United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development
Publications

Frozen Heat - A Global Outlook on Methane Gas Hydrates (Vol. One)

Publication Year: 2014 Publisher: UNEP

Science

Related Goals
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Background

Methane gas hydrates are solid, ice-like combinations of methane and water (Fig. I.1) that are stable under conditions of relatively high pressure and low temperature. Gas hydrates contain most of the world’s methane and account for roughly a third of the world’s mobile organic carbon. Because gas hydrates tend to occur in relatively inaccessible and harsh polar and marine environments, they were not studied extensively until recently. For more than a century after their first creation in the lab by scientists in the early 1800s, gas hydrates were considered an academic curiosity, with no meaningful occurrence in nature. In the 1930s, they were recognized as an industrial hazard forming blockages in oil and gas pipelines.
In the late 1960s, scientists in Russia inferred their occurrence in nature. However, it wasn’t until after a series
of deep-ocean scientific drilling expeditions in the late 1970s and early 1980s that the abundance of gas hydrates in the natural environment was widely recognized