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China to develop new energy source - combustible ice

China's western Qinghai Province, containing major deposits of the country's "combustible ice," will see increased explorations for this emerging clean energy, Provincial Governor Luo Huining said on Saturday.

The plateau province plans to allow large energy companies along with researchers to tap this new source of energy while minimizing environmental threats, Luo said on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature.

"Combustible ice," or natural gas hydrate, is mainly found in deep seas and atop plateaus. Approximately one cubic meter of "combustible ice" equals 164 cubic meters of regular natural gas.

At a time of energy bottlenecks, the new energy resource has drawn interest from many countries. Additional attention has focused on the "ice" having a low proportion of impurities, resulting in it generating almost no pollutants when burned.

More than 100 countries around the world have found deposits of "combustible ice." The deposits in Qinghai Province, home to one-quarter of China's total reserve on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, were discovered in September 2009.

"Combustible ice" reserves on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau are estimated to equal at least 35 billion tonnes of oil, which could supply energy to China for 90 years.
[Provincial Governor] Luo Huining said tapping this new energy resource should be given high priority in China's energy strategy.

Editorial Notes: Comment from Billhook: A reserve of "At least 35 billion tonnes" of oil-equivalent frozen methane within China's borders should radically alter projections of the later impacts of Peak Oil. For all this reserve holds less than 10 years equivalent of current global oil usage, piping it to urban centres may well justify its prior liquefaction, as will the prospect of China thereby blunting PO-driven oil-price volatility. The larger implications for PO is that this reserve is predictably rather minor compared to the huge areas of permafrost within Canada, and the simply vast areas within Russia. The issues of ERO$I & EROEI, together with the practical time-constraints of infrastructure development, would seem to govern the degree that Hydrate supply will manage to assuage Peak Oil. The risks, particularly with subsea Hydrate reserves, of massive methane escapes, are potentially catastrophic in accelerating a growing positive feedback of global warming. The benefits, of Hydrate gas displacing coal firing, will no doubt be well publicized. It is perhaps worth noting that for all the Industrial Revolution was initiated with iron smelting on Coppice Charcoal (early C18), the UK's coal reserves were effectively unlimited, which its coppice area was not. With widespread coalfiring and the rise of energy intensity, the British empire then outpaced the Dutch, Spanish & French. Yet once the US focussed its efforts on oil-firing, Britain was outpaced just as easily. And now, with Peak Oil in sight, China just happens to be the nation best placed to develop and prosper from Methane Hydrates, the next successor fossil fuel. From this perspective, Senator Inhofe's hindrance of US efforts for alternative non-fossil fuels surely makes him China's supremely valuable agent-of-influence within the US establishment. Regards, Billhook

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