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Vol. 28 No. 4
July-August 2006

The Ice that Burns*— Burning Questions about Gas Hydrates

by Barbara Maynard

Methane hydrates are nothing less than ice that burns. In an era of growing concern about energy prices and shortages, gas hydrates offer the potential of a vast new source of natural gas. These odd gas traps also are playing a role in the debate over global warming.

A Canadian fishing crew hauled in an unusual catch off the coast of Vancouver Island several years ago. Instead of fish, they netted what looked like a 450-kilogram chunk of ice. Unlike ordinary ice, however, it began to hiss and steam. If a crew member had struck a match, the chunk would have burst into flame.

The ship had unwittingly discovered a large reserve of methane hydrate, a strange conglomeration of water ice and methane packed with hopes and fears in this era of growing concerns about energy supplies and energy’s impact on the environment.

> full text (pdf-319KB)

*Reprinted from Chemistry, winter 2006 issue, pages 27–33. Copyright 2006 Barbara Maynard. Contact <bmaynard@nasw.org> for reprint permission.


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