When methane and freezing cold water fuse under tremendous pressure, they create a substance as paradoxical as it coveted: burning ice. Earlier in the year, a report from the National Research Council identified the combustible water, also known as methane hydrate, as a potential source of natural gas. Now, according to the Chinese news organization Xinhau, China is joining the US, Japan, and South Korea in the hunt for this weird mineral.
As explained in this comic, there’s 85.4 trillion cubic feet of methane hydrate buried under Alaska. That’s equivalent to 3 billion tons of oil, or enough to heat 100 million American homes for a decade. According to the Xinahu article, reserves of methane hydrate in China’s Qinghai province are equal to 35 billion tons of oil, enough to supply China for 90 years.
Unfortunately, China lacks the capability to excavate the mineral. Even at an expedited pace, China’s Ministry of Land and Resources estimates it could be 10 to 15 years before any hydrate-derived gas finds its way into Chinese homes.