A presentation made by Crică Livia-Elena

"Carmen Sylva" High School, 11th grade,
Eforie Sud, Romania

Coordinator Teacher: Şerbu Florin


The ice which burns is called methane hydrate and it is a mixture of ice and methane gas. The crystallized water in spherical form holds methane molecules into it.
At least 1million billion cubic meters of methane gas lie on the bottom of the oceans!
Researchers say that burning ice is created on the bottom of the oceans,at a temperature of about 2°C , but only in those areas where the pressure is of at least 30atm. Under a layer of 200-300 meters of methane hydrate, there is, generally, free methane gas too.

  • The world`s reserves of methane hydrate hold huge fuel amounts, estimated to be between 1 and 5 million billion cubic meters , which means 10 times more than all known natural gas reserves.


  • The biggest part of methane hydrate deposits are situated under water, at depths of 300-500 meters in sediment layer, on the bottom of the oceans.
  • On land , it can be found only in the frozen layer, called permafrost, at a depth of about 800 meters.

How does methane hydrate form?

  • Methane gas comes from the bacteria`s actions over dead organisms. In the metabolic process of feeding, these bacteria separate organic substances in molecules as little as possible they can, they hold a part of carbon and oust methane gas.
  • This process takes place into the superficial layer of Terra, called lithosphere, at depths of up to 2000 meters.

  • On the bottom of the oceans, methane gas comes from deep below and, being very compressed, it immediately freezes the water around it, even if the temperature is above 0°C.

A methane hydrate cube which has a side of 10 cm holds
1,68 N-cubic meters of methane !


Extraction from the ocean

  • It is harder to extract methane hydrate from the bottom of the oceans.

  • It can be extracted using some equipment such as oil-derrick, which injects hot water into the methane hydrate layer. Reasonable quantities of gas may be extracted this way, but the costs required to heat the water have proven to be much higher.

A new technology

  • However, researchers found a new method: instead of introducing hot water, they injected air and reduced the pressure that kept the water frozen.


  • Knowing that on the bottom of the sea there are at least 2°C, they realised that by reducing the pressure they could get a faster and cheaper melting, releasing large quantities of methane.


General information about methane hydrate:

  • Terra's lithosphere contains at least one billion cubic meters of methans, which is kept in the burning ice;

  • one cubic decimeter of methane hydrate releases 1.68 N-cubic meters of methane gas when molten;

  • because of some tectonic movements, 8000 years ago, a layer of carbon hydrate from Northern Sea was “ascended” in lower-pressured waters and melted, causing a tsunami, which flooded Scotland.

  • in Bermuda`s Triangle, methane releases occur often in the submarine hydrate layer, which causes the immediate ship`s sinking, by repealing Archimede`s law. The methane release also leads to planes` engine stops, because there is no oxygen, and the planes crush.

  • In May 2000, the President and the Congress of the United States enacted the Public Law 106-193 ( the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000 ), which set up a National Gas Hydrate Research Program. The work is being coordinated by the Interagency Coordination Committee (ICC), consisting of representatives from the six government agencies, in accordance to industry and academy:

  • The Department of Energy, through the Office of Fossil -Energy and represented by the Strategic Center for Natural Gas;
  • The Department of Commerce, represented by NOAA;
  • The Department of Defense, represented by the Naval Research Laboratory;
  • The Department of the Interior, represented by MMS and USGS;
  • The National Science Foundation.

The Gulf of Mexic (GOM)

  • The USGS is partnering with MMS in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). The northern Gulf of Mexico is unique in the world for containing numerous active hydrocarbon seeps and more than 50 locations where intact biogenic hydrates and thermogenic hydrates are found.

  • These gas hydrates pose a potential threat to the safety of drilling platforms by triggering mass failure and landslides; thus the interest in these hydrates has increased as commercial drilling moves into deeper waters.
  • In July 2002, approximately 35-40 cubic meters were collected aboard the Marion Dufrense to determine whether there are any gas hydrates far away from underwater hills near the sedimentary basins, and if this is confirmed, it means that there are important deposits deep down these basins.

  • The USGS worked with MMS and used their own 3-D seismic coverage of the Gulf of Mexico to locate priority core sites. They carried out special measurements to assist the evaluation of seismic data needed for the inspection of the piston central areas.
  • Gas hydrate samples and cores recovered in the coring operations will be analyzed by the GHASTLI (Gas Hydrate and Sediment Test Laboratory Instrument) system, located at USGS laboratories in Woods Hole, MA. The scientists will analyse the evidence of gas hydrate in the shallow sub-bottom and determine the magnitude of the methane flux through the sediments at different distances away from known hydrate mounds and active venting.

Station Survey Device - Used to service Methane Hydrate Station at MS Canyon 118 in the Gulf of Mexico. Built by SDI Inc. Dallas TX. Operated by University of MS - CMRET staff.

Methane Hydrate On Flames

Nowadays, methane hydrate represents a challenge for those who search for new energy sources.
Lots of exploring activities are going on, especially in the Mexic Gulf, researchers foreseeing that the burning ice is one of the possible energy alternatives.

- http://geology.usgs.gov/connections/mms/joint_projects/methane.htm
- http://www.netl.doe.gov/technologies/oil-gas/
- http://www.adevarul.ro/articole/gheata-care-arde.html

Extra Information:
- The National Methane Hydrates R&D Program- Seismic Gas Hydrate Quantification by Cumulative Attributes (CATTs) - 2009 mentioned;

- Fiery Ice From The Seas - The First Workshop Of The International Comittee of Methane Gas

- A review of the geochemistry of methane in natural gas hydrate

- Gas hydrates: importance and applications in petroleum exploration

- Investigating Methane Hydrate Extraction On Alaska's North Slopec

- Methane hydrates in the Chilean continental margin (15 august 2003) - 2010 mentioned;