New Fuel From the Ocean Floor
The bottom of the ocean may hold enough fuel to
provide power to the world for several centuries. But no one will know
for certain until scientists from the NSF-supported international Ocean
Drilling Program figure out a way of getting the gas hydrates up to the
Gas hydrates--gray crystals formed from a combination of methane gas, water
and pressure--are estimated to contain twice as much carbon as all the known
deposits of oil, gas and coal. The crystals are stored in the ocean crust and
kept under extremely high pressure.
"Humans die in the conditions under which gas hydrates form, and gas hydrates
decompose rapidly in conditions comfortable for humans," says Charles K. Paull,
a member of the Ocean Drilling Program and a geologist at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"Their foreign environment is the main reason we know so little about them, and
in fact, most geologists have never seen a sample," he told the Durham (NC) Herald-Sun.
The team of 25 scientists and 25 technicians is drilling four deep holes and
seven shallow ones off the Carolina coast. When they succeed in getting a sample
they will have to work quickly; the crystals will decompose within a few hours.