27 November 2007

Could we harness the methane released from the warming ice in Siberia and use it to generate power in fuel cells? Would consuming it this way be safer than letting it simply be released into the atmosphere?

Today I was watching a program on the BBC documenting, among other things, the huge amount of methane being stored, and released from the lakes around the permafrost in Siberia. In fact, there was enough methane trapped in the ice, that by simply digging through the snow, making an abrasion on the ice, and then holding a torch above it, the shows presenter was able to ignite jets of leaking gas. As they put it, having fire literally coming from ice is completely unbelievable.

This strikes some as a massive danger and potential contributor to a global warming chain reaction. However, I always like to try to turn situations around. Where others find doom, wouldn’t it be better to deflect this by utilising the source of it?

This to me looks like a massive potential source of “free” energy. Why is it currently untapped? Okay - combusting it in the usual way may not be wise, but there is large scale fuel cell technology designed to tap methane gas, as well as research to reduce the size and cost of these devices. It would be a good plan to start situating methane gas based power plants on the Siberian lakes, to directly siphon this gas, and convert it to energy.

I do not claim to be the proprietor of the idea, but have not yet heard it from anyone else, so if your company has already had the idea, and are going to put it into action, kudos to you.

Has anybody seriously considered the viability of this and could they comment?