Breakthrough fuels hopes that fire ice is viable energy source

Updated 2017-05-22 11:31:23 China Daily
Photo shows a piece of rock sample from the seabed of South China Sea on April 2, 2017.

Photo shows a piece of rock sample from the seabed of South China Sea on April 2, 2017.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Land and Resources announced that China had become the first country to viably extract gas from methane hydrates. Xinhua News Agency commented on Friday:

This month's successful trial operations in test drilling and production in the South China Sea extracted an average of 16,000 cubic meters of gas per day in the Shenhu area of the South China Sea. This marks a major step toward the commercial use of so-called flammable ice or fire ice, which presents as ice crystals with natural methane gas locked inside.

Achievements like this largely rest with major breakthroughs in key technologies such as deep-sea exploration. As other big powers put more efforts into maritime research and the exploitation of marine resources China has no reason to stand aside and it has now claimed a leading position in the exploitation of fire ice.

Formed in permafrost or under the sea, there are large reserves of methane hydrates, which have a high energy density and reportedly release less than half the amount of carbon dioxide as oil and coal when burned. Acquiring a steady output is well worth the painstaking drilling attempts, because it may quench the thirst of the country and the world for a sustainable energy supply.

Fire ice is likely the world's last remaining carbon-based fuel source to be exploited, and countries have been seeking ways to make the extraction profitable. China's breakthrough is seen as a major step toward making gas extraction from methane hydrates viable.

More important, the introduction of a series of new technologies and environmental protection emergency plans in the latest test drilling and production operations also represent the notable progress China has made in promoting innovation and environmental awareness.

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