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Explained: Sourcing Hydrogen from Fire Ice- The process and details

Fire Ice: Why in News?

Japan's company Modec plans to extract fire ice from the ocean bottom to generate hydrogen for them.

What is Fire Ice?

  1. Methane Hydrate is also known as Fire Ice. It was demonstrated in 2013 that methane hydrate can be extracted from below the sea. 
  2. However, deriving hydrogen from methane hydrate was not discovered until now. 
  3. Most of the commercial hydrogen produced is from natural gas or naptha in oil refineries and not through electrolysis. The process releases carbon. This is why the use of hydrogen as a clean energy source is still so difficult. 
  4. The combustion of hydrogen releases water but it may not always be pure form of it. 

Industrial Hydrogen:

The use of Hydrogen is basically done to produce chemical products and not for normal energy consumption. Even today in Europe, only 2 percent of hydrogen is used for energy consumption while the rest 96% is produced from natural gas which emits a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

This means grey and blue hydrogen is in maximum use while green, pink or yellow hydrogen is produced in extremely low amounts. 

Europe is taking its energy usage and generation towards green levels. Denmark is going to build an artificial island in the North sea which would harness wind energy to generate green hydrogen. 

It is a kind of undeclared competition between Japan and the EU in which Japan now wants to achieve a breakthrough by developing hydrogen from Fire Ice. EU wants to rely mostly on 

Green hydrogen and generate green energy 25 folds of what it is now till 2050. 

What is Methane hydrate?

  1. Methane hydrate is methane trapped inside a lattice of water molecules. It forms a white substance dense in energy which can be easily lighted on fire. This means it is a heavily combustible substance. The formula for methane hydrate is 4CH4.23H2O.
  2. The gas is seen as a viable source of natural gas 
  3. Methane Hydrate emits 30 percent less carbon dioxide than coal or petrol or natural gas on combustion. 
  4. The ocean beds of the world are full of methane hydrate.

Where is methane hydrate found?

Under Earth’s crust: Biogenic methane is found under the Earth's crust and is produced by bacterial action in shallow sediments. Eg- It is found under the permafrost in Siberia. It is extracted through drilling 

Methane under Sea: Methane hydrate is also found on the seafloor as deposits. It is found in the form of hydrate mounds under the sea on the bed. Faults provide conduit from which methane seeps on the sea. The gas freezes due to high pressure and low temperature. 

The process: Extraction of hydrogen from methane hydrate

  1. The fire ice is extracted using the drill rig or drill ships and broken down. 
  2. It is lifted into the floating gasification unit where it is converted into methane gas
  3. The gas is transported into an onshore terminal through an underwater pipeline. 
  4. Modec is working on the technology to extract the methane hydrate from 1000 metres below sea level. 

About Modec:

The company specialises in making floating units for petroleum exploration. The organization is efficient in retrieving oil and natural gas using the natural upward pressure of the deposits. Methane hydrate becomes more gasified when it reaches close to the Earth's surface which is when Modec claims to extract it. 

The company has developed a prototype methane hydrate extraction unit where it would extract ice bars as a test. It aims to sell the ship if successful for 10 billion yen. 

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Where is fire ice found?

Fire ice is found in sea beds or under permafrost in Siberia

Is Fire Ice same as Dry Ice?

Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide while fire ice is methane hydrate

What is the chemical formula of fire ice?

4CH4.23H20 is the chemical formula of Fire Ice

What is Fire Ice?

Methane Hydrate is called fire ice

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