01 February 2010

Colonising the Arctic: Ample Fuels Under the Ice


Methane hydrates are found worldwide in large quantities -- under the seabed, under the arctic tundra, and in other parts unknown. Intensive research has led to increasingly feasible methods of harvesting these frozen methane hydrates -- which when added to huge new terrestrial natural gas finds will increase methane supplies worldwide significantly.
the U.S. Department of Energy's Methane Hydrate Research and Development Program has made considerable progress in the past five years toward understanding and developing methane hydrate as a possible energy resource.

"DOE's program and programs in the national and international research community provide increasing confidence from a technical standpoint that some commercial production of methane from methane hydrate could be achieved in the United States before 2025," said Charles Paull, chair of the committee that wrote the report, and senior scientist, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California. "With global energy demand projected to increase, unconventional resources such as methane hydrate become important to consider as part of the future U.S. energy portfolio and could help provide more energy security for the United States."

Methane hydrate, a solid composed of methane and water, occurs in abundance on the world's continental margins and in permafrost regions, such as in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska's North Slope. Although the total global volume of methane in methane hydrate is still debated, estimates yield s that are significant compared with the global supplies of conventional natural gas. The existence of such a large and untapped energy resource has provided a strong global incentive to determine how methane might be produced from methane hydrate safely, economically, and in an environmentally sensible way. _SD
Significant challenges to safe harvesting of frozen methane hydrates remain, and must be overcome before economic use of these massive deposits can become commonplace.

Significant challenges to the use of algal fuels also remain to be tackled, but that doesn't stop some researchers from predicting that algal fuels will be available commercially within 5 years! University of Arizona researchers believe that their new photobioreactor -- dubbed "Accordion" -- will help to accelerate commercial development of algal fuels significantly.

Above cross-posted to Al Fin Energy

Which brings us to the topic of colonising the Arctic (and perhaps the Antarctic?). In the frozen wastelands of the great north, one finds ample supplies of oxygen, nitrogen, and water (frozen and thawed alternatively). Carbon sources are typically scarce, as are energy sources. But if viable methods of harvesting methane hydrates are developed, both carbon and energy may suddenly become plentiful. Power, heat, and carbon for synthesis of materials is suddenly available, which opens the door to long term settlement.

Global warming catastrophe is not in the cards, so predictions of a sudden warming of the Arctic appear to be par for the course for climate hysterics. That being the case, it is up to cold climate pioneers to open the vast "wasteland" of the north (and south?).

Conditions in the far north and far south are near-equivalent of ice age conditions. It might be good practise for the not so distant future, to learn survival in a glacial age.

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Blogger al fin said...

Xyz: Most readers are unlikely to blindly click a link without any idea what to expect.

When you blanket-post a link over various comment threads, you may want to include information about the link's destination content.

I like the climaterealist website, and the video you link to is hilarious and worth watching. But most people will take your comment as it appears, as spam.

Monday, 01 February, 2010  
Blogger Mr. P said...

Thanks for the reco

Monday, 01 February, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There really have been only a handful of attempts to colonize the arctic:

1. Norse settlement of Greenland.
This attempt required dealing with growing seasons that are even shorter than the ones in Iceland. The Norse dealt with this initially by growing barley instead of wheat, since barley has a shorter growing season.

2. Russia
Russia has to deal with winters that I believe are even harsher than the ones in southern Scandinavia. Politically Russia has been a failure, but before the October Revolution Russia was self-sufficient. Russia is currently the world's leading grower of barley.

3. Alaska & northern Canada
Just speaking of Alaska, most of the settlement is on the southern fringe of the state. I think that most of the interior is mainly composed of natives engaged in hunting and gathering, along with a few Whites who do the same. According to this source at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Alaska produces just 5% of its own food.

Fuel in the Arctic may actually be a far easier challenge than food, since there is probably coal or even oil up there. Greenland is currently developing hydropower resources so that the Eskimos can work in energy intensive industries like Aluminum mining and smelting. link

Food, morale, finding settlers, being able to acquire land for a colony would be the biggest challenges. Fuel would be second tier problem, even though it would appear to be of paramount importance.

Wednesday, 03 February, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

In terms of long term settlement, it all hinges on the fuel. If you have the fuel you can do everything else using hydroponics, aeroponics, greenhouses with artificial light, etc.

Getting the land is only a problem for those who lack imagination. ;-)

Finding true grit settlers with the skills and the will to make a go will always be the toughest part.

Wednesday, 03 February, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it all hinges on the fuel then the matter is settled. Antarctica has known coal deposits according to wiki, and I remember seeing a map of minerals on that continent back in school. Here is the wiki quote:

East Antarctica is geologically very old, dating from the Precambrian era, with some rocks formed more than 3 billion years ago. It is composed of a metamorphic and igneous platform which is the basis of the continental shield. On top of this base are various more modern rocks, such as sandstones, limestones, coal and shales laid down during the Devonian and Jurassic periods to form the Transantarctic Mountains.

And if there is coal down there, then there is probably coal in the far north as well, if only because there are so many conventional hydrocarbons up there that are already being extracted.

Wednesday, 03 February, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Drat again, I forgot to link to my source.


Wednesday, 03 February, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Wikipedia? What billionaire that you know will finance an expedition to build colonisation infrastructure in Antarctica based upon speculation using Wikipedia as a source?

You need a detailed proposal with specific site surveys pertinent to all aspects of the proposed project.

Take your time. ;-)

Remember, international law prohibits most normal activity from Antarctica. Be sure to detail how you will deal with that complication.

Thursday, 04 February, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off, I don't know any billionaires to begin with.

As for international law, that will crumble if the US government defaults on its debts. If international law crumbles then there will be no legal opposition from the UN, since it won't be backed by the US, and it may not even exist by then.

Argentina arranged for on if its citizens to give birth in one of its research stations as part of its long term effort to secure title to part of Antarctica.

After doing a little googling I found that the Australian government has an entire department dedicated to Antarctica, and that this agency mentions the coal deposits down there on its website:

Minerals have been discovered in Antarctica as a result of general geological studies. The main minerals which are known are iron oxides and coal. Minor occurrences of many others are known but are of no commercial significance. source

Also, this page also mentions the coal deposits down there, even going so far as to include a picture of a seam. link

Thursday, 04 February, 2010  

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