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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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Comments and questions
114

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.

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.

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. Home Electricity Monitor

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.

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 car breakdown cover 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. Spanish dictionary

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

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Methane on the sea floor???
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I thing global warmin is the most important issue today. windmills for homes

I wonder is this is better for the environment than fossil fuels as we need some better alternatives. Lisa free credit report

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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.

However, to earn more money to keep up with the cost, you could start earning money with your own website.

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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I agree, hope usefull for everyonone
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Hydrates will become one more vital part of the energy equation. free payroll

We need to get off of foreign oil and start drill here in the USA loanmodificationmichigan

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.

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 PR5 link exchange

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 raccoon deterrent is the answer.

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. Shaadi

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.
~Dennis
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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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It's time for a better alternatives to fossil fuels . . Halal Certification

so good to have you people caring about our planet!
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It's great to hear that these gas hydrate accumulations may exceed total known petroleum reserves. George at casco ieftin

Alternative energy sources are extremely important. However, the extraction and use of these resources need to be carefully planned, to ensure they are handled ethically, with a mindfulness for all natural resources.

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I'm not that much of a online reader to be honest but your sites really nice, keep it up! I'll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back later. Cheers

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In the pursuit of sustainability man has not yet mastered the ability of protecting life or care expenditures or abundant resources. Consistently efforts to find the safest routes and solutions have been overshadowed and delineated by corporate greed and passage into exponential profits. This subsequently usually has an adverse affect on the rest of us.

No one makes a bigger foot print then mother nature. Her last one was the Grand Canyon.
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To get a better understanding of what my posts mean , just look at Bp's profits after the spill.
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Some thoughtful posters here who appear to favor energy diversity.
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Hope they clear the issue soon.

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In any type of mining there are always disasters that cost lives and non reparable damage to the environment. Exploring and developing other sources of energy might be the better course.
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This is very dangerous. I agree with Kuih Raya & Dennis.
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He should have to know Stuart Henrys of GNS Science said the conference was well timed for New Zealand, with local research set to ram. We all are facing this. Accelerated nursing programs

Lots of disasters these days. Earth doesn't like what man has done to it.
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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. venta de casas en Miami

Thanks for the article.
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When are we going to stop tampering with nature?
We should be concentrating totally on wind and solar energy.
Leave these deposits where they are!

I agree with previous comment - leave these deposits alone.
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I wouldn't say this is an easy mission what engineers are currently doing, but as Zaheer mentioned "It's time for a better alternatives to fossil fuels".
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I hope the scientist can solve this problem asap.
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Up to this point a lot of this that is precisely happens unexplainable. Well for sure i can say that there are things that is preferably undefined, Well hope things can be good at this point.
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Nice post! As long as everybody benefits from it, then it's okay. And they should think it over of the positive effects of it and as well as the negative ones.

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Nice post! As long as everybody benefits from it, then it's okay. And they should think it over of the positive effects of it and as well as the negative ones.

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It seems nobody cares about the enviroment anymore. It's just not safe to drop a pipe and a drill five miles down through water. Unlock Wii

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I wonder is this is better for the environment than fossil fuels as we need some better alternatives. Lisa free credit report

It is a terrible idea to mine the sea floor. How about all of us trying to conserve energy. Walk, bike
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Frozen methane is seen both as a huge new source of natural gas fuel and as a major concern in terms of global warming.
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this future mining might be replace as new resources other than oil.
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This type of minig might be dangerous. Make sure we didn't fail our world community with another oil spread.
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More studies should be done but some do not care about loses, just the profit.

Research twice as Michael mentioned: some damaged cannot be undone.

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I read this "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." Sure I can't imagine it. Now I start to thinking about Gold in Papua Island.

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I wonder how the last global warming event was stopped, hmm maybe by trapping all the methane (one of the worst hot house gases) under the ocean, if you think this is a good idea you really need your head read!