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Alaska ice tested as possible new energy source

Sun, 11/11/2012 - 11:28am
DAN JOLING - Associated Press - Associated Press

Associated Press/ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc., Garth Hannum - In this 2012 photo provided by ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc., a drill rig at Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope is seen. This rig is testing a method for extracting methane from methane hydrate. The department describes methane hydrate as a lattice of ice that traps methane molecules but does not bind them chemically. A half mile below the ground at Prudhoe Bay, above the vast oil field that helped trigger construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline, a drill rig has tapped what might one day be the next big energy source. The U.S. Department of Energy and industry partners over two winters drilled into a reservoir of methane hydrate, which looks like ice but burns like a candle as warmth from a match releases methane molecules. AP Photo/ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc., Garth HannumResearchers are looking into frozen gas that looks like ice but burns like a candle as a possible future source of energy.

U.S. Department of Energy researchers and industry partners are analyzing data from trials on Alaska's North Slope that tested a method of extracting methane from methane hydrate. That's a lattice of ice that traps gas molecules but does not bind them chemically.

An increase in temperature or a drop in pressure releases the methane, which is the main ingredient in natural gas.

The Alaska research tested a technique developed by ConocoPhillips and the University of Bergen in Norway—injecting carbon dioxide into hydrate.

In the laboratory, carbon dioxide molecules swapped places with methane molecules, freeing methane to be harvested but preserving the ice.

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