Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Scientists Find a Cleaner Way to Extract Methane From Permafrost

Science
Methane gas bubbles are seen trapped in the ice of a frozen thermokarst lake, which has an active methane seep. Kevin Hand, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

An international team of scientists says a new way of extracting methane gas trapped in permafrost has the potential to harvest more gas while burning fewer fossil fuels in the extraction process, as Newsweek reported.


The scientists from Skoltech University in Russia and Heriot-Watt University in Scotland looked at the gas hydrates, which are ice-like structures made up of water and gas. Frequently, the gas trapped with the water is methane. They found that they could use flue gas, which is generated during fuel combustion, to recover methane. Their findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports, as Newsweek reported.

By injecting hot waste flue gas from industrial plants into the gas hydrates, the scientists may have found a carbon sink that can trap the greenhouse gases created by industrial fuel combustion, according to New Atlas.

The new method is important because gas and oil explorations in the Arctic have the potential to accidentally release a lot of trapped methane into the atmosphere. Recently, the Arctic waters around Russia have become a hotbed of oil and gas exploration, but safely extracting the resources poses risks. The area is remote and desolate and lacks infrastructure, plus gas hydrates that are not handled properly may lead to unacceptable methane-levels released into the local atmosphere, according to New Atlas.

The climate crisis has triggered large swaths of ice melt in Russia's Arctic waters. The country is looking to exploit the new openings by rapidly expanding oil and gas development. Russia has offered large tax cuts to energy companies willing to tap into the fossil fuels from its recently discovered reserves that opened up due to melting sea ice, as Newsweek reported.

And yet, according to the scientists, those gas hydrates are also a potential source for natural gas and a place to put unwanted greenhouse gases.

"Our approach not only helps extract methane and prevent its free release into the atmosphere, but also reduces carbon dioxide emissions," said Evgeny Chuvilin, a leading research scientist at the Skoltech Center for Hydrocarbon Recovery (CHR), in a statement. "I would say our method offers a double dividend in terms of environmental safety."

The method the scientists developed takes flue gas from coal-powered plants, metal refineries and other furnaces that use fuel combustion. It then takes the hot flue gas and pumps it into the gas hydrates. That starts a reaction where the methane is released and carbon dioxide replaces it and forms a new hydrate, as New Atlas reported.

The researchers found they were able to capture almost 82 percent of the carbon dioxide contained in the flue gas, as Newsweek reported.

Finding a way to trap flue gas could reap large benefits in reducing global greenhouse emissions, since it consists of several gases produced during fuel combustion. In addition to carbon dioxide, it contains carbon monoxide, nitrogen, sulfur dioxide, and water vapor, according to New Atlas.

As for the liberated methane, it can be used in a closed cycled where the gas powers an industrial plant and the flue gases are recycled to reduce emissions and to release more methane for the plant to use, as New Atlas reported.

"In comparison with potential methods such as thermal stimulation, depressurization, chemical inhibitor injection, CO2, or CO2-mixed gases (e.g., flue gas) injection is more environmentally friendly because of the potential to capture CO2 simultaneously with methane recovery," the authors wrote in the study.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Charli Shield

At unsettling times like the coronavirus outbreak, it might feel like things are very much out of your control. Most routines have been thrown into disarray and the future, as far as the experts tell us, is far from certain.

Read More Show Less
Pie Ranch in San Mateo, California, is a highly diverse farm that has both organic and food justice certification. Katie Greaney

By Elizabeth Henderson

Farmworkers, farmers and their organizations around the country have been singing the same tune for years on the urgent need for immigration reform. That harmony turns to discord as soon as you get down to details on how to get it done, what to include and what compromises you are willing to make. Case in point: the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038), which passed in the House of Representatives on Dec. 11, 2019, by a vote of 260-165. The Senate received the bill the next day and referred it to the Committee on the Judiciary, where it remains. Two hundred and fifty agriculture and labor groups signed on to the United Farm Workers' (UFW) call for support for H.R. 5038. UFW President Arturo Rodriguez rejoiced:

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A woman walks to her train in Grand Central Terminal as New York City attempts to slow down the spread of coronavirus through social distancing on March 27. John Lamparski / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

A council representing more than 800,000 doctors across the U.S. signed a letter Friday imploring President Donald Trump to reverse his call for businesses to reopen by April 12, warning that the president's flouting of the guidance of public health experts could jeopardize the health of millions of Americans and throw hospitals into even more chaos as they fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less
polaristest / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner

Over six gallons of water are required to produce one gallon of wine. "Irrigation, sprays, and frost protection all [used in winemaking] require a lot of water," explained winemaker and sommelier Keith Wallace, who's also a professor and the founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia, the largest independent wine school in the U.S. And water waste is just the start of the climate-ruining inefficiencies commonplace in the wine industry. Sustainably speaking, climate change could be problematic for your favorite glass of wine.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

Spinach is a true nutritional powerhouse, as it's rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Read More Show Less