By: Amna Bakali
Methane is a common source of energy used today. However, due to its natural resource status, it does not seem as if there will be enough methane to last very long. Alternate sources that the United States has been using include petroleum and oil. These fossil fuels will not last too long either (Hoffmann, 2009). With a growing environment, where more and more resources are being used, there needs to be more ways to get the things the people need in an efficient manner. There are many sources to find methane on Earth. Most methane is derived from petroleum that is heated and processed deep underground, known as thermogenic methane. It is a form of natural gas (Charting, 2004). Other methane sources include finding it from sea sediments and permafrost. Mantle rocks containing olivine may be transformed to methane by altering it into serpentine. This reaction may only be performed in accessible temperatures and pressures in the presence of catalysts
A new kind of methane has been discovered as well, known as methane hydrates. This is considered to be the new fuel obliquely offered for use (Hoffmann, 2009). Under pressure and low temperature, methane forms a thermodynamically stable association in water, called methane hydrates. Due to the temperature of the sea floor, methane hydrates form spontaneously whenever methane is available. There has been considerable excitement and interest in methane hydrates as an energy and fuel source since the 1970s. Some have estimated that there is as much gas in the form of methane hydrates equivalent to twice the amount of all fossil fuel reserves on earth, or more (Hoffmann, 2009).
The infrastructure already exists to support its use, thus once extracted and refined, it would be relatively easy and cheap to distribute and its benefits would be felt immediately. These benefits would be many and widespread. For instance energy would become cheaper and cleaner (Hoffmann, 2009). Methane is a very clean burning gas; its use would lower air pollution by replacing other dirtier fuels. Also, many organisms living around methane hydrate fields metabolize harmful air pollutants and also live to be very old, being immune to degenerative disease. Because of this, these organisms may be used in the future to further mitigate air pollution/global warming (Hoffmann, 2009).
Methane hydrates, research has proven, are common in nature, in Arctic regions and in marine sediments. Methane hydrates are crystalline solids that look very much like ice where gas molecules have been trapped in a cage of water molecules in the form of ice. The big difference is that this ice burns if exposed to a flame and will continue to support that flame on its own (Nersesian, 2007). However, methane hydrates are only stable at high pressures and low temperatures, making them very hard to get a hold of and store. It is believed that a relatively small drop in ocean depth sufficiently reduces the pressure above methane hydrate deposits that the formations destabilize and release large volumes of trapped methane. These are being found to cause many underwater landslides, sinking ships and killing wildlife (Charting, 2004). There is also a growing belief that large methane releases may be responsible for unexplained ship sinkings in areas like the
Bermuda Triangle and the Devil's Triangle south of Japan (Nersesian, 2007). One of the serious problems about methane hydrates is that methane is more than ten times as effective as a greenhouse gas as is carbon dioxide. These factors and the potential instability of the methane hydrates raise concerns about exploiting them as an energy resource with the potential of