Methane Extraction from 'Ice' + Carbon Sequestration = Green Fossil Fuel?

clathrate hydrate image
Could this actually be a carbon-neutral fossil fuel source? New Scientist is reporting on research presented at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society which examines whether methane could be extracted from what looks like regular ice, and at the same time sequester carbon dioxide.

The regular looking ice they are talking about is actually clathrate hydrate, a crystalline water-based solid which taps individual molecules of methane inside 'cages' of hydrogen bonded water molecules:This new research explains that since these cages 'prefer' to have carbon dioxide at their cores, so if you can pump carbon dioxide into them, it can take the place of that methane. Tim Collett of the US Geological Survey says that this exchange of CO2 for methane has been shown to work in the lab and the DOE is working with ConocoPhillips on a field trial in Alaska to see if this procedure for methane extraction and carbon sequestration can be scaled up.

At this point it's not clear if this can be done on a commercial scale, and as Collett rightly alluded to in his presentation this really probably should be viewed as a "bridging fuel" on the way to deploying more renewable energy sources more than a long-term solution to our energy wants.

via: New Scientist
image: USGS
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