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A Song of Ice and Fire
China Taps Fire Ice in South China Sea

Methane clathrates (also called methane hydrates, flammable ice, and fire ice) are gas deposits trapped in a lattice of ice that can be found along the bottom of the ocean all around the world, and over the last few years there’s been a big push to drill for these deposits to capture the natural gas trapped within. Thus far that effort has been led by Japan, which has had great need to find new sources of domestically available energy resources after its decision to shut down its nuclear power fleet following the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Now, as the BBC reports, China is joining the hunt as it announced this week that it successfully extracted some of this fire ice from the South China Sea:

China describes its latest results as a breakthrough and [Associate Professor Praveen Linga from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the National University of Singapore] agrees. “Compared with the results we have seen from Japanese research, the Chinese scientists have managed to extract much more gas in their efforts…So in that sense it is indeed a major step towards making gas extraction from methane hydrates viable.”

It’s thought that there is as much as 10 times the amount of gas in methane hydrates than in shale for instance. “And that’s by conservative estimates,” says Prof Linga.

It’s hard to wrap one’s head around an energy development that might have the potential to be an order of magnitude larger than the shale boom, but those are the numbers that we’re working with. But this is a vastly more complicated endeavor than fracking shale rock, not least because it occurs offshore and at great depths. Japan made headlines with its own breakthrough more than four years ago, and since then has made only middling progress. Earlier this month Tokyo announced that it had successfully tapped methane hydrates for the second time, which, coupled with China’s own breakthrough, indicates that activity in the industry is heating up once again.

China’s entrance adds an interesting geopolitical wrinkle to the energy story, as well. We’ve been following its territorial aggression in the South China Sea for many years now, during which time we’ve seen precious little material justifications necessary for Beijing’s actions. If China can pioneer a way to successfully drill commercial quantities of methane hydrates, it will add more fuel to the fire that is the South China Sea.

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  • Andrew Allison

    “. . . we’ve seen precious little material justifications necessary for Beijing’s actions.” As evidenced by Japan’s first successful extractiobn four years ago, the presence of vast deposits of methane clathrates in the South China Sea is not news. Neither is China’s need for an alternative to coal.

  • Suzy Dixon

    Hmm don’t know. They’ve struggled with shale tech, and desperately want to buy or steal designs and techniques from US producers. Hard to believe they’re making a breakthrough doing something more difficult. Sounds like classic Chinese exaggeration.

    • Dhako

      Wishful thinking at it’s best. Or it must be the alleged US’s exceptionalism in action. In particularly the thought that says others are unlikely to ever “crack” any technology in which the US have mastered it.

      • Suzy Dixon

        Oh, hello, you! Not only china. Nobody else seems to have had the same kind of success with it as US shale producers. You know the saying, exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence. Not seeing exceptional evidence in the article.

        • Dhako

          You can easily have the evidence you are looking for if you are in a position to get hold of the Professor Linga of Singapore (who as it so happens is not a Chinese citizen). And if you can’t be bothered to do that, then, you can simply wait a month at the most (or at least few weeks) which will be when the ASEAN states will sign the “Code of Conduct” (CoC) agreement in-terms of using the wealth of South China Sea (SCS) collectively and equitably, between them. Hence, once that CoC is agreed between the ASEAN States, then, the issue of how this new discovery will be put to a better use in “extracting” the wealth of this Sea will be explain.

          • Suzy Dixon

            Uh huh. You’re funny:) so the professor is going to be the extraordinary evidence for an extraordinary claim? I must be older than you. Been hearing about a code of conduct for many years. If the extraordinary claim here is true then it does seem less likely that a code of conduct will be inked. Not that inking means much anyway. UNCLOS didn’t

          • Dhako

            What was holding the Code of Conduct (CoC) was that, there was disagreement as to how the wealth that will be extracted from the SCS will be divvy up between the all the claimants. And now, that the ASEAN states, that China has “won” her eyeball-to-eyeball contest against Uncle Sam, in particularly whether China can be curb from her agenda in the SCS, meant, that the nations like Philippines and Vietnam, are ready to “sign off” the CoC, which in turn will show how the way the wealth will be divided up.

            And this means, most countries who has a claim on the SCS are happy to share the wealth with China. And China, in turn will be happy to accommodate these ASEAN countries right to these wealth. And this is the point you have a difficulty in understanding. As for the technology, the Chinese do not need to prove it to anyone other than show the works of this extraction. Hence, its likely that China is waiting this CoC to be done so that, they show their ASEAN new friends how this technology will benefit all.

        • Fat_Man

          Don’t argue with Dhako. It is a bot. it will argue ad infinitum and it will never give up.

          • Dhako

            Aah, I see we have heard from another rationally challenged cretin from the central casting of the Trump’s groupies. Well, why am I not surprise? Now, listen to me dear pillock, if ever there is a bot around here, the likes of your kind, who waits most morning in rapture for the latest tweet from that Buffoon in the White-House, just to make sense of their miserable lives, are really the only ones who could be in the running to be considered as a bots or something of a facsimile of it. Hence, it’s really rich of you to accuse others of what at any given day you give a good impression of being thought off.

          • Fat_Man

            On cue.

      • ——————————

        Grasshopper,

        The paper tiger has no exceptionalism. That is why it can only copy what others have already done. Even for the paper tiger to copy is a struggle…and which mostly produces something inferior in the end.

        Grasshopper, why is the paper tiger such a mentally weak place? Why is the paper tiger always following from behind instead of being on the cutting edge?

        • Dhako

          Aah, the knuckle-dragging cretin of TAI is finally here. I was kind of wondering when I was going to hear from you? For, I thought you may have decided to top yourself off with the usual opioid stuff, in which your kind of ill-educated plebeian rednecks in the Rust-Belt’s USA were known in recent years to indulge in, Particularly for want of better things to do with their miserable failing lives.

          Hence, I was sort of worried about you lately. Which means, by the looks of it, although you are not much use even to yourself, but at least your presence in here indicates to me, that, China, has nothing to worry about when it comes to her “strategical competition” against US.

          And the reason I say that, is that the likes of you are the ones Mr Trump will need to con (or fobbed off) when he decided to cut a deal with China that in turn will not be a damaging to her. Hence so long as I know that the likes of you who “worship” the feet of Mr Trump are the “political base” of his, then, I am the happiest guy alive.

          Which means, Mr Trump will not have a great deal of difficult in “selling” to the likes of you whatever a “third-rate deal” (long on promises and short on delivery) in which China (in her infinite calculating wisdom) cobbles together for the US. And in particularly, just to ensure that there will not be a trade-war between US and China. So, you may not know this, but your presence in here (with silly insults and all) is really “strategical re-assurance” to me. So, keep at it, dear ninny.

          • ——————————

            Grasshopper,
            The knuckle dragging and all that is not offensive to me. It is actually quite funny to see you go off ad nauseam with all that Trump supporter stuff. Your soft underbelly is so easy to expose.
            Do.you know why Grasshopper? Because the things I say about the paper tiger and those who praise it are true, you know it, and it stings you. That is why you try to insult me. But you never can Grasshopper. Why?…because I am USA all the way! And those of the paper tiger are simply living on our fumes….

          • Dhako

            You really flatter yourself inordinately, if you think this silly insults is really something that is exposing me. In fact, I assure you, the minute I see your usual tendentious line, I do smile to myself. and I say, lets see if I can have some fun in telling this cretin as to how he is clueless about China. And, in fact, while you are still under the impression that China is about paper tiger, the Chinese are actually eating Uncle Sam’s lunch in that Pacific region. And you can ask any nation in that part of the world. So, my advice to you is to keep believing this business about tiger paper and whatnot. And China, will continue in her merry-way of winning one nation after the other in her region to her side. Is that a fair deal to you, dear ninny?

          • ——————————

            Grasshopper
            What is the paper tiger trying to win? A few loser 3rd – world countries? Gee Grasshopper, now that would be huge for paper tiger! No Grasshopper, the USA will always be on top. No one follows weakness, they follow a leader. The paper tiger is not a leader, it is a follower.

            And no one at TAI takes your paper tiger seriously. That is why we all make you as a joke here.
            So better for the PTR – Paper Tiger Republic, to pay you to write on another blog Grassgopper….

          • D4x

            Insults from a Chinese farmer’s only son do not count when he does not know the difference between a redneck and a cheesehead. 🙂

            Your reward: lots of great photos:
            http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4521422/Trumps-foreign-trip-high-stakes-stop.html#ixzz4hZNFG6lj

          • ——————————

            Well, I have lived in Wisconsin and Texas, so that makes me both!

          • D4x

            Texas is more cowboy! I was in Milwaukee on business, and everyone else in the motel was there for a Cheesehead Convention. Hard to recover from that without a six-pack of Leinenkugels.

          • ——————————

            I was born in Milwaukee area. Got out of Wisconsin in ’91…too cold.
            My mom had a few season tickets to the Packers and used to wear a cheesehead at the games. I think I had one on my head for a pic or two over the years. I remember Leineies. It was a small local northern Wisconsin brewery when I was there. I guess they are big now.

            How did that tornado go for you yesterday? Did you have to follow the yellow brick road, or you still in Kansas? ;+)

          • D4x

            Lambeau Field = Real Football. It was a T-storm, just wicked wind gusts, more to come next few days. If only this was Kansas, would be in Oz by now! Two finches in a panic this am, looking for their missing friend.

            On to the next challenge…

          • ——————————

            Sorry about having to dispatch the finch, BTW.

            Yeah, I think you shut Dhako up. He never replied after. I just like messing with him. A waste of time, but I like to push his buttons to see what he writes in response…it’s humorous. I know he is a paid troll, anyway.

            Hey, If you ever do get to OZ, remember to just follow the yellow brick road!
            …and be careful of a Straw man (no pun intended), he is a Democrat…he has no brain….

          • D4x

            In previous threads, I used 1) ‘night soil’ reference to stop his trash-talk about India, and 2) “Pride and Prejudice” in Mandarin to stop his disrespect for Amb Haley down.

            I had to research to find out the Chinese equivalent for redneck as slur.

            I do have a soft spot for songbirds…did not think about the glue traps as hazard, but they work too well for all the other critters who slither inside. The screaming was unexpected.

            My last house had hummingbirds. I got mugged by one once, while deadheading hot pink phlox. Remarkable – after feeling a thump on my ribs, that hummingbird actually switched to hover mode so I could see it.

            Oz is in my dreams…Today is No-Mercy-to-Moles day! I keep trying to drive them next door, where Dixie the rat terrier and Daisy the beagle await. Dixie was in a panic last week, she knew the mole was on my side of the fence, so close…two inches away.

          • ——————————

            Could you surround the glue traps with chicken wire or some large-holed screening to keep the birds away, but let the critters in?

            No moles around this part of Texas, but I had plenty in Portland and San Diego.
            San Diego was the worst. I was in an area where everyone had small acreage (2-10), so around each house was a small island of moist irrigated soil…in a part of the country that gets about 10 inches of rain a year…so every mole around came to tunnel the moist soil and feast under the yards. It was a constant non-stop battle to just control the invasions, and the subsequent lawn and flowerbed damage.
            I got real good with a thin steel rod finding the tunnels, and then setting the mole traps. I sure don’t miss them.

            Gotta love watching POTUS and FLOTUS today in Riydah!

          • D4x

            Thx, but glue traps are inside garage. The finch got trapped when the door was open. Catch up on the day in Riyadh later! Ivanka is trending on Arab twitter –

          • ——————————

            Great article.
            Too bad the US media can’t write an article like that…unbiased…and lots of great pics!

            Unfortunately they had to mention info from WaPo and NYT. It’s like you can’t get away from it….

          • D4x

            WaPo and NYT are the glue traps of media. Yesterday, a finch got stuck on one in my garage, going for a juicy spider. I tried to free it. Never knew such a small bird could scream like that. I had to drown it to end it’s pain.

            Actually, first time I heard a bird scream. I knew, even if free, it would still have glue on it.

            My metaphor for what is wrong with America. Taking solace that it wasn’t the bluebird who keeps pecking on my window, or the cardinal…

    • Fat_Man

      I think the word you are looking for is the anglo saxon word for the dejecta of an uncastrated fully grown male bovid.

    • Proud Skeptic

      Let’s not forget that the also said they verified the new stable element that Sheldon Cooper discovered (when he misread that table and screwed up his math).
      Big Bang Theory imitates life, huh?

  • Dhako

    The issue of South China Sea (SCS) is not China’s alleged aggression as you absurdly characterize it. But rather it’s about ensuring two things, simultaneously. And they are ensuring, the US’s Pacific Fleet that made it a habit of harassing territorial waters have some reason to worry about as to what China’s footprints in the SCS could amount to strategically in the unlikely event of a clash between the US’s Navy and the Chinese’s Navy in and around SCS. And secondly, it’s to guarantee that the mineral and oil rich waters of the SCS, doesn’t get to be owned by any power that is hostile to China. And, of course, China, will be happy to share (equitably) with the likes of Philippines and Vietnam, who also have the largest claim on these wealth along with China. And, contrary to what some folks in here tell themselves, the Chinese have already mastered the technique and the technology needed to get this wealth from the ground. And soon you will see that.

    • Isaiah6020

      Define “soon”. Are we talking days, weeks, months, years, decades? If you are so confident, you should put a number on it. So…. What is it?

      • Dhako

        Months or few weeks at thew most. In fact, once he Code of Conduct (CoC) is signed, then, China will (with much fanfare) show-case this technology to her new ASEAN friends, so that, they will know, the wealth of the South China Sea (SCS) will not be denied to them, regardless of how futile it was for some of them to have thought that Uncle Sam could be rely on to deny China the right ownership of this Sea, which is what the Philippines former government have tried to do it at the Hague tribunal, which was what the then Obama’s administration have egged them on to do. And now, since most of these ASEAN states know that, they are alone with China in the SCS, then, they are ready to sign on with her in-terms of CoC. And, then China will be happy to use one of its major State-owned-Enterprise (SOE) in the oil and the gas sector to start drilling this stuff with these new technology, while at the same time allowing countries in the ASEAN countries (particularly the Vietnam and Philippines) to establish a joint-venture with her.

        • Isaiah6020

          So few weeks. OK. We’ll see.

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