Hydrates and climate changes

Methane is much more opaque to infrared radiation than CO2 and consequently it produces a greenhouse effect 20 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. It is a gas whose effect on the atmosphere is much more dangerous than that of CO2: its effects are not very important because, at the moment, it is found in very limited quantities. Geological evidence in Antarctic ice cores show, however, that periods when the climate was warmer are always associated to increases in the methane concentration in the atmosphere. The exploitation of methane hydrates potentially creates the risk of releasing great amounts of methane, either accidentally or as an undesired consequence of the extractive process. What must be avoided is that the exploitation of this enormous energy source should happen in an irresponsible way: the release of great quantities of methane could cause an increase in the greenhouse effect and, consequently, a warming of the oceans. This would bring about the melting of great amounts of hydrates beneath the ocean floor, in the land covered with permafrost and in the polar ice causing a further release of methane: this would trigger off a series of processes whose final effects are difficult to foresee. Man’s contribution to the greenhouse effect as a result of the burning of all the fossil fuels available, would be of ‘only’ 200 billion tonnes of CO2: nothing, when compared to the possibility that hydrates could release 10,000 billion tonnes of methane ‘spontaneously’! Moreover, when hydrates are absent, the sediments of continental slopes are made up of loose and unstable elements. Therefore it is likely that the melting of hydrates could trigger off landslide phenomena, even on a large scale, in the areas where extraction is taking place.

Special reports

From the Multimedia section

  • energy

    World natural gas reserves in 2017

    Look

    energy

    Natural gas production: top ten countries in 2017

    Look

    energy

    Underground pipeline

    Look
  • energy

    Gas pipeline under construction

    Look

    energy

    Natural gas: the world top ten exporters (2017)

    Look

    energy

    Map of the world gas resources

    Look
  • energy

    Refining

    Look at the video

    energy

    Share of renewable electricity sources in total electricity sector consumption (2018)

    Look

    energy

    Per capita waste generation in EU, 2017

    Look
  • energy

    World natural gas reserves in 2017

    Look

    energy

    Natural gas production: top ten countries in 2017

    Look
  • energy

    Underground pipeline

    Look

    energy

    Gas pipeline under construction

    Look
  • energy

    Natural gas: the world top ten exporters (2017)

    Look

    energy

    Map of the world gas resources

    Look
  • energy

    World natural gas reserves in 2017

    Look
  • energy

    Natural gas production: top ten countries in 2017

    Look
  • energy

    Underground pipeline

    Look

Facts

  • Some curiosities about methane hydrates

    The melting of the ice cells, not only brings about the release of methane gas, but it also produces another…

    Orimulsion

    In order to improve supply security, and therefore the diversification of sources to produce electric energy...

    Cracking operations

    At the end of the fractional distillation, long hydrocarbon molecules can be transformed into lighter molecules by means of more…

  • Where does energy come from?

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need...

    Electricity and electrons

    In all electric plants, excluding photovoltaic solar plants, mechanic energy is transformed into electric energy through the same basic procedure...

    Peat and peat-bogs

    The age of coal starts towards the mid 1600s, stimulated by the need for finding an alternative energy source to…

  • Geographical distribution of energy

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need. Unfortunately we cannot exploit all this…

    An artificial geyser

    Electric and thermal power produced from geothermal energy depend on the existence of underground infiltrations...

    A hydrogen house

    In Settimo, a municipality close to Turin, the first Unité d’Abitation has been created...

  • 14 June 2011

    Some curiosities about methane hydrates

    The melting of the ice cells, not only brings about the release of methane gas, but it also produces another…

    2 March 2011

    Orimulsion

    In order to improve supply security, and therefore the diversification of sources to produce electric energy...

  • Cracking operations

    At the end of the fractional distillation, long hydrocarbon molecules can be transformed into lighter molecules by means of more…

    Where does energy come from?

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need...

  • Electricity and electrons

    In all electric plants, excluding photovoltaic solar plants, mechanic energy is transformed into electric energy through the same basic procedure...

    Peat and peat-bogs

    The age of coal starts towards the mid 1600s, stimulated by the need for finding an alternative energy source to…

  • 14 June 2011

    Some curiosities about methane hydrates

    The melting of the ice cells, not only brings about the release of methane gas, but it also produces another…

  • 2 March 2011

    Orimulsion

    In order to improve supply security, and therefore the diversification of sources to produce electric energy...

  • Cracking operations

    At the end of the fractional distillation, long hydrocarbon molecules can be transformed into lighter molecules by means of more…