China, Japan extract combustible ice from seafloor

What is in news?

Commercial development of the globe’s huge reserves of a frozen fossil fuel known as “combustible ice” has moved closer to reality.

China and Japan has successfully extracted combustible ice, also known as methane hydrate, was successfully mined by a drilling rig operating in the South China Sea.

What is combustible ice?

Combustible ice is a frozen mixture of water and concentrated natural gas

Technically known as methane hydrate, it can be lit on fire in its frozen state

It is believed to comprise one of the world’s most abundant fossil fuels

Issues that might come up:

Experts suggest large-scale production remains many years away

If extraction is not done properly, it could flood the atmosphere with climate-changing greenhouse gases

Advantages of methane hydrate:

For Japan, methane hydrate offers the chance to reduce its heavy reliance of imported fuels if it can tap into reserves off its coastline

In China, it could serve as a cleaner substitute for coal-burning power plants and steel factories

These factories have polluted much of the country with lung-damaging smog

Where can methane hydrate be found?

Methane hydrate has been found beneath seafloors and buried inside Arctic permafrost and beneath Antarctic ice

It is present in abundance in the world

This means methane hydrate reserves could meet global gas demands for 80 to 800 years at current consumption rates

Environmental concerns:

If methane hydrate leaks during the extraction process, it can increase greenhouse gas emissions

The fuel also could displace renewables such as solar and wind power.

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