Very good news for Japan, which has no natural energy resources of its own, with the first-ever extraction of fuel from submarine methane hydrate deposits. It is estimated that there is at least as much energy in this form underground as all the world’s coal, and there may be enough off the Japanese coast to supply the country with natural gas for a century.
“It’s the world’s first natural gas extraction from methane hydrate in the sea. I hope this will provide Japan with natural energy resources,” said Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi.
The resource, also known as “burnable ice”, may however be very bad news for the rest of us, as methane is a greenhouse gas 25 times more polluting than carbon dioxide. It also needs to be cold to remain locked up underground, so as the planet warms it may be naturally released in uncontrollable quantities, either from below the sea bed or permafrost areas on dry land.
However, it does remain in the atmosphere for a far shorter time than CO2; about 12 years compared to 50-100, but once it oxidizes it produces water, and…CO2.
Environmentalists’ attention is currently focused on CO2 because it is produced in far greater quantities, but as the global dash for gas gathers pace that may change.