China successfully produced natural gas from ‘flammable ice’, also known as methane hydrate, in an experimental project conducted in the South China Sea.
As a part of the experiment, a drilling platform was deployed off the coast of the south-eastern Chinese city of Zhuhai for 60 days. It produced around 309,000 cubic metres of natural gas, which is a record extraction volume from gas hydrate.
According to China’s Ministry of Land and Resources, China has made a historic breakthrough. The ministry stated that the country has achieved theoretical, technological, engineering and equipment innovations after nearly 20 years of unremitting efforts.
What is Flammable Ice?
• It is a compound, which contains a large amount of methane trapped within a crystal structure of water that forms a solid similar to ice.
• It is a highly flammable and energy-intensive fuel as one cubic metre of the compound can release up to about 160 cubic metres of gas.
• It can also break down into water and methane after the temperature is raised or pressure is lowered.
• It has been identified to have the potential to be a great energy source that could cater to future energy needs.
• Though originally the compound was thought to occur only in the outer regions of the Solar System where temperatures are low and water ice is common, significant deposits have been found under sediments on the ocean floors of the Earth.
• Its vast deposits are reported to exist underneath all oceans around the globe, especially on the edge of continental shelves.
• The South China Sea is thought to contain some of the world's most promising deposits. The Chinese ministry reported the finding of two gas hydrate deposits with about 100 billion cubic metres of reserves in the northern section of the South China Sea.
To make full use of the same, the Chinese government has promised to actively develop natural gas hydrate over the 2016-2020 five-year plan period.
This is not, however, the first time that such a test has been done by a country. Japan reported a similar successful production test in May 2017. Other countries including India, Canada and the United States are also believed to be looking at hydrates as an alternative source of energy.
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