Methane Hydrate - an alternative fuel source?

Alternative fuel sources seem to be gaining some momentum once again since the alleged U.S.A. gas crunch of the 1970s. Nearly 40 years later there is some traction with the big automobile makers for providing hybrid cars to consumers.  While gasoline/electric hybrid vehicles are a step in the right direction one could argue we need to go further.

Hydrogen and natural gas powered cars are available but not popular.  The amount of carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion is incredible.  While the world continues to search for more oil deposits in such places as the oil sands in Canada it does not solve the problem of reducing green house gas.  The price of oil is causing for more research in alternative fuel types that contribute to the carbon problem or possibly help reduce carbon emissions.

One potential alternative fuel that produces greenhouse gas but may be an oil alternative is methane hydrate. This substance is located in vast supplies deep in the ocean in a frozen state.  While it is well known about  the hazards of nuclear reactor power generation, nuclear reactors produce their own environmental waste by product.

Think ECO and GREEN. The planet to the left is a beautiful place.  I have personally seen the air pollution in Los Angeles, Rome, Athens and Beijing.  The picture below is a coal fired power plant that is generating electricity and tons of carbon emissions.  Everyone can make a difference.  If we can solve landing on the moon we should be able to produce an ECO friendly fuel source.


As an engineer, it suprises me that governments aren't putting more money into funding research.

In fact there is a solution to this madness, it also happens to be simple chemistry:

Liquid fuels have high energy density, the distribution infrastructure already exists, particularly suitable fuels are diesel, military JP8 or Jet A Aviation fuel for their safe handling and low sulphur content.

Energy is a valuable commodity, forget its form, while it has potential to do work "Potential Energy" it has value, the total cost to obtain and supply energy against its return is what makes certain forms of energy more valuable, like fossil fuels.

Now to the point, energy's many forms can be changed by chemical processes, CO2 can be removed as a liquid or as dry ice prior to fuel injection into a combustion engine. The process relies on an endothermic chemical reaction over a platinum based catalyst. Liquid Fuel and pure water are mixed into an emulsion, then pressurised to very high pressure (similar to common rail diesel pressures), waste heat is added from the coolant and exhaust, in the presense of a platinum based catalyst (sulphur posions the catayst), producing CO (Carbon Monoxide) and Hydrogen (also called syngas) from the reacting fuel and water. The syngas, now needs to undergo an exothermic reaction over an iron catalyst to produce CO2 and Hydrogen, the final phase is to filter out the CO2 using a palladium membrane filter (paladium is a major alloy component of white gold, you find at your local jewler, hydrogen can pass through palladium's metalic structure), the Hydrogen and CO2 are now separated into separate tanks, any impurities are contained within the CO2 at supercritical pressure and temperature, supercritical CO2 acts as a solvent.

Hydrogen can now be injected into the engine, the small storage tank acts as a reservior; when waste heat is insufficient for the chemical reaction to proceed. The energy collected from the waste heat has now increased the calorific value of the fuel, the engine is also now up to 20% more fuel efficient

The CO2 can now be collected as liquid at refuelling stations for later sale / storage, liquid CO2 has a high density so occupies a small volume, dry ice has an even higher density (1.5x water), and is produced if pressure is relieved from liquid CO2

The problems with this technology that need to be overcome are: If the CO2 were to leak, the volume present may present a hazard. The infastructure to collect the CO2 needs to be created. Currently similar chemical processes are performed at atmospheric pressure, the supercritical process needs development in order to remain compact for vehicles

The benefits are; unlike gaseous fuels, liquid fuelled vehicles can travel long distances without refuelling. The process CO2 can be returned to Process plants where it can be chemically combined with steam and gaseous fuels, such as hydrogen, natural gas and methane hydrate to produce synthetic diesel, oils and waxes. Liquid CO2 also has many other uses in industry such as a carrier for lubricants during machining, or in fire extinguishers.

Carbon is a high density energy carrier, Nature uses it as such, it is the basis of the existance of life, we can use it this way too, we just need to keep an eye on the balance.

Current levels of atmospheric CO2 are 380ppm, in the carboniferous age that pre dates large dinosaurs CO2 levels were 1600ppm, it is us, the human species along with others, threatened by the currently increasing levels of CO2, life will continue long after we are gone. Ironically our release back to the atmosphere of long stored CO2 will allow life to carry on longer than it otherwise would as Carbon Dioxide is the lifeblood of life and has been slowly depleting, the planet Earth is eventually destined to become a snowball Earth.

My personal opinion is that we are too wasteful with energy, cars and air conditioning are mistakes, we need better public transport infastructure, learn how to live with some discomfort and exercise, we need face these demons, our race has become obsessed with production at the expense of efficiency.

Posted by Peter on July 03, 2007 at 12:49 PM EDT #

It's good to hear BP & GM talk about alternative fuels, but 50 years to implement is too long.

Perhaps this link will spark more attention:

It is GM's electric concept car the Chevy Volt. If more people begin to demand alternative fuel cars, we should be able to speed the rate at which the technology is developed.

We have started an Investor Forum where Investors can meet and discuss topics like this:

Posted by on March 25, 2008 at 03:53 AM EDT #

We found an interesting article about the problems with Ethanol on

"But there are some problems with increasing ethanol blends. Ethanol contains less energy than gasoline, so increasing the amount of ethanol in gasoline will likely result in lower fuel economy. Increasing standard fuel blends from zero to 10 percent ethanol, as is happening today, has little or no impact on fuel economy. In tests, the differences occur within the margin of error, about 0.5 percent. Further increasing ethanol levels to 20 percent reduces fuel economy between 1 and 3 percent, according to testing by the DOE and General Motors. Evaluations are underway to determine if E20 will burn effectively in today's engines without impacting reliability and longevity, and also assessing potential impact on fuel economy." would like to invite readers to post their own views and ideas in's Investor Forum:

Posted by on March 27, 2008 at 03:50 AM EDT #


Posted by guest on April 30, 2008 at 07:39 AM EDT #

ahhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!! the world is about to melt from this fake global warming thing everyone run around and scream

Posted by steph on September 15, 2008 at 08:55 AM EDT #

Hi Bob, thanks for your encouragement in a polution free planet.
As an engineer involved in environmental protection myself I'm
very much interested to know more about the present development
in hydrogen and methan fuel mixed operated vehicles because I
think it is high time to come up with a simple solution such as
the production of hydrogen with the help of photovoltaic cells
what is very easy to do even with low voltages on DC ( 5-12 V )
and amixof biogas any combustion engine should run w/o problem.

As I am living in Sri Lanka now w/o much restrictions on such an
experiment I am prepared to convert a smale 2 stroke engine drvn
threewheeler or the Indian Marrutti car to generate hydrogen out
of the sun while the vehicle is parced in the sun 3 - 5 hours in
most cases ready to run up to 20 miles until the next charging !

Looking forward to an early reply on subject matter wishing you
a HAPPY NEW YEAR and lots of new ideas in 2009 Yours Peter from
the beautiful Island of Sri Lanka ,at the southern tip of India

Posted by Peter-J. MEYER on December 26, 2008 at 06:15 PM EST #

If this much is true, it is a good choice for an alternative fuel source in that respect. There’s also an argument to be made that it’s better for the environment, although the full scope of the environmental impact of this alternate fuel technology is still being researched.

Posted by waxner on February 11, 2009 at 02:21 PM EST #

Sounds simple, but complex to develop. I can't help thinking that there is an answer staring us in the face. At the age of 7, around 1967, my Dad told me about how internal combustion works, to be aware of the toxic exhaust. I asked how come car makers were allowed to put this gas amongst the air we breathe. He told me the oceans scrubbed the air clean and returned the poisons to the Earth. I remember thinking that the internal combustion engine was a rather obvious invention, and that if I had come up with the idea I would have kept looking for something better, at the age of 7 I could see all this coming. Unfortunately I have yet to come up with an alternative, though CO2 model airplane engines fascinated me.Not only do we have to start thinking outside the square, we have to throw the square away and take a look around and anew. I can't help thinking that Methane Hydrate holds some clue to a better, and altogether as yet unknown, energy source. It may have something to do with the element Mercury, and tapping the warmth of the Earth itself, but I am not sure of the connection, yet.

Posted by James on March 14, 2009 at 10:12 AM EDT #

It has become a joke when a global warming confrence has been cancelled because of a snowstorm or bitterly cold weather. Another crazy fact is that in the 70's people were complaining about global cooling. What should we do?

I suggest that everybody takes cover cause this fake global warming thing is gonna melt us all!!!

Posted by Cali on October 05, 2009 at 02:43 AM EDT #

There is NO planet B!

Posted by LAMER on November 08, 2009 at 08:59 AM EST #

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Posted by guest on January 18, 2010 at 11:28 AM EST #

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The blog of Bob Porras - Vice President, Data, Availability, Scalability & HPC for Sun Microsystems, Inc.


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