Fact Box: Fire Ice – (Methane hydrate / Methane clathrate)
Japan unfolds the mystery of ‘Fire ice’
Japan has successfully developed new technology for extracting methane gas from a previously untapped off-shore fossil fuel resource that has been dubbed ‘fire ice’. Japan has invested several hundred million pounds in developing technology to tap methane hydrate reserves off its coast.
- What is Fire Ice?
It is another name of Methane hydrate, which consist of methane trapped in ice, present under the continental shelves around the world. It is said to be next big energy resource.
- Earlier, it was believed to only exist in the outer space of the solar system – but now experts are saying it could be ‘the new shale gas’.
- Methane hydrate is also called Methane clathrate, hydromethane, methane ice, fire ice, natural gas hydrate, or gas hydrate.
How does it form?
Methane hydrate is formed within marine sediments where methane is generated by chemical reactions or by microbes breaking down organic matter. The gas moves up to the sea bed where the temperature is much low. It causes the gas to cool, due to this cooling methane molecules form weak chemical bond with surrounding water molecules, producing solid mehane hydrate. This substance has long been regarded by oil and gas companies as a problem, because it can block marine drilling rigs.
Thus, Methane hydrate is a solid clathrate compound (more specifically, a clathrate hydrate) in which a large amount of methane is trapped within a crystal structure of water, forming a solid similar to ice.
How did scientists separate methane from Fire ice?
Engineers used depressurisation to turn methane hydrate to methane gas.