If you always thought that fire can’t thrive on ice, it’s time for a change in perspective.
Chinese miners have successfully extracted “flammable ice” from the seafloor of the South China Sea, an event it called a “major breakthrough.”
Flammable ice, scientifically known as methane clathrates or hydrates, are found in sediments under the ocean floor and beneath permafrost on land. They form at very low temperatures and high pressures. Praveen Linga, associate professor at the National University of Singapore, told BBC:
“It looks like ice crystals but if you zoom in to a molecular level, you see that the methane molecules are caged in by the water molecules.”
Chinese miners have extracted a daily average of 16,000 cubic meters of gas with high purity. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a cubic foot of flammable ice holds 164 cubic feet of regular natural gas.
However, China isn’t the first country to tap into flammable ice. As per CNNMoney, Japan drilled into it in the Pacific and extracted the gas in 2013, a process it accomplished again earlier this month.
The U.S., meanwhile, has been running its own research program on the resource for some time already. It is, after all, believed to be the best alternative for natural gas and oil.
Experts, however, are warning about its methane content, which could escape and seriously affect global warming. Hence, the challenge is to extract the gas without allowing methane to slip out.
Jiang Daming, China’s Minister of Land and Resources, nevertheless referred to their extraction as “a major breakthrough that may lead to a global energy revolution.” Apparently, this is the first time the country succeeded in collecting the material after 20 years of research.
According to RT, the mining site is located in the Shenhu area of the South China Sea, some 300 kilometers from Hong Kong.