United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development
Publications

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

Publication Year: 2014 Publisher: UNEP

Science

Related Goals
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Background

Energy is essential to achieving the economic, social, and environmental goals of sustainable human development. The combination of services that acquires energy and delivers it
where it is needed to serve those goals is called an energy system.

That system consists of an energy supply sector and commercial, industrial, or household end-use technologies (WEA 2000). The global energy system is currently facing a number of challenges. Some are related to increasing consumption levels,
limited access, and energy security, while others are environmental concerns, such as climate change and pollution of air and water resources (surface and groundwater).

Gas hydrates, ice-like combinations of water and natural gases (most commonly methane), are a hitherto untapped energy resource. Recent scientific drilling and evaluation programs suggest that gas hydrates occur in abundance, primarily in marine settings, with about 1% of the global gas hydrate distribution occurring in permafrost environments.

Global resources of methane in gas hydrates are enormous. In fact, some estimates suggest that the amount of hydrocarbons bound in the form of gas hydrates may rival the total energy resources contained in other conventional hydrocarbon sources such as coal, natural gas, and oil. Given the advances in scientific knowledge about gas hydrates over the past few decades, as well as continuing innovation in oil and gas recovery techniques, it is likely that large-scale production of natural gas from gas hydrates will become
viable in the next several decades. This could have profound implications for the future global energy system.