Japan discovers new gas source

By Leith van Onselen

Following on from FT Alphaville’s post on China’s efforts to extract natural gas from shale rock formations, it appears that Japan has now discovered big gas reserves in waters adjoining the Japanese coastline. From The Telegraph:

Japan has extracted natural “ice” gas from methane hydrates beneath the sea off its coasts in a technological coup, opening up a super-resource that could meet the country’s gas needs for the next century and radically change the world’s energy outlook.

…an exploration ship had successfully drilled 300 metres below the seabed into deposits of methane hydrate, an ice-like solid that stores gas molecules but requires great skill to extract safely.

“Methane hydrates available within Japan’s territorial waters may well be able to supply the nation’s natural gas needs for a century,” said the company…

Government officials said it was the world’s first off-shore experiment of its kind, though Japan been working closely with the Canadians. The US and China have their own probes underway.

The US Geological Survey said methane hydrates offer an “immense carbon reservoir”, twice all other known fossil fuels on earth… However, it warned that the ecological impact is “very poorly understood”.

The immediate discoveries in Japan’s Eastern Tankai Trough are thought to hold 40 trillion cubic feet of methane, equal to eleven years gas imports… Tokyo hopes to bring the gas to market on a commercial scale within five years…

The country’s trade surplus has vanished since the government shut down all but two of its 54 nuclear reactors after the Fukushima disaster in 2011 and switched to other fuels, mostly liquefied natural gas (LNG).

It imported a record 87m tonnes of LNG last year at roughly five times the cost of shale gas available to US chemical companies and key industries, putting Japanese firms at a huge disadvantage.

Japan’s Institute of Energy Economics said methane hydrate could be the “game-changer” that restores Japan’s flagging fortunes, acting as a catalyst for revival much like the shale revolution in the US.

Japan is a major importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and thermal coal from Australia. Therefore, the discovery of vast natural gas reserves in Japan has potential to deal yet another blow to Australia’s LNG and coal industries, which are already feeling the effects of the shale gas boom in the US.

As with China’s shale gas reserves, there are doubts over whether Japan’s ‘ice’ gas can be commercially harvested, as well as its environmental efficacy. Nevertheless, it seems clear that Australia’s exports of LNG and thermal coal are likely to come under increasing pressure.

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Comments

  1. Cue mass a massive campaign of FUD from the watermelon fraternity.

    A century of clean cheap energy… That’s one in the eye for the thinly disguised Jacobins who would seek to control us all.

    • I forget which famous eco-fundamentalist said “cheap energy for humanity is like giving a machine gun to an idiot child….”

      The same kind of eco-fundamentalists routinely say things like “humanity is a cancer on the planet”.

      • If only those misanthropes would lead by example and, to paraphrase the words of the Church of Euthanasia, save the planet by killing themselves.

      • The greatest misanthropes here are the anti-science deniers, not those concerned with the ecological health of the planet.

      • Cornucopians. Obviously.

        “Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.” –Kenneth E. Boulding

      • Obviously economic growth isn’t confined to the planet we inhabit currently. Anyone who believes interplanetary or interstellar colonization is fundamentally impossible suffers a massive deficit of imagination.

        So the only constraints on exponential growth are the energy that exists within our galaxy (I’ll admit intergalactic colonization is a long shot), and human ingenuity. It’s true that we may eventually run dry of nuclear fuel, but the time span we are dealing with when discussing the exhaustion of the milky way’s nuclear fuel is so long as to be virtually irrelevant; it’s not technically infinite but for our purposes it is as good as.

        Furthermore, so long as the GDP of our economy is growing at all, say by 0.1% per century, we are still growing exponentially. We could be entirely reliant on renewable energy sources and through the simple, inexhaustible process of human innovation, we would still find means of producing more from a given quantity of inputs, we would still be growing exponentially. It isn’t that difficult a concept to behold when you break it down.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Anyone who believes interplanetary or interstellar colonization is fundamentally impossible suffers a massive deficit of imagination.

        In timeframes that are relevant (say, decades to a century or two), “colonisation” even within the solar system is as close as matters to impossible, outside of a genuine black swan event.

      • ” “colonisation” even within the solar system is as close as matters to impossible, outside of a genuine black swan event.”

        Ironically, abundant cheap energy from sayt thorium, LENR or thermonuclear fusion may just allow this to happen.

      • Would it be regarded that 10% of the western world are green sympathisers?

        If all greenies committed suicide, as to reduce the western worlds CO2 emmission by 10%, wouldn’t this solve everything?

        Time to take one for the team fellas1

      • Careful, careful, remember some of them DO commit suicide because they are indeed so distressed for the Gaia Earth Mother and the nature spirits and so on.

      • Well they do keep calling for population reductions.

        I’m ready Harry Turtledove’s Southern Victory series, 8 books in, at the moment and that term takes on a whole different meaning.

        I mean if we’re going to reduce the popultation, why can’t greenies be the population that’s reduced?

      • Because the Greenies alway mean the heaving masses on foreign continents – never their own (superior in the own mind) kind in upmarket inner city enclaves or seaside idylls.

        With the Greens it is always someone else who pays the price, picks up the tab.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        I have yet to meet anyone claiming to be a “greenie” (or “eco-fundamentalist”, as Phil-Reds-Under-The-Bed-Best would call them) who had more than two children. Indeed, most of the ones I know don’t have any.

        It’s hard to argue the “greenies” aren’t practicing what they preach when it comes to population control.

      • Why have the second? why have any?

        Why continuing living and putting the planet under its undeserved strain?

        The call is for less people not a stable population for controling the existing population, make it less, it costs $0.08 of lead and is near instantaneous.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Why have the second? why have any?
        Many of them have none. Most have one. A few have two.

        I imagine they have children for the same reason most people have children.

        Why continuing living and putting the planet under its undeserved strain?

        Because you don’t want to kill yourself ?

        The call is for less people not a stable population for controling the existing population, make it less, it costs $0.08 of lead and is near instantaneous.
        The hypocritical thing is the ones accusing the “greenies” of advocating genocide (almost always a lie), are always the ones encouraging or suggesting harm to others.

        2 or fewer children per family does result in less people. It takes longer than mass murder, to be sure, but it’s a lot more civilised as well.

      • Most have one. A few have two.

        Too many in a world that needs to have population reduced.

        I imagine they have children for the same reason most people have children.

        Yes, and a tangental debate is the primacy of this urge and how it should be regarded, but back on track

        Because you don’t want to kill yourself ?

        So the planet is a priority for greenies?

        The hypocritical thing is the ones accusing the “greenies” of advocating genocide (almost always a lie), are always the ones encouraging or suggesting harm to others.

        No, what this is is a lure to bring the hypocracy of greenies.

        The next logical cuorse of action is identify where are high birth rates, where women are have 4.5+ children.

        They will also tend to be countries that are recipients of foreign aid.

        So we should withhold foreign aid to these coutries to rationalise the population then?

        2 or fewer children per family does result in less people. It takes longer than mass murder, to be sure, but it’s a lot more civilised as well.

        Civilised than what?

        The other side isn’t arguing for a population reduction, let alone the methodology of acheiving it.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Too many in a world that needs to have population reduced.
        If you say so.

        Yes, and a tangental debate is the primacy of this urge and how it should be regarded, but back on track.

        Why did you raise the question if you didn’t want to discuss it ?

        So the planet is a priority for greenies?

        What ?

        So we should withhold foreign aid to these coutries to rationalise the population then?

        If you say so.

        Civilised than what?

        More civilised than the straw man argument being made about killing people or otherwise hastening their deaths by withholding aid.

    • There is nothing at all clean or cheap about Methane Hydrates.

      We have always known about them, and where they are – this is NOT a new discovery, merely the prospect of extracting them, which has always been shunned for very good reason.

      Methane Hydrates represent one of the most potentially catastrophic forms of global warming that exists – they are incredibly bad for global warming and potentially catastrophic if destabilised.

      Creating the hydrates was a million year process which shifted the balance of the atmosphere from a carbon rich life destroying soup – to an oxygen rich life supporting one.

      The hydrates are fundamentally highly explosive, highly unstable and represent a very real threat to humanity if allowed to re-enter the atmosphere.

      It is really SHOCKING to see the anti-science global warming deniers running around trumpeting their ignorance and accusing the global scientific community of being the watermelon fraternity in order to profit and satisfy the greed imperative.

      Methane release in the artic

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/vast-methane-plumes-seen-in-arctic-ocean-as-sea-ice-retreats-6276278.html

      Consequences

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080528140255.htm

      • Thank you Horizon. See my contribution below.

        The intellectual dishonesty and downright ignorance exhibited in the first three comments is breathtaking.

      • The headline of this page is incorrect. Japan has been trying to think of a way to use the methane hydrates and clathrates for many years, and they are still “5 years” away from anything scalable (rather like the way fusion energy is always “20 years” away (and has been for the last 60 years). 🙄

        And of course, it’s an ecological nightmare if ever they get it to work.

        We have to leave the rest of the fossil fuels unused.

        The IEA has stated that “No more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2 °C goal,” the internationally recognized limit to average global warming in order to prevent catastrophic climate change.

        Let me rephrase that. Over two-thirds of today’s proven reserves of fossil fuels need to still be in the ground in 2050 in order to prevent catastrophic levels of climate change.

  2. Imagine that; a country that finds a new source of energy and thinks about self sufficiency. What did we do – flog most of the shit off. We really are a lucky country run by third rate politicians.

  3. the discovery of vast natural gas reserves in Japan has potential to deal yet another blow to Australia’s LNG and coal industries

    Deep ocean methane hydrates are nothing new. The large reserves in Japanese waters were not discovered recently — they’ve been known about for decades — what’s new is Japan’s attempts to extract natural gas from deep sea hydrates.

    Up until now its been considered too dangerous (foolish?) to exploit because of the high risk of leakage, but its a measure of Japan’s post-Fukushima desperation that they’re now willing to give it a try.

    Global methane emissions have accelerated markedly is recent years, primarily due to the melting of Arctic permafrost. Industrial-scale exploitation of methane hydrates will no doubt add to the problem.

    From wikipedia:

    The Japanese drilling project, part of the “Methane Hydrate Research and Development (R&D) Program”,[4] is located in the Nankai Trough region along the southeastern margin of Japan. The production research well project was developed in this region after field surveys completed by the Japanese government in 1995 revealed the existence of a bottom simulating reflector (BSR), which is believed to indicate the existence of large subsurface gas hydrate deposits. The project aims were to understand the nature of methane hydrate-bearing sediments in the Nankai Trough, the gas hydrates’ role as a future potential energy resource, and to assess the production and properties of the gas hydrate and its stability.

    Discovered in 1995!

  4. Stormy WatersMEMBER

    If you burn the methane rather than releasing it you turn methane into carbon. Methane emissions contribute to global warming about 23 times more than straight carbon emissions. So you’d be turning a vast store of unstable methane into relatively safer carbon and getting a bucket load of energy to boot (which is ~50% cleaner than producing the same amount of energy using coal).

    Of course, if you screw up the extraction and collapse one of the methane hydrate beds releasing the methane directly into the atmosphere that would be bad. No energy and ~10 times the effective emissions that would have been released if you had burnt an equivalent amount of coal.

    Risk vs reward

    • This is what is known as a false paradigm.

      We do not want to release anymore carbon into the atmosphere AT ALL.

      IN order to prevent runaway global warming with a tipping point projected somewhere between 2030 and 2050 we need to drastically reduce our carbon emissions, claiming we could do this by MASSIVELY increasing our carbon emissions by exploiting (and potentially destabilising) a stable store of methane because it is far worse is spurious at best, and in reality nefarious.

      Japan already has the worlds best advantage in energy via its reactors, which have been turned off due to a once in a life time event compounded by failures in oversight, corruption and greed driven failures.

      Another one, or even two Fukashimas is vastly preferable to the release of enough carbon to tip humanity over the global warming edge.

      • If we WERE going to “avoid ALL the costs of global warming” we would need to collapse the global economy, kill off 90% of humanity, and the rest go back to the trees and caves.

        Total BS. Without writing a dissertation to refute your FUD, I simply point readers to sites like Resilience.org, where hundreds of coping strategies are discussed (none of them involving mass death or living in caves 🙄 )

        http://www.resilience.org/news-archive

        And this MIGHT all have been based on a politically motivated FRAUD in the first place…!! (See, Climategate, Hockey-stick-gate, Glacier-gate, Polar-bear-gate etc etc).

        The only genuine “-gate” I can see in all this is where the funding of so-called “sceptics” (professional doubt-sowers, in reality) was shown to be sourced to filthy industries:

        Top climate scientist denounces billionaires over funding for climate-sceptic organisations

      • Stormy WatersMEMBER

        Firstly, it’s clearly less stable than leaving coal in the ground. Coal seams don’t spontaneous sublime during an earthquake.

        Secondly, you are determining that the risks associated with extraction exceed the reward of success. Not sure on what basis you come to that conclusion, but fair enough.

        My guess is that Japanese energy policy will come to a different conclusion. Do you think your posts and other actions are likely to change that?

      • Stormy, this issue is significant leakage of methane during the extraction process, which is released into the atmosphere unburnt.

        I agree the Japanese will do everything to exploit this resource. This is one of the many unfortunate consequences of Fukushima.

      • We’ll send up some drones with a pilot light on board. During winter, we’ll create a second sun.

      • Stormy convinces ME 100%.

        This is what “the enlightenment” was meant to be all about.

      • My guess is that Japanese energy policy will come to a different conclusion. Do you think your posts and other actions are likely to change that?

        My guess is that the process will prove to be unviable economically. They would have had it working already and scaled up if it were viable. That’s my best guess.

        Another Castle in the Air.

      • Ironically, one of the main reasons Japan would be trying so hard for methane, is to do its bit to reduce CO2 emissions….. without Kyoto, the CO2 credit trading complex, etc, they might not be bothering.

      • Japan’s reason for seeking local fuels is purely economic.

        The Japanese are not big on saving the Earth.

      • +1 Stormy

        CO2 hydrate is thermodynamically more stable than methane hydrate, so if they can extract methane and store CO2, it will reduce the risk of methane being released due to global warming.

        In other words, if the warming is so bad that it can cause the dissociation of the CO2 hydrates to be deposited, then it will certainly cause the dissociation of the existing methane hydrates at the same spot.

  5. An optimistic forecast – commercial production within five years. Significant technological and environmental factors to be managed not to mention the largely unmanageable potential for (predicted) seismic activity.

    Will watch with interest.

  6. I love the first three comments too – it’s like there’s a Greenie conspiracy to stop the harvest of a clean and cheap energy thus preventing us from continuing our traditional lifestyles. Cue outrage.

    As per comments from Horizon and Lorax, I think this potential energy source has been known about for many years but it’s also highly explosive and very unstable which is why it remains where it is. How do you keep it frozen while bringing it back to the surface? How pure is it? Would it need refinement thus requiring more energy? Overall, how energy intensive would the collection and consumption process be – would it actually be worth it?

    My suspicion is that nothing will come of this anyway because of the sheer expense of commercial harvest. A bit like hydrogen-powered cars, they’ll realise it’s actually not that practical and it’ll die quietly.

    • As per comments from Horizon and Lorax, I think this potential energy source has been known about for many years but it’s also highly explosive and very unstable which is why it remains where it is.

      Many forms of technology were originally shelved until necessity made it so.

      How do you keep it frozen while bringing it back to the surface?

      Discover a new technology that keeps it frozen.

      How pure is it?

      Many energy sources have varying grades of purity. Middle east oils vs iol sands for example.

      Would it need refinement thus requiring more energy? Overall, how energy intensive would the collection and consumption process be – would it actually be worth it?

      Solar energy requires less resources to bring to supply than it did 30 years ago.

      Standing still and stomping your feet on the ground has never provided answer to humanity.

    • More like, it will become unnecessary to go to that expense for a few more decades because there will be cheaper energy available.

      I know people don’t take me seriously on this, but I am no fool, and I do indeed think that there is “….a Greenie conspiracy to stop the harvest of clean and cheap energy thus preventing us from continuing our traditional lifestyles…”

      Read “Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout” by Patrick Moore. That is all I ask.

      Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger are another pair of authors who, like Patrick Moore, are HONEST environmentalists who are appalled at the reactionary, absolutist, irrational direction the movement has taken.

      Asking you to read “Watermelons” by James Delingpole would be going too far too soon.

      All the above authors, and Bjorn Lomborg, regard the mass migration of communist supporters into the Green movement after 1989, as a lamentable occurrence.

      I hasten to point out that I am forever meeting young environmentalists who have no idea of how brainwashed they are; most of them are decent, harmless and “retrievable” people. But there needs to be a heck of a lot more people getting them to question, question, question the beliefs imbibed from their gurus.

      • What doctrinaire tosh!

        Patrick Moore — kicked out of Greenpeace, in the pocket of the nuclear industry, a antiscience climate denier, a nutter who believes global warming is good because it melts glaciers and thus creates more arable land 🙄

        Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger — All you need is to read Breaking the technology breakthrough myth — Debunking Shellenberger & Nordhaus again

        Bjorn Lomborg — This is the genius who initially said that the greenhouse effect is “a myth” and “extremely doubtful” but now “accepts the reality of man-made global warming” and claims to have consistently supported the position that global warming exists. In a 2010 interview with the New Statesman, Lomborg summarized his position on climate change: “Global warming is real – it is man-made and it is an important problem.”

        James Delingpole — a Literature B.A. who maintains “it is not my job” to read peer reviewed papers.

        Pffffft! :wicked:

      • This strawman bashsing (e.g. “That greenie is a commie!”) is tiresome.

        Let’s try to have a discussion –

        So the japanese have possibly discovered a large and cheap source of fossil fuels.

        Do the contributors who kicked off this thread actually believe that we should disregard the externalities (namely global warming) involved in burning them? It’s a genuine question – I think there’s an interesting environmental debate about how this impacts the carbon intensity of the energy mix. I’m also intrigued if lowering the cost of natural gas, delays implementation of renewables…

        If a reasoned debate is not one’s cup of tea, and one prefers to look for reds under the bed, perhaps you may enjoy frothing at the mouth listening to noted crypto-communist Jeremy Grantham discuss climate change http://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2013/03/grantham-on-cooking-the-planet/

        BM

  7. Well said.

    This is why I am anti green, AGW does appear now to be nonsense, and for them to have the temerity to say “99.7% of scientisist agree”, “the science is settled” and as shown above, feel their calls for sensorship are beyond reproach is galling.

    I personally am for taxing carbon, in so much I believe there are externalities that otherwise wouldn’t be costed, and I do believe tax as a behavioural adjuster is ultimately good, particularly for the promotion of renewable product, which is ultimately the only real wealth.

    But I am furious with the utter betrayal of real science, the violation of it’s secular nature, in the pursuit of this junk.

      • AGW Models that fail 100% of the time.

        Proponents of AGW known to lie, collude, distort information and withold data.

        The competing theory has a very high correlation, is more more sound under dialectic scrutiny and has observable success in its rudimentary models.

        Yes, why should a dissenting view be allowed.

      • “AGW Models that fail 100% of the time.”
        Don’t weather forecasts fail 100% of the time? Could they not still be useful?

        “Proponents of AGW known to lie, collude, distort information and withold data.”
        I have no doubt some scientist proponents of AGW are rat-bags (and while we’re at it let’s assume that proponents of the competing view are beyond reproach). Do you believe 100% of all scientists proponents of AGW are liars?

        “The competing theory has a very high correlation, is more more sound under dialectic scrutiny and has observable success in its rudimentary models.”
        Heck, I’m feeling generous today – let’s grant the breadth and depth of your pithy vagueness – are you effectively saying that the risk of AGW is 0%?

        BM

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        AGW Models that fail 100% of the time.
        Define “fail”.

        Proponents of AGW known to lie, collude, distort information and withold data.
        Are irrelevant.

        The competing theory has a very high correlation, is more more sound under dialectic scrutiny and has observable success in its rudimentary models.
        What competing theory ?

        Yes, why should a dissenting view be allowed.

        Dissenting views are welcome in science, but they have to come with evidence.

      • Sorry but there is literally no climate scientist left who would agree with you.

        Global warming models test all kinds of things, most of them are tested to disprove things (this is how science works) they run a model with extraordinary inputs to test the myriad of scenarios. They are not trying to ascertain and exact outcome- that is absurdity.

        The presumption of models being wrong 100% of the time is just as absurd as stating that since we can not predict with 100% certainty how many cars will be on the road there is no such thing as peak hour or traffic jams as the models we have which tells us when the cars will be at their peak, are not able to tell us precisely how many cars are on the road, which lane they are in, their registration details, the drivers name, destination, and mood.

        In other words, you do not understand what the models are for, and how they work. Leading us to conclude you have virtually no concept of the science – well, absolutely no concept.

        The research done into global warming is the largest, most well coordinated global scientific project ever under taken in the history of humanity – by many factors. To imply there has been systematic lying, distortion, or any other systemic spurious activity is utterly desirable on every single level – totally inane hyperbole. That type of accusation is derived from taking one or two situations such as the miscalculation on the glacial melt and applying to carte blanch to the the tens of thousands of scientists working on this project – disingenuous at best, and stupidity in reality.

        Dissenting views have always been allowed, in fact it is what has been behind the main course of inaction for the past twenty years when action was desperately required, in fact, billions have been poured into myriads of research projects in order to debunk the the lunatic fringe ideas spread by the denialists taking valuable time and money away from action and research – in fact the dissenting view may well be the eventual downfall of modern civilisation.

    • AGW does appear now to be nonsense

      That’s just absurd.

      You can claim there is doubt.
      You can claim that the science is not 100% proven.
      You can claim that there’s a culture of group think in the climate science community.

      What you cannot claim is that the science is 100% disproven, which is what “nonsense” implies.

      When you make ridiculous statements like that you lose all credibility.