The contested South China Sea will soon be home to the Chinese government’s new methane hydrate venture, according to a new report by Rigzone.
The project, a joint venture between the Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), will make use of “flammable ice” found in the Shenhu areas of the South China Sea, after initial tests proved their utility in May.
The financial scale and scope of the project have not been made public so far, but any energy derived from the new energy source is not expected to be commercial until after 2030.
Gas hydrate, methane hydrate in particular, is a cage-like structure of crystallized ice, inside of which are trapped molecules of methane, the chief constituent of natural gas. If methane hydrate is either warmed or depressurized, it reverts back to water and natural gas.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), global estimates vary, but the energy content of methane in hydrates 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.
In May, the China Geographical Survey said that it managed to collect samples from the Shenhu area in the South China Sea in a large-scale test.
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China is not the only country that is testing ‘fire ice’ deposits discovered in their waters. Japan, for example, has been studying for years the potential recovery of methane hydrate, and launched last month preparations to carry out a second production test to extract methane gas from gas hydrates with two wells.
The U.S. also has a methane hydrate program to develop technologies that could allow safe methane production from arctic and domestic offshore hydrates.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…