CO2 Emissions

Published on March 30th, 2009 | by Andrew Williams

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US Scientists Say Burning Ice Could Provide Green Power

March 30th, 2009 by  


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US Scientists have revealed how natural gas locked up in frozen water crystals could provide massive amounts of energy, and claim that it could even be totally emissions-free.

The astonishing claim was made by Tim Collett of the United States Geological Survey at last weeks national meeting of the American Chemical Society. Collett told the gathering that, to the naked eye, clathrate hydrate (CH) looks like everyday ice but, as well as being partly made of water, the molecules are also organised into “cages”, which trap individual molecules of methane.

Remarkably, a new method of extracting the methane and ‘swapping’ it with carbon dioxide could turn the substance into a revolutionary carbon-neutral fossil fuel.

The US Department of Energy is now working with the oil company ConocoPhillips on a field trial in Alaska (pdf), to test whether the technique can be scaled up.

According to Ray Boswell of the US National Energy Technology Laboratory, “A lot of countries are getting very serious about this. Something that used to be more hype than reality is becoming something people are seriously talking about.”

However, the technique is not without its critics, Neil Crumpton of Friends of the Earth said, “It’s a technology we think is best avoided. The US should be focusing its efforts on concentrated solar power in its southwestern deserts.”

Via New Scientist

Image Credit – jurvetson via flickr






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About the Author

is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.



  • mog

    Seriously, we’ve known we were at the end of the cheap oil era for decades. We were warned that we would become dependent on foreign oil, we continued to use it as fast as we could.

    Heavy crude tankers gave way to Ultra Heavies, burning barrels of bunker fuel per hour. [See the article on container shipping and pollution; consider the quantity of oil burned to import more oil.]

    We had a gas crisis, we imported more foreign cars. The gas crisis went away, diesel cars in the US went away, and even the foreign cars got bigger. Remember the CVCC,the CRX and the Geo Metro? I know the new cars are more efficient, but if they had remained that small WITH modern efficiency gains, imagine what we could have.

    You are screaming at the sky to suggest that people in the US stop buying vehicles designed to intimidate other drivers. The very violence of your passion on this issue shows why we buy them. Forceful, convinced of your own superiority [everyone else is wrong] and angry about it. Shove those idiots out of your way in your three-ton Diesel Silverado!

    Might as well suggest bringing back the 55mph speed limit and enforcing it strictly. It could have worked the first time, but everybody broke the law and got away with it.

    I grew up in cattle country, we always ate range-fed beef from cattle that wandered the semi-arid [almost desert] grasslands of eastern Montana and generally took care of themselves. Feedlot finishing cows is stupid, so is raising hogs, investigate how that’s done. Might as well look up all factory farming.

    At one time, we could [before zoning took our rights from us] raise our own chickens, ducks, and rabbits for meat in our backyards, right next to the garden.

    While we’re on the anti-corn kick, the average US citizen consumes 70 pounds of corn syrup a year. Once we get all those cows and people off corn, we have freed up a lot of farm land to build mini-malls and used car lots and new housing subdivisions …oops, I meant we’ve freed up that land to grow green fuel crops.

    Of course, you probably don’t like that idea either, do you?

    “We are the most slothful squandering wasteful slovenly slobs on the planet”

    Really? Visit China and South Africa sometime, do some in-depth studying on how some of these other nations work, come back in a couple of years.

    Think all-military, all-the-time governments. Think regimes that expend more energy to control their people’s activities than any thing else. Think governments that would militarize their populace to wage war and capture another nation’s riches rather than allow it’s own people to produce for themselves.

    “Uncle”, if you’ve been around as long as you sound like you have, then you should know, a good portion of the world will always be convinced tomorrow is the last day we will eat, tomorrow is the last day we will see the sun, tomorrow is the last day we will breathe free, or breathe at all, everything always ends tomorrow. In 1974, I was told, with all seriousness and certainty, by a Ph. D. candidate, that the world would be void of human life by 1980.

    The person who made that prediction is dead. During their life, they made many dire statements, and produced absolutely nothing of any intrinsic, tangible value.

    With all of our voices in the air, screaming that this and that need to be done, OR ELSE, and blaming everybody for the coming End, some few people are working on ideas. Let them. Sure, burning ice is dumb, now. The EV-1 electric car was dumb when GM built and tried to sell it. The hybrid was dumb in 1977. Today’s stupid idea is tomorrows salvation.

  • mog

    Seriously, we’ve known we were at the end of the cheap oil era for decades. We were warned that we would become dependent on foreign oil, we continued to use it as fast as we could.

    Heavy crude tankers gave way to Ultra Heavies, burning barrels of bunker fuel per hour. [See the article on container shipping and pollution; consider the quantity of oil burned to import more oil.]

    We had a gas crisis, we imported more foreign cars. The gas crisis went away, diesel cars in the US went away, and even the foreign cars got bigger. Remember the CVCC,the CRX and the Geo Metro? I know the new cars are more efficient, but if they had remained that small WITH modern efficiency gains, imagine what we could have.

    You are screaming at the sky to suggest that people in the US stop buying vehicles designed to intimidate other drivers. The very violence of your passion on this issue shows why we buy them. Forceful, convinced of your own superiority [everyone else is wrong] and angry about it. Shove those idiots out of your way in your three-ton Diesel Silverado!

    Might as well suggest bringing back the 55mph speed limit and enforcing it strictly. It could have worked the first time, but everybody broke the law and got away with it.

    I grew up in cattle country, we always ate range-fed beef from cattle that wandered the semi-arid [almost desert] grasslands of eastern Montana and generally took care of themselves. Feedlot finishing cows is stupid, so is raising hogs, investigate how that’s done. Might as well look up all factory farming.

    At one time, we could [before zoning took our rights from us] raise our own chickens, ducks, and rabbits for meat in our backyards, right next to the garden.

    While we’re on the anti-corn kick, the average US citizen consumes 70 pounds of corn syrup a year. Once we get all those cows and people off corn, we have freed up a lot of farm land to build mini-malls and used car lots and new housing subdivisions …oops, I meant we’ve freed up that land to grow green fuel crops.

    Of course, you probably don’t like that idea either, do you?

    “We are the most slothful squandering wasteful slovenly slobs on the planet”

    Really? Visit China and South Africa sometime, do some in-depth studying on how some of these other nations work, come back in a couple of years.

    Think all-military, all-the-time governments. Think regimes that expend more energy to control their people’s activities than any thing else. Think governments that would militarize their populace to wage war and capture another nation’s riches rather than allow it’s own people to produce for themselves.

    “Uncle”, if you’ve been around as long as you sound like you have, then you should know, a good portion of the world will always be convinced tomorrow is the last day we will eat, tomorrow is the last day we will see the sun, tomorrow is the last day we will breathe free, or breathe at all, everything always ends tomorrow. In 1974, I was told, with all seriousness and certainty, by a Ph. D. candidate, that the world would be void of human life by 1980.

    The person who made that prediction is dead. During their life, they made many dire statements, and produced absolutely nothing of any intrinsic, tangible value.

    With all of our voices in the air, screaming that this and that need to be done, OR ELSE, and blaming everybody for the coming End, some few people are working on ideas. Let them. Sure, burning ice is dumb, now. The EV-1 electric car was dumb when GM built and tried to sell it. The hybrid was dumb in 1977. Today’s stupid idea is tomorrows salvation.

  • mog

    Prevent elephant and whale CO2 and methane emissions from increasing greenhouse effect, kill and eat them all now.

  • mog

    Prevent elephant and whale CO2 and methane emissions from increasing greenhouse effect, kill and eat them all now.

  • Uncle B

    We are at the very endpoint of the “Cheap Oil” era, and the U.S.A. is in desperate shape, damn desperate shape! ANY form of relief will be attached to and vigorously exploited at reckless pace, including nuclear power. At the moment, China is nuking up and building reactor after reactor – a very dangerous world scenario. Can we exploit this relatively clean fuel cheaper than Solar, Wind, Wave, Hydro, Tidal and Geothermal technologies? only the engineers know for certainty, and then in a capitalistic system such as ours, investor confidence is a major issue. Ice – Gas is not a “Perpetual” or renewable if you will, resource. It is exhaustible, and therefore much like cheap oil only worth developing if very cheap to do, and with high yields. Good common sense says the renewables are the most desirable but in a world where a dying GM produces a 620 hp., 230 mph, 8 mpg. car called the Corvette, “just in time” for the great republican depression, good sense is often hard to find! Once America starts bottling the bio-gas potential of factory farms, sewage resource flows, and stops shitting all over itself, we may want to look to the seas and mining ice-gas, but clean-up and waste prevention measures right at home are in first order! We must use the heat from existing nuclear power plants as the Swedes now do, instead of squandering HALF our nuclear resource to the wind – long before we even go out drilling for more oil. We must adopt smaller lighter Euro-Diesel cars, to save up to 45% YES! goddammit! 45% of our current oil use, simply using better, more efficient, longer lasting, and yes, cleaner engines! We are the most slothful squandering wasteful slovenly slobs on the planet! Simply by reducing beef consumption, substituting pork, fish chicken, turkey veggies and grains in our dietes a major amount of OIL can be saved, SEE:

    “Cattle are fed prodigious quantities of corn. At a feedlot of a mere 37,000 cows, 25 tons of corn are dumped every hour. It takes 1.2 gallons of oil to make the fertilizer used for each bushel of that corn. Before a cow is slaughtered, she will eat 25 pounds of corn a day; by the time she is slaughtered she will weigh more than 1,200 pounds. In her lifetime she will have consumed, in effect, 284 gallons of oil. Today’s factory-raised cow is not a solar-powered ruminant but another fossil fuel machine.” SEE: http://www.earthsave.org/environment/foodchoices.htm

    Then ask about ice-gas!

  • Uncle B

    We are at the very endpoint of the “Cheap Oil” era, and the U.S.A. is in desperate shape, damn desperate shape! ANY form of relief will be attached to and vigorously exploited at reckless pace, including nuclear power. At the moment, China is nuking up and building reactor after reactor – a very dangerous world scenario. Can we exploit this relatively clean fuel cheaper than Solar, Wind, Wave, Hydro, Tidal and Geothermal technologies? only the engineers know for certainty, and then in a capitalistic system such as ours, investor confidence is a major issue. Ice – Gas is not a “Perpetual” or renewable if you will, resource. It is exhaustible, and therefore much like cheap oil only worth developing if very cheap to do, and with high yields. Good common sense says the renewables are the most desirable but in a world where a dying GM produces a 620 hp., 230 mph, 8 mpg. car called the Corvette, “just in time” for the great republican depression, good sense is often hard to find! Once America starts bottling the bio-gas potential of factory farms, sewage resource flows, and stops shitting all over itself, we may want to look to the seas and mining ice-gas, but clean-up and waste prevention measures right at home are in first order! We must use the heat from existing nuclear power plants as the Swedes now do, instead of squandering HALF our nuclear resource to the wind – long before we even go out drilling for more oil. We must adopt smaller lighter Euro-Diesel cars, to save up to 45% YES! goddammit! 45% of our current oil use, simply using better, more efficient, longer lasting, and yes, cleaner engines! We are the most slothful squandering wasteful slovenly slobs on the planet! Simply by reducing beef consumption, substituting pork, fish chicken, turkey veggies and grains in our dietes a major amount of OIL can be saved, SEE:

    “Cattle are fed prodigious quantities of corn. At a feedlot of a mere 37,000 cows, 25 tons of corn are dumped every hour. It takes 1.2 gallons of oil to make the fertilizer used for each bushel of that corn. Before a cow is slaughtered, she will eat 25 pounds of corn a day; by the time she is slaughtered she will weigh more than 1,200 pounds. In her lifetime she will have consumed, in effect, 284 gallons of oil. Today’s factory-raised cow is not a solar-powered ruminant but another fossil fuel machine.” SEE: http://www.earthsave.org/environment/foodchoices.htm

    Then ask about ice-gas!

  • Brennan

    By theory it sounds like a cool idea but I don’t know how sustainable it really is. Water in many places isn’t the most abundant resource anymore and if we start burning ice in masses it could really make our water supplies endangered.

  • Brennan

    By theory it sounds like a cool idea but I don’t know how sustainable it really is. Water in many places isn’t the most abundant resource anymore and if we start burning ice in masses it could really make our water supplies endangered.

  • Max Kennedy

    STUPID PILLS, STUPID PILLS, STUPID PILLS!!!!! This is another fossil fuel, it burns, it releases CO2. DUHHHH! This cannot be called a “GREEN” energy source. Better than coal and oil yes but without CO2 capture it IS NOT GREEN!!!!!! CO2 capture technology is expensive! Creating useful energy without creating carbon, such as from solar and wind are much better options to develop than another fossil fuel! Let’s get real with the language we use and not greenwash BS!

  • Max Kennedy

    STUPID PILLS, STUPID PILLS, STUPID PILLS!!!!! This is another fossil fuel, it burns, it releases CO2. DUHHHH! This cannot be called a “GREEN” energy source. Better than coal and oil yes but without CO2 capture it IS NOT GREEN!!!!!! CO2 capture technology is expensive! Creating useful energy without creating carbon, such as from solar and wind are much better options to develop than another fossil fuel! Let’s get real with the language we use and not greenwash BS!

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