The march of technology may have just turned the energy world on its head. The New York Times reports that Japan successfully produced gas from seabed hydrates. That's a world first with big implications!
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/business/global/japan-says-it-is-first-to-tap-methane-hydrate-deposit.html?_r=0. A Japanese official also estimated that commercial production of oceanic hydrates may be possible in 5 years.
If the Japanese can commercially produce oceanic hydrate gas within 5 years, the energy world will be turned upside down, since oceanic hydrates have enormous amounts of natural gas. For example, Japan alone has about 273 trillion cubic feet of hydrate gas. With that gas on line, Japan would say good-bye to LNG imports and possibly the 20% of its energy now coming from coal.
Commercially producing ocean hydrate gas would flood the globe with enormous amounts of gas that may well devastate investments in gas export facilities in the USA and elsewhere, since ocean hydrates are distributed around the globe. Indeed, building a typical gas export facility takes about 5 years, exactly the period of time that it may take Japan to commercially perfect hydrate gas production.
The gas in ocean hydrates likely dwarfs shale gas reserves and so commercially producing ocean hydrate gas could cause gas to supplant both coal and oil in many countries around the world. Such an age of gas could also impact wind, solar, biomass, biofuels, and hydro, depending on national policies concerning renewables, and depending on whether large price declines continue in the solar and wind industries.
The impact of gas hydrates on atmospheric concentrations of carbon emissions would depend on three big factors or questions. Can the production of hydrate gas be done with little leakage? Would hydrate gas replace coal and oil or nuclear and renewable energy? And can carbon capture and storage technology be commercially deployed at gas-fired power plants and other major industrial users of natural gas?
All the implications of Japan's successful research gas production from ocean hydrates are not clear today. But they are many and big. Japan's technological success in producing gas from ocean hydrates is a huge story that may well transform the energy world.