factor in that it decays relatively rapidly upon release and realise that in the first decade the effect can be _100_ times as high as CO2.

            That's why things like the Laptev Sea methane plumes (which are located in about the worst possible location for such a thing to occur) should be terrifying people.

        • "IIRC methane is a seriously nasty greenhouse gas. "

          It also breaks down quickly in the atmosphere. CO2 sits there until it is absorbed or used by something.

        • Burning the methane changes the emissions to CO2. Less impactful greenhouse wise but far longer lasting. It's at best a stopgap measure.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Which is precisely why we might have to start collecting it from the ocean floor (at least in some areas). With global sea temperatures on the rise there have already been concerns raised that it might start releasing on its own, exacerbating climate change. Its not a good situation either way, but given the choice of mining the crap permanently locked up in the crust (oil/coal) or mining the stuff that is on the verge of gurgling its way into our atmosphere anyways I think the choice is obvious.

        • Given the choice between burning methane and burning coal, burn methane.

          Given the choice between burning methane and letting it bubble out ("Laptev Sea methane emissions"), burn methane

          Both choices must be temporary, whilst mankind embarks on a crash-plan buildout of nuclear power - with the best will in the world trying to do it with "renewables" simply isn't practical(*) or indeed possible(**). We may already be too late to prevent an anoxic oceanic event - which might sound like a good thing the way some

      • by erlando ( 88533 )
        Good point. Thank you.
      • Excellent answer. I see you are a thinker!
      • The CO2 emission per KW produced by burning coal is nearly twice as high as from methane. Not a final solution but still better than coal.

        Not to mention that coal contains other things, like arsenic, and burning coal generates a lot of (acidic) ash. Sure, some (most?) of that can be filtered out (for a price) but then you have all that material to deal with.

    • by blackpaw ( 240313 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @06:29AM (#54447389)

      Natural gas hydrate consists of methane locked in water crystals that also are called flammable ice. It is an enormous untapped energy source formed under high pressure and low temperatures in permafrost or under the sea. It is regarded as a clean energy option with high energy density and huge amounts of reserves. It releases less than half the amount of carbon dioxide when burned as do oil and coal, ministry officials said.

      It releases a lot less carbon than their existing coal fired plants and shit load less particulates, so a big improvement in that regard.

      I guess the danger is that it could slow their move to renewables.

      • I guess the danger is that it could slow their move to renewables.

        Also how much ecological damage does it's mining/extraction/refining do

        • Mining the sea isn't without ecological risks, either.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by ananamouse ( 943446 )
            They are not "mining the sea" in the way that brings up images of strip mining or even underground mining. They are drilling a regular normal oil well and performing the completion in the strata that contains a significant amount of hydrate in the pore network. Then they lower the pressure in the wellbore which lowers the pressure in the strata and then the hydrate disassociates into methane and water. The methane tries to come up the pipe. The water commits all sorts of passive aggression that water doe
        • Also how much ecological damage does it's mining/extraction/refining do

          It's strip mining the seabed, shaking everything up (to trigger depressurisation decomposition of the several % of hydrate in the mud), then dumping the debris behind the strip-mining tool.

          But because it's out of sight (kilometres below sea level), that attracts less attention than doing the same thing to (for example) Canadian forests.

      • "I guess the danger is that it could slow their move to renewables."

        It could, but the chinese in particular are investing in nuclear energy at levels unmatched by anyone at any period in history - and they're working hardest on _safe_ nuclear technology that the USA had working in the 1960s - then canned because it was almost impossible to weaponise.

        Renewables and gas are bridging technologies. They can't provide enough energy to meet overall demand and they still emit CO2 respectvely. Once you have commerc

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      Less smog-producing pollution.

      Same amount - or worse - of greenhouse gas effect at the end of the day.

    • by ebrandsberg ( 75344 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @07:03AM (#54447469)

      IANAS (I am not a scientist but) Methane Hydrate is rather unstable, and tends to off-gas when water warms. By harvesting the more easily accessible hydrate for the methane, it may help reduce the methane impact on global warming, as methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 is.

    • by GLMDesigns ( 2044134 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @08:42AM (#54447781)
      Guess now you know why the Kyoto and Paris Treaties are foolish and don't accomplish what environmentalists say they will. Why - because they exclude India and China.

      Not saying we ought not continue full speed ahead with carbon free alternatives - only say that the Treaties are worthless regarding the global environmental picture.
      • by mrvan ( 973822 )

        Paris agreement signed / ratified:

        CHINA 22 Apr 2016 3 Sep 2016
        INDIA* 22 Apr 2016 2 Oct 2016

        http://unfccc.int/paris_agreem... [unfccc.int]

        • Yes. They agreed to the treaty. Now the next question is - what are their obligations under the treaty and what are the US's obligations.

          The obligations are not the same. Those that get a huge advantage will obviously sign.

          Here's one example among many:

          Article 9: Section 1
          Developed country Parties shall provide financial resources to assist
          developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in
          continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention.
          http://unfccc.int/files/essent... [unfccc.int]

          Which are the developed countries?
          Which are the developing countries?
          What financial resources are they obligated to provide?

          Now try to find the nitty-gritty details. Now that's a bit*h to find.

          I'm certainly glad you're not my attorney.

      • India hasn't paid much attention to either, but China has - for a very simple reason - land elevation.

        If sea levels rise 7 metres, China's going to have to relocate around 400 million people. They're not looking forward to that and would prefer not to do so if t can be avoided - and unlike other governments the PRC has a large engineering base in its leadership who feel they can at least try to avert a disaster.

        India, Pakistan and Bangaladesh are already feelinging at the consequences of people being forced

    • The problem isn't coal, methane, natural gas; the problem is fossil fuels, of which coal and petroleum are composed. I've been under the impression that methane hydrates at the bottom of the ocean have been there a loooong time and so bringing them up into the atmosphere will contribute to global warming.
  • Just how many doomsday scenarios / Malthusian Apocalypses failing before people stop accepting them ? *

    *I have no doubt someone will always be screaming the end is nigh but you can hope for the bulk of humanity.

    • by fubarrr ( 884157 )

      China has more coal than the equivalent caloric value of all known uranium deposits. By the time the world will burn out all Uranium, Chinese will still have coal for many millenniums.

      • Uranium is stupidly expensive and a pain in the rear to refine and burn as a nuclear fuel. It's good for proving the cycle, but thorium is a better long-term fuel - and we have 50-500,000 years' supply of it.

        The best part is that thorium is pretty much going begging as rare earth mines can't give it away. There are hundreds of thousands of tons of the stuff already mined and ready to be used.

    • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @10:55AM (#54448485)

      We're already well past the point where the planet can safely absorb the byproducts of fossil fuel burning. So the Malthusian issues are just as severe as people have been saying all along.

      • Yeah, I mean really who wants to live on a greener more fertile planet

        https://www.nasa.gov/feature/g... [nasa.gov]

        • Similarly, 9/11 was great because the new World Trade Center building looks much more attractive than the blocky old towers.

          • Good analogy

            Oh wait Powering the civilization is in no way the same as terrorism. That's a lousy analogy.

            • The analogy is about being a myopic ignoramus and focusing on one tiny positive while ignoring a huge surrounding catastrophe. Since this is exactly what you did, the analogy is 100% spot-on.

              • You're saying the Industrial revolution was a tiny positive ?

                BTW Haansen and Mann(the teedle dee and dum of this) were predicting doom before congress going back to the 80s. Where is this huge catastrophe that's supposed to be here by now.

                • You're confusing yourself. The tiny positive you mentioned "more green plants".

                  The industrial revolution was in the past. We're talking about the future.

                  • You're confusing yourself. The tiny positive you mentioned "more green plants".

                    The industrial revolution was in the past. We're talking about the future.

                    Please if you are going to be ignorant try not to demonstrate it quite so forcefully.

                    Greening the planet is hardly a tiny positive if you are starving. The industrial revolution is ongoing and still being powered overwhelmingly by fossil fuels, Where and how do you think the computer you type this one was made ?

    • Okay I'll bite.

      If someone tells your that we are running out of (insert fossil fuel here), what they are most likely talking about is economically viable (insert fossil fuel here) not absolute values. This planet has a ton of trapped energy, it's just ridiculous to think of the sheer amount of energy that has been stored in this planet over it's billions of years of existence. It's a ton of flipping energy and unless something significantly changes about how human's exist, there's just no hope in us ever

      • If someone tells your that we are running out of (insert fossil fuel here), what they are most likely talking about is economically viable (insert fossil fuel here) not absolute values.

        Your post overall isn't bad. It's considerably better than the stuff that comes from people that mod anything that challenges their preconceptions down so let me ask

        Just when have you heard anyone not frame fuel exhaustion in anything but apocalyptic terms ? It's overwhelmingly the case.

        I don't even want to talk about just ho

  • by AndyKron ( 937105 )
    That's great. Too bad China is a shit hole when it comes to human rights.
  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @07:17AM (#54447499)

    I am beginning to get concerned that a sizable number of innovations are coming from the "East." Not much from the "West" these days. I am afraid that we may become inconsequential in the next few decades.

    Think...

    High speed trains; latest mobile technologies; the public transit system in New York is [several] decades behind that in Shanghai; the Chinese recently flew their own manufactured passenger plane and have the AG600 - the world's largest amphibious aircraft.

    But I am sure we can catch up if we dedicate resources appropriately.

    • Because we don't do science anymore, and technology only after every imaginable pressure group has been satisfied. The California high speed rail uses tech that is off-the-shelf in Europe and Asia.

    • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @08:13AM (#54447669) Homepage

      Last I checked, the Shanghai Maglev was German technology. But other than that, yes, anytime you empower a nation to build because they're the lowest cost supplier that can actually do the job in numbers, you will get an economic boom there. Eventually they become self-sufficient where they too start competing in high tech industries with the rest of the developed world. So the transition from a developing nation to one that is developed is a natural progression. It happened with the Roman Empire, spanning to Europe, across the Atlantic to the America, now back to China, and soon Africa. Now, it's important to note that having a functional government is key here. Pure anarchy and pure totalitarianism are far too extreme to be conducive to mass economic output.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Relax. East is west and west is east. The world's a sphere, after all.

      US (and EU) have specialized, since long, on financial scams and Ponzi schemes. And a bit of worthless Intellectual Poverty.

      Enjoy the scammer's next-to-last show, called "Make Foo Great Again" while it lasts. I'm hoping it takes a few of those scammers down in the last show, so we'll have something nice to watch.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19, 2017 @07:50AM (#54447561)

    they're mining Manganese Nodules from the sea floor like we did (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GSF_Explorer). There's more going on here folks.

  • Methane released unburned by itself, not only turns the world's temperature up. It does it on steroids! Burning methane does add carbon to the atmosphere; but it's a closed loop. (Every full grown tree absorbs 40 LBS of carbon a year.) Since the ice is going to melt anyways because of our stupidity with fossil fuels. Taking the burning option will slow things down. Because if we don't the ice will melt under the polar caps and be released in one big burp - jumping the world average temperature level to hei
  • It never fails. I read an interesting article, then scan the comments for some insight from people who know far more than I do about the subject, and it doesn't take long for all of it to devolve into heated name-calling, because a bunch of grown children can't disagree politely.
  • This is what happens. You get CO2 and water vapor. [elmhurst.edu]

    Much better solution as you're outputting far less CO2 versus burning coal.

  • Sure, CO2 emission reduction is highly desirable now. But since methane has more greenhouse effect than CO2, and since climate warming sets underwater methane hydrate deposits free, it is better to capture and burn it rather than leave it escape to the atmosphere.
  • Every day some 16,000 cubic meters (565,000 cubic feet) of gas, almost all of which was methane, were extracted from the test field, exceeding goals for production mining.

    If that were a conventional gas well onshore, it would be pretty marginal for commercial viability - it would all depend on the availability of infrastructure to get it to market. For a well in deep water (it must be deep to have a low enough seabed temperature for methane hydrates to be stable), it would be an economic failure, because

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