D H
Jul 7 · Last update 2 mo. ago.

Will methane ice save Japan from an energy crisis?

Japan is facing an energy crisis, nuclear power has fallen out of favour since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, and Japan has since become the world’s third largest importer of coal, as coal and natural gas have bridged the country's energy needs when stepping away from nuclear. But Japan has some of the largest reserves of methane ice (methane clathrate or methane hydrate), huge amount of methane condensed within crystalline water structures deep within the sedimentary outcrops just off the Japanese coastline. Experiments in 2002 and 2008 first extracted natural gas from the methane ice reserves, and in 2013 the state-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) announced their successful extraction of natural gas from frozen methane clathrate. Further breakthroughs were announced by both China and Japan in 2013, however the technology to extract enough methane from deep-sea reserves remain in their early stages and far from level of being enough for export or Japan's energy needs. Is this technology economically viable? Is Japan right to gamble on methane hydrate technology for its future energy security? Can methane ice save Japan from an energy crisis? eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=39853
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China might beat Japan to it
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Japan has to go carbon neutral
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China might beat Japan to it

Japan is not the only nation pushing to mine methane ice, China has been a research partner to Japan in the push to make methane ice a commercial viability. Arguably China has a much larger economy than Japan, and with huge pollution problems China, they may be willing to go the extra mile to secure this resource. According to Associate Professor Praveen Linga, from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Singapore, China has already taken the lead in this regard; "compared with the results we have seen from Japanese research, the Chinese scientists have managed to extract much more gas in their efforts" [1]. China's methane ice research raises some concerns over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, for China and the world methane ice could massively lower Chinese pollution but also holds potential complicate geopolitical tensions and climate change.

nationalpost.com/news/world/china-japan-extracts-combustible-ice-from-seafloor-a-step-towards-harnessing-a-legendary-frozen-fossil-fuel [1] bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-39971667 forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2017/05/25/this-discovery-by-china-will-cast-a-chill-over-asias-big-maritime-dispute/?sh=1f7098185ac7 sciencealert.com/china-has-just-tapped-into-natural-gas-found-in-flammable-ice

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D H
Jul 13
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No

Methane clathrate is highly unstable, highly flammable, highly sensitive to pressure and temperature, and extracting it will damage fragile deepwater ecosystems. The mining technology is also far from there, mining methane clathrate is far more difficult than current mining techniques can cope with, and deep sea mining is clearly not the safest form of energy utilisation, just look at the recent ocean gas fire in Mexico. Offshore drilling is dirty and dangerous and something will eventually go wrong, but with methane clathrate the dangers are much more extreme, methane clathrate is the most abundant source of carbon on the earth, containing more carbon than all other fossil fuels. This sort of mining could lead to far more destructive accidents, or even unforeseen releases of methane that could massively worsen the climate crisis.

world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Viewpoint-Japan-needs-nuclear-power-to-reduce-its youtube.com/watch?v=BYcgcUmVJ60 itv.com/news/2021-07-03/fire-erupts-in-gulf-of-mexico-after-undersea-gas-pipeline-ruptures

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D H
Jul 8
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Yes

Japan could go from a country with the fewest resources in the world, to a country that can meet its own energy needs for over a century, but that depends on methane hydrate. Traditional mining of methane hydrate includes drilling around 100m below the seabed at depths of around 1000m at hugely high costs, which are presently not commercially viable. But companies such as Mitsubishi and Modec are now working on extractor sea vessels that can drill deeper into the seabed nearer the seashore, but these extraction methods still need to be more efficient to make be economically viable, lowering the cost to just 20 yen per cubic meter. Japan is not only gambling on natural gas from the push to extract methane hydrate, but to also continue leading the world in clean-burning hydrogen technology, methane hydrate can be further processed into hydrogen that burns clean and doesn’t add carbon to the atmosphere. Methane hydrate research could actually help Japan reach carbon neutrality.

ft.com/content/00da0f28-0179-4526-a1e1-de792f420cb9 nationalpost.com/news/world/china-japan-extracts-combustible-ice-from-seafloor-a-step-towards-harnessing-a-legendary-frozen-fossil-fuel asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Environment/Climate-Change/Japan-eyes-undersea-fire-ice-as-source-of-clean-burning-hydrogen

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D H
Jul 8
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DH edited this paragraph
Japan could go from a country with the fewest resources in the world, to a country that can meet its own energy needs for over a century, but that depends on methane hydrate. Traditional mining of methane hydrate includes drilling around 100m below the seabed at depths of around 1000m at hugely high costs, which are presently not commercially viable. But companies such as Mitsubishi and Modec are now working on extractor sea vessels that can drill deeper into the seabed nearer the seashore, but these extraction methods still need to be more efficient to make be economically viable, lowering the cost to just 20 yen per cubic meter. Japan is not only gambling on natural gas from the push to extract methane hydrate, but to also continue leading the world in clean-burning hydrogen technology, methane hydrate can be further processed into hydrogen that burns clean and doesn’t add carbon to the atmosphere. Methane hydrate research could actually help Japan reach carbon neutrality.

Japan has to go carbon neutral

Despite Japan's tentative energy situation the Suga administration is sending a mixed message spending so much on researching methane hydrate after vowing to reach zero emissions by just 2050. The technology for extracting fuel from methane hydrate will not be ready for at least a decade, but even though its cleaner than coal, as a fuel methane is a greenhouse gas that that 25 times more damaging to the environment than CO2. In fact some scientists believe gaseous releases from methane clathrate in the oceans may have been behind run away historic climate change, and possibly even major climate change, such as the Paleocene Thermal Maximum, or extinction events, such as the Permian-Triassic extinction event. Exporting methane hydrate or extracting natural gas from it would just be massively damaging to the atmosphere and worsen global warming, making any zero emission pledge ring hollow.

weforum.org/agenda/2021/01/japan-climate-change-carbon-neutral-2050 asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Suga-vows-to-meet-Japan-s-zero-emissions-goal-by-2050

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D H
Jul 7
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