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Exploiting Arctic Methane?

  1. Jun 30, 2011 #1
    I'm not sure if this is the best topical forum to put this question or not, but it seemed the most likely of the forums on pf.com. Anyhow, sorry if this is not in the right place.

    I've been hearing over the last year or two that climate scientists are very worried about very large releases of methane from the arctic - I dunno if it's released from the tundra, or the ice caps, or the seabeds or something, but apparently there is concern that as the earth warms, a huge amount of methane will be 'belched up' by the geography of the arctic, which will cause further warming.

    So, my question is, would it be impossible to exploit this huge reserve of methane? Is there no way to extract it *before* it's released by global warming? If not, would it be possible to capture it *as* it's released (I'm not sure how - I'm picturing something along the lines of giant domes made up of some thin, cheap plastic film which just trap the gas as it escapes, and funnels it into pipes or hoses for further processing [purification, liquification, etc])?

    If there's really that much methane, seems like it would be worth Billions of dollars, at least, on the world energy markets? Sure, burning it would produce CO2, but isn't CO2 less of a warming agent than Methane?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 30, 2011 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Can you provide a link to a scientific source of this information? That would be of help in answering your question.
  4. Jun 30, 2011 #3


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    Gold Member

    There are two primary methods for release of methane. One is the release of subsea methane hydrate, which can be very rapid. Another is the slow release of methane from anaerobic rotting of previously-frozen organic materials in warming tundra. The first may be the most problematic, but I have not heard of any plans to tap that gas.

    Here's an article on the subsea methane hydrates.
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