Melting permafrost, gas hydrates – our future energy supply?

Sept. 2008

Due to presumed global warming permafrost may melt and this will again lead to increased global warming.

Gases will be released from the ground – CO2, methane – calculated to be 1700 billon tons – double of what the atmosphere contains today! This will probably take 100 years.

Through the years thick layers of organic mass has been deposited and melting will let the gases go.

The gases can be used for commercial energy purposes, and research into these processes is taking place. A patent for producing natural gas from hydrate by means of CO2 injection has been granted (University in Bergen).

Gas hydrates are a potential energy source found in permafrost environments and under the sea floor. They form when water and methane gas come together under extreme pressure and in a cold environment. The water and gas are frozen together at a molecular level. One cubic metre of gas hydrates contains 164-cubic-metres of methane gas, and 0.8 cubic metres of water.

Heating the gas hydrates bring methane to the surface. Thus when frozen gas hydrates are heated or undergo a change in pressure, they melt. The water runs off and the methane gas is released.

At the seabed outside Japan gas hydrates estimated to be equal to 100 years Japanese energy consumption has been located.

Total Norwegian emission pr. year is 50 million tons.



July 2012

The Japanese are working on developing their methane resources, and tests are possibly being performed this year. It seems the potential gas hydrate resources are large enough to supply the country for several hundred years.

Commercial production will hopefully start in 2016. Nuclear power is going, and seismic mapping of hydrates are in progress and will continue for at least another 5 years.

It is a big technical challenge to get the gas from the hydrates, and it has to do with melting. There are several methods as you can use>

  • melting by energy
  • chemicals
  • pressure reductions

There is risk of collapse and loss of stability. One method being considered is to inject CO2 and at the same time take out the methane.

Surely there must be similar structures in many other parts of the world?

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