Methane hydrate: a new source of natural gas.
Methane hydrate (or Methane Clathrate) is a compound of organic origin naturally present in the seabed, on some continental slopes, as well as in the permafrost of the polar regions. These methane hydrates are generally located between 400 and 600m below the ocean floor.
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Methane hydrate consists of a fine "cage" of ice in which is trapped methane from the decomposition of relatively recent organic components compared to that which generated oil and natural gas. The deposition of organic component at the origin of Methane Hydrate is carried out by anaerobic and methanogenic micro-organisms.
Methane being the main component of natural gas, the exploitation of these Methane Clarthrate therefore constitutes a new source of Natural Gas. This new sector is all the more interesting as the deposits of Methane Clarthrate are abundant and distributed in almost all the seabeds of the world.
The reserves of methane hydrate constitute an enormous reserve of energy. It is estimated today that the methane hydrates of the ocean floor contain twice as much carbon equivalent as all of the natural gas, oil and coal deposits known worldwide.
Currently known distribution of methane hydrate reserves.
Along the southeastern coast of the USA alone, an area of 26,000 square kilometers contains 35 Gt (gigatons = billions of tonnes) of carbon, or 105 times the natural gas consumption of the USA in 1996!
Studies for the exploitation of methane hydrate deposits have begun, with large investments currently being made in the development of extraction techniques.