Scientists eye NZ methane deposits for seafloor mining

As engineers working for oil giant BP grapple with an icy slush of frozen water and methane gas blocking its controversial "cap" for an out-of-control well gushing into the Gulf of Mexico -- researchers gathered in New Zealand are taking a longer-term view of that slush -- known as methane hydrates.

The scientists are holding a three-day conference in Wellington on the gas hydrates at the 7th International Workshop on Methane Hydrate Research and Development, at Te Papa .

Researchers believe the energy in global gas hydrate accumulations may exceed total known petroleum reserves. New Zealand has world class gas hydrate deposits off the east coast, from East Cape to Marlborough.

More work is needed to work out how to safely and efficiently extract the methane, and delegates at the conference will hear reports on the latest developments in research.

The hydrates are a solid ice-like form of water that contains methane gas molecules "caged" in tiny cavities. They are usually stable at the sea floor at water deeper than about 500m, usually embedded in the first 500m of sediment.

Stuart Henrys of GNS Science said the conference was well timed for New Zealand, with local research set to ramp up in the next two years and a seabed survey planned for early 2011 specifically to explore hydrates off the Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay coasts.

There are huge deposits 22 kilometres off the south Wairarapa coast, about 80km from the Beehive in Wellington, thought to contain half a trillion cubic feet of gas, about 1000 metres deep.

The frozen gas is highly concentrated, expanding by 164 times its volume when it melts into water and gas -- and this rapid expansion is thought to have been what initially wrecked BP's drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, by causing a blowout of the well.

Dr Henrys said that to have many leading scientists focusing on the NZ gas hydrate opportunities and challenges could have many positive spinoffs, including international cooperation to bring research resources to New Zealand.

There not yet any offshore commercial production of gas hydrates yet, although several nations including Japan, South Korea, India, China, and the United States have exploration programmes that expect to start production in the near future. All these countries have representatives attending Wellington conference.

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114 Comments & Questions

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It could only be extracted 'safely' if you disregard the danger of global warming. The only truly safe thing to do is leave it where it is.

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The reason for extraction of hydrates is when ocean temperatures warm the hydrates will release into the atmosphere, They will also respond to pressure changes in the water and will explode and release CH4 into the atmosphere. If we extract them; it will burn and go up as CO2, less damaging, and we can capture the CO2 and use for industrial use or sequester it.

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It may be the only safe thing to do but since when did a multinational such as BP ever put safety before potential profit.
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I think scientist has a point in engaging mining. They some research for that. It will be for human development.

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They're just aiming for profit. How human may exist in the future, it doesn't matter to them. <a href="http://currentcost.net/">Home Electricity Monitor</a>

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As an American ex-pat, I find this line of reasoning highly suspect. The Gulf of Mexico is witness to what has rapidly become the most calamitous ecological catastrophe in human history. That New Zealand is contemplating adoption of wildcat offshore drilling despite evident consequences in so much as a single point of failure in rig, riser, or blowout preventer (BOP) bespeaks volumes of its oil addiction.

Oil. At any cost! The Gulf of Mexico sees the cost. Now, so will we.

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In order for big oil to survive the depletion of cheap oil, they need to find a substitute thay can sell. This will only delay better solutions such as the electric car.

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I am alone in feeling very uneasy about this? While scientists rub there hands and plan to extract this methane the environmental cost can be seen of the coast of the US. The sooner the reliance on the combustion engine is over the better. That way we will no longer have <a href="http://carbreakdowncover.com">car breakdown cover</a> our society

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Great insights. The mining has to continue.

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very interesting article. Lots of potential in this form of mining.

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Personally, I think they shouldn't mess with it and just leave it where it is. Like Conal said, it is really the only safe way to handle the problem.

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I agree with everyone here. It seems rather dangerous to do this mining. <a href="http://www.spanishdictionary.net/">Spanish dictionary</a>

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Same here. leave well alone its only going to end in disaster.
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Be careful!

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I thing global warmin is the most important issue today. <a href="www.windmillsforhomes.net">windmills for homes</a>

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I wonder is this is better for the environment than fossil fuels as we need some better alternatives. Lisa <a href="http://www.myfreecreditreportgov.com/">free credit report</a>

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Stop messing with the natural environment... it is us humans who upset the natural eco-system by our incessant fiddling.

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Will this methane drilling reduce the cost of fuel for automobiles? Probably not.

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Methane is not toxic; however, it is extremely flammable and may form explosive mixtures with air. Interested to know more about the methods proposed.

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As if the oil spill was not the only harm to our environment now we will be waiting for a methane leak, is these what we want?

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Sounds like this could lead to dangerous results if not properly handled. <a href=http://www.motomessage.com/>Mobile Marketing</a>

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I agree, hope usefull for everyonone
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Hydrates will become one more vital part of the energy equation. <url><a href="http://yourtopbusinessideas.com/get-free-payroll-outsourcing-payroll-wit... payroll</a></url>

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We need to get off of foreign oil and start drill here in the USA <a href=http://www.loanmodificationmichigan.com>loanmodificationmichigan</a>

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<quote>Researchers believe the energy in global gas hydrate accumulations may exceed total known petroleum reserves. New Zealand has world class gas hydrate deposits off the east coast, from East Cape to Marlborough.</quote>

This will be a great breakthrough if the above claim can be confirmed. Unfortunately most of the world's petroleum reserves are in unstable regions. Having a reliable and stable source of energy from a country like New Zealand will do the world a world of good.

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As a Kiwi I'm split. We need extra money coming into our economy so our salaries can rival those of Australia (whose are currently 30% higher on avg), but on the other hand we don't want a catastrophe like "the Gulf'. Watch this space.
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Yes, unfortunately there will always be a trade off. As long as security and safety measures are enforced, then I'm all for it. We can't prevent disasters 100% but with proper policies we can minimize their frequency and impacts. At the end of the day, this is a natural resource that has to be exploited one way or the other.

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I was in Florida last year, so all I can say is NZ you don't want another Gulf!
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Unfortunately the wild life of the underwater is also destroyed by the unfulfill human ambition <a href="www.irsg.org">PR5 link exchange</a>

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Wow - yeah. This is really an interesting article and I think mining should be continued, too. :)

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Is there are co-relation between all this drilling and earthquakes? I know for sure that Auckland sits on a fault. What are the considerations for this?
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If this is true:
"The frozen gas is highly concentrated, expanding by 164 times its volume when it melts into water and gas -- and this rapid expansion is thought to have been what initially wrecked BP's drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, by causing a blowout of the well."

Then it will be interesting to see how this plays out in future drilling techniques.

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Where ever man goes, you can guarantee some ecological disaster will follow. Greed, pure greed, and it always seems to occur in areas of natural beauty.

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Obviously the all the impacts have to be weighed in to see if the exploitation of the methane reserves is truly viable.

This article is over a year old, I wonder what changes have taken place since.

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This just goes to show that natural resources are becoming scarece. Time to dig into the commodities lists and find prospective winners.
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I say dig as much as you can!

As if thats going to happen!

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The deposits may be something NZ wants to keep protected. How to get rid of raccoons is also a problem in NZ. A good <a href="http://raccoondeterrent.net">raccoon deterrent</a> is the answer.

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Those country representatives attending Wellington conference must take care on their exploration programmes to avoid dangerous situations like Exxon Valdez in Alaska and BB at the gulf of Mexico.
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I hope that everything is done the right way this time...there's so many unexpected bad things happening right now around the world..the world as we know now is too old to kept getting abused.

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I hope to and it is very bad for NZ that this was happening there. <url><a href="http://www.shaadihishaadi.com">Shaadi</a></url>

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NZ gas hydrate opportunities could have many positive spinoffs, including international cooperation to bring research resources to New Zealand but they should also think about the bad effects of it.
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Sea floor mining can be a really important resource of methane.In economycal plan is real a goldmine
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