Methane hydrate is also known with the name of gas hydrate or fiery ice is a type of ice in physical appearance with methane molecule trapped inside like a cage structure. Methane hydrate consists of molecules of natural gas enclosed within a solid lattice of water molecules. Gas hydrate deposits are found/formed beneath permafrost or in shallow sediments along deepwater continental margins at elevated pressures and at relatively low temperatures. As per the estimates, one cubic meter of gas hydrate is capable of releasing 164 cubic meters of natural gas.

The Next Energy Game Changer?

It is believed that methane hydrate deposits have larger hydrocarbon resources than all of the world's oil, natural gas, and coal resources together. This is highly attributed to a larger amount of methane trapped insides these deposits. This means if these deposits are efficiently and economically developed and exploited, methane hydrate could become the next energy game-changer. Undoubtedly, this is capable of meeting decades of energy demand required at the global level. As per the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the world's gas hydrates reserves may range from 10,000 trillion cubic feet to more than 100,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. If such massive resources exploited efficiently, it may become a future source of energy for decades. USGS, further estimates that China, Mexico, U.S., India, Japan, and Russia have enough methane hydrate reserves.

Complications to tap Methane Hydrate Resources

Tapping such massive methane hydrate reserves requires assistance from superior research and development resources and technical assistance with sound financial support. Besides hydraulic fracturing, there is no potential technology developed to effectively extract methane hydrate reserves. This technology is not completely suitable and can disturb seabed which further capable of causing large submarine mudslides and accompanying tsunamis. The cost of drilling these resources is also relatively high that further makes the overall operation even costlier. Therefore it is not enough if someone can successfully extract methane hydrates reserves as the challenge lies in its extraction at a commercial scale.  

Race to be a pioneer in Methane Hydrate Extraction

Since the world has recognized methane hydrate as a next energy boom along with its energy capabilities, various countries are in the race to successfully extract this energy source. Countries like China, Japan, India, Canada, U.S., and Russia are actively conducting tests since late 2000 to be the pioneer. China becomes the first country that reported successful extraction of methane hydrate in 2017 after consistent attempts since 2010 alongside investments worth millions. The country has recorded 35,000 cubic meter extraction of methane hydrate and 99% recovered gas was methane. China Geological Survey (CGS), under the Ministry of Land and Resources, was in charge of the overall gas hydrate extraction project. Followed by China, Japan also registered successful extraction in a similar year and become the second country in this race. As per our analysis, Japan anticipated being more active in their further maximization of hydrates extraction as well as commercialization plans. This is because their energy needs are totally imported driven and with the commercialization of methane hydrate they may looking forward to eliminating their energy dependence.