In a First, Japan Turns 'Fire Ice' Into Natural Gas

Underwater methane hydrates could be a huge energy find

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 12, 2013 3:27 PM CDT

(Newser) – The quest to mine frozen methane has taken a big step forward—Japanese officials say their researchers have, for the first time anywhere, extracted gas from an underwater deposit of methane hydrate, reports the BBC. (Methane hydrates are also known as "fire ice," notes the Washington Post.) Production tests are expected to continue for two weeks on the field by the state-owned Japan Oil, Gas, and Metals National Corporation.

"It is the world's first offshore experiment producing gas from methane hydrate," says one government official. Japan currently imports almost all its oil and gas. If it can make it commercially viable to get natural gas from fire ice, that "could have huge implications for both energy and climate change," writes the Post's Brad Plumer. We're still probably five years away from that possibility, however.

Japan has announced it successfully mined methane hydrate for the first time. Methane hydrate is known as burnable ice, a solid form of methane.
Japan has announced it successfully mined methane hydrate for the first time. Methane hydrate is known as burnable ice, a solid form of methane.   (satou42)
Methane hydrate, known as burning ice for its flammable solid form, has been successfully extracted from deep offshore Japan.
Methane hydrate, known as burning ice for its flammable solid form, has been successfully extracted from deep offshore Japan.   (metichannel)
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