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Combustible ice offers new energy source

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Staff writer |
Combustible iceChina has announced that combustible ice, frozen methane and water, may replace traditional energy sources such as oil, with commercial development of the new resource in China likely around 2030, the state-run China News Service reports.

The Ministry of Land and Resources held a press briefing to announce the results of exploration of combustible ice in Chinese waters in 2013.

Methane hydrate is an ice-like substance called combustible ice since it can be burned as fuel. Excavators would likely melt the ice underground first and then extract the methane. Researchers are still investigating the most appropriate way to extract the fuel for commercialization.

One cubic meter of methane hydrate, a highly-efficient clean energy source, can generate 164-180 cubic meters of natural gas.

Methane hydrate has abundant reserves worldwide, about twice the combined reserves of coals, oil and natural gas. Che Changbo, deputy director of the ministry's Geological Survey Division, said the world's known reserves of methane hydrate are equivalent to 1,000 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, more than double the combined reserves of natural gas (430 trillion cubic meters), shale gas (187 trillion cubic meters), and coal-bed methane (260 trillion cubic meters).

China is rich in coal, poor in oil and lacking in natural gas. The nation has been a net importer of oil for 20 straight years. In 2012, China's dependence on imported crude oil reached 56%, making it the world's second-largest crude oil importer and the second-biggest crude oil consumer.

After 15 years of exploration, the South China Sea area is estimated to have 68 billion tonnes of oil equivalent of methane hydrate, and the Qinghai area an estimated 35 billion tonnes. Experts said the Qinghai area's reserves may be even larger than the given estimate.

China is expected to make major breakthroughs in the technology involved in exploring methane hydrate in around 2020, and will achieve commercialization of the clean energy source in around 2030, experts said.

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