The New Energy Race to Change Global Competitiveness
The Joint Information Note on the Second U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue, released on May 25 of this year. The U.S. and China reached a number of agreements in the energy and environmental fields including clean coal technology, coal bed methane projects, low sulfurization of fuel oil and nuclear power cooperation. However, the U.S. reserved research cooperation on the U.S. side’s biggest new energy secret, natural gas hydrates, for the Chinese side.
Whoever masters natural gas hydrates will dominate the next generation of global energy. The natural gas hydrate line will change Chinese beliefs about energy. Change the way of production and productivity level of contemporary China in the next generation. Change the way of living and lifestyle of the Chinese people.
Natural gas hydrate is also known as combustible ice. It is a solid crystalline substance, similar to ice and snow. Because natural gas hydrates contain more than 99% methane molecules, they can burn when exposed to fire.
Natural gas hydrates are mainly found in the deep ocean and on land in the permafrost zone. The bottom of the ocean is ideal for the formation of gas hydrate deposits. They are mainly found in unconsolidated sedimentary areas in specific zones of deep water or in polar shelf waters below 100-250 meters depth.
Gas hydrate research has been conducted in more than 40 countries. Physical samples and indications of their presence have been found in more than 100 countries around the world. Among them, 78 are in the ocean and 38 in the permafrost zone. The three discovered in China are the northern land slope of the South China Sea, the Nansha Trough and the land slope of the East China Sea. The natural gas hydrates found in nature are mainly in the form of stratified, needle-like crystals, subequivalent crystalline axes, with colors of amber, yellowish, white, dark brown and so on.
China’s East China Sea, South China Sea, including the deep sea area near Taiwan and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and other land tundra have the geological conditions for large-scale discovery of combustible ice.
At present, scientists from many countries project that the conversion of natural gas hydrate into methane gas in the world’s oceans has exceeded 200 million cubic meters. This is equivalent to more than twice the amount of coal, oil and conventional natural gas that has been proven in the world. It is the world’s largest known source of untapped replacement energy. It is also the largest fossil energy source on the planet that is awaiting development. Moreover, according to the results of current exploration surveys, marine gas hydrates are dozens of times more abundant than those stored in terrestrial permafrost.
The earliest discoveries of gas hydrates were laboratory science experiments rather than field evidence of traditional energy sources. It demonstrates that both the discovery and use of gas hydrates must rely on the most advanced technological tools and scientific theories. Gas hydrates will not be an industry based on experience. It has been 229 years since the discovery of gas hydrates to date. The concept of using gas hydrates has also been in use for 196 years.
Especially since the 1970s, through the international cooperative Ocean Drilling Program (ODP). The U.S., Canada, Japan, Germany, Korea, and India have individually or jointly cooperated in the field of natural gas hydrate to enter the stage of large-scale discovery. Industrial drilling for experimental recovery has also been conducted.
Leading international institutions in gas hydrate research currently include: the Russian Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Tokyo, the Natural Resources Council of Canada, the U.S. Navy, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Guangzhou Marine Geological Survey of the Ministry of Land and Resources.
Natural gas hydrate research has reached a breakthrough stage in recent years. There are three internationally recognized test areas for development. These are the permafrost zones in the Canadian Margin Delta and the northern slope of Alaska, USA, the Southern Trough of Japan, and the Gulf of Mexico in the USA.
The global race for the commercial use of gas hydrates is in full swing. The United States, Japan, Canada, Russia and Germany have emerged as leaders in the development of this industry. Russia, Japan, Korea, the United States, Canada, and India in China’s immediate vicinity have become the global center regions for gas hydrate development. Gas hydrate resources in the Himalayas, China’s East China Sea, and the South China Sea could constitute a new strategic resource for China to potentially compete with Japan, South Korea, and India.
In 1994, Japan established the Committee for the Promotion of Methane Gas Hydrate Development. In 1994, Japan established the Committee for the Promotion of Methane Gas Hydrate Development and proposed several national plans to develop and utilize natural gas hydrates. Japan has also set a specific timetable to achieve commercial development of natural gas hydrates in its waters by 2010, five years earlier than the United States.
In addition, a Taiwan research group led by Professor Huang Qi-yu of National Cheng Kung University, former deputy director of the Central Geological Institute in Taiwan, has also discovered gas hydrates in the accretionary rocks in the southwestern Taiwan waters and in the western foothills.
China is a latecomer to natural gas hydrate research, and a relatively backward country in terms of experimental exploitation. Without a major national action plan, it will be difficult to be invincible in this important strategic industry of natural gas hydrates.
In April 1998, China joined the International Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) as a one-sixth member.
“The Eleventh Five-Year Plan states: “Carry out investigation and exploration of unconventional oil and gas resources such as coal-bed methane, oil shale, oil sands and natural gas hydrate”. The inclusion of natural gas hydrate research in the national development plan is a step forward. However, it has obviously not been raised to the status of a strategic replacement energy source of national importance for the next generation. A profound reflection is needed on the interaction of gas hydrate development with the stability of the seafloor and permafrost zone, global atmospheric changes, structural transformation of fossil energy sources, ecological environment and national economic development model.
To date, China does not have a comprehensive national-level plan or industrial plan for the gas hydrate industry. The existing gas hydrate research has been supported or funded by national programs such as “863”, “973”, international cooperation programs and science foundation projects. However, there is still a big gap between China’s natural gas hydrate research and international level in laboratory simulation, basic theory, investigation and evaluation research, drilling technology and drilling equipment, experimental area selection, industrialized exploitation and new technology development. The preliminary schedule of experimental exploitation in China from 2010 to 2015 and commercial exploitation in 2020 also lacks a solid foundation for advancement. Therefore, it is urgent that government, academia and business combine to develop a plan for the development of natural gas hydrates in China.
The Chinese commercial initiative for natural gas hydrates is to enable China’s energy system to adapt to the strength of its economic system. And with the latest system transformation capabilities and experience. Thus becoming the world’s most innovative country using the most advanced, low-cost energy system.
New energy sources are found to be global. Choosing a good way to consume energy is also choosing a good space for the survival of the nation. The development of new energy technologies is also the promotion of a nation’s ability to improve its survival. Since the research on gas hydrates is considered an important energy property secret in developed countries and is strictly forbidden to be disclosed. In addition to the experience of the world’s most advanced countries, comprehensive innovation has become the only option for China.
Of course, we should also note that commercial development of natural gas hydrates also affects the stability of the seabed and permafrost zone, and excessive methane emissions can affect global climate change, which can have disastrous effects if not handled properly. Therefore, the commercial use of natural gas hydrates must be based on the premise that technological innovation will be extreme and that overall safety will be ensured.