Methane and methane hydrates may be the key to Norway’s next big energy boom. With oil and coal on the decline, Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced earlier this year that her country would be transitioning away from oil toward gas in the future. At the CAGE institute (Center for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate), scientists are exploring some of Norway’s largest reservoirs off Svalbard where a slight rise in temperature could thaw and unleash a methane hydrate monster. Trapped semi-frozen beneath seafloors worldwide, methane hydrate is a sleeping giant that can expand 160 times its icy volume when changed to gas– exciting news for oil companies, but terrifying for climate scientists. Global reserves of hydrate-bound methane have been estimated as high as 10,000 gigatonnes—twice the world’s total petroleum, natural gas and coal reserves combined. This article about a recent cruise with a CAGE team explores the past, present and future of methane research.
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