A global energy revolution is underway and you may want to know about it – for good reason.
The largest known hydrocarbon energy source in the world is called hydrates, a form of frozen methane on the floor of the deep oceans and in the permafrost of the Arctic sometimes referred to as “flammable ice.” It is so remote and unavailable that any hope of utilizing this abundant energy source has been dim. Now, however, Chinese authorities claim their scientists have made a technological breakthrough that may allow for economic extraction of hydrates. If this claim has merit, we may be facing a global energy revolution.
According to an expert in the field, Associate Professor Praveen Linga from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the National University of Singapore, the Chinese have indeed made significant progress. From BBC:
China describes its latest results as a breakthrough and Mr Linga agrees. “Compared with the results we have seen from Japanese research, the Chinese scientists have managed to extract much more gas in their efforts.”
“So in that sense it is indeed a major step towards making gas extraction from methane hydrates viable.”
It’s thought that there is as much as 10 times the amount of gas in methane hydrates than in shale for instance. “And that’s by conservative estimates,” says Prof Linga.
The methane hydrates are not only abundant compared to all other fossil fuels, but is also available to far more countries than conventional gas and oil. The U.S and Canada both hold vast reserves of this energy source, and would go a long way towards America entirely energy independent.
But also, Russia, China, Japan and many other countries have significant reserves within their territories, which would make them less dependent on foreign oil and gas.
Geopolitically the effect would probably be to significantly reduce the power of Saudi Arabia and other oil producing countries. Paradoxically this could lead to greater stability in the Middle East because the conflicts in the region are fueled and funded by oil wealth.
However, methane hydrates may open up new areas of dispute, and we have likely already seen the beginning of such an emerging conflict in the South China Sea. In recent years, China has been aggressive in these waters and, in effect, annexing most of the area which previously was either international waters or the domain of neighboring countries such as the Philippines.
The South China Sea is of strategic military importance to China, as well as containing valuable resources such as oil and gas. The methane hydrates in that area make it even more attractive to the Chinese and may have played a role in their overall military strategy of annexation.
Under the Obama administration, Beijing saw little American resistance to their power grab, but there are signs that President Donald Trump will not be as lenient. If methane hydrates fulfill their promise, we may see the center of world tension move from the Middle East to Asia.