Energy From the Sea

 

Why, again, are we not doing this?  From Japanese business publication Asahi Shimbum:

Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding Co. plans to explore and extract methane hydrate, a potential source of domestic fuel for energy-poor Japan, in waters around the archipelago.

The company has already been developing offshore oilfields and will apply expertise to methane hydrate, which contains natural gas, and other resources such as rare metals, sources said.

“Given further technological innovations, development of oceanic resources will grow into an even larger business in 15 years,” Takao Tanaka, the company president, has said.

Fifteen years from now, this will be a bigger business.  

I remember a friend of mine — a true blue conservative — buying a hybrid Ford Escape a few years after 9/11. His point was that the only reason radical, troublemaking, terrorism-sponsoring countries abroad had any leverage over the United States was because of our dependence on foreign oil. He didn’t want to send them any more money. Simple as that.

Imagine if the total cost of the War on Terror — Iraq, Afghanistan, you name it — had been spent drilling for domestic oil, developing our natural gas resources, figuring out how to do what Mitsui is doing above, and reducing (or eliminating) the crippling leverage our enemies abroad have over the price of energy.

There are 21 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    Free energy exploration and development are pipe dreams (literally) so long as regulators have the last word.

    On another note, every time I watch 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea I wish we “farmed” oceanic resources more. Space exploration is cool, but marine exploration is more practical … or would be if it wasn’t so focused on climatology and the sex lives of fish. I wonder how research into building better fish farms compares to research toward improving traditional agriculture techniques.

    • #1
  2. Rob Long Editor
    Rob Long
    @RobLong

    John, I was under the impression — based, I’m sure, on my vast knowledge of the subject — that natural gas was a complicated and basically inefficient way to fuel individual cars.  (Fleet vehicles were the exception.)

    So, question: 1) Am I wrong?  (I think I know the usual answer to this question); and 2) Isn’t this is kernel of a sensible and pro-growth policy for the next national Republican candidate?

    • #2
  3. Rob Long Editor
    Rob Long
    @RobLong

    I love that movie!  And yes!  More undersea “resource farming.”

    And I think this is my last official use of nested comments.

    • #3
  4. Rob Long Editor
    Rob Long
    @RobLong

    Whoops.  I was wrong.

    • #4
  5. user_891102 Member
    user_891102
    @DannyAlexander

    A few points/observations.

    1) Asahi Shimbun is less a “business publication” and more like the NYT of Japan (both in terms of format and political leanings).

    2) A friend of mine in Tokyo recently switched companies (a very fraught step for a Japanese 40-something to take, for various reasons, but anyway…) and his new employer MODEC is both a part of the Mitsui keiretsu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keiretsu) and also very specifically focused on offshore oil & gas structures (http://www.modec.com/about/index.html) — hopefully Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding (http://www.mes.co.jp/english/), mentioned in the Asahi article, will be working in a synergistic way with MODEC, rather than the two cannibalizing one another for the sake of mere empire-building/poaching, which happens all to frequently in Japan Inc.

    3) Japan ought to contract with Israel for the medium term (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/will-israel-be-the-next-energy-superpower/) — especially if the upcoming Israeli strike on Iran will end up temporarily incapacitating the Kharg Island facilities shipping Iranian crude to places like Japan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kharg_Island)

    • #5
  6. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    The solution is the free market.

    More gas supply causes lower gas prices. Lower gas prices make gas more attractive for home heating and certain industrial uses where it competes with with fuel oil. Fuel oil consumption reduction in those industries lowers fuel oil prices.

    Fuel oil is close to the same stock as diesel, thereby allowing an increase in diesel supply and a reduction in diesel prices. More consumers choose diesel vehicles, there by reducing the number of gasoline vehicles and gasoline consumption/prices.

    No wacky mandates/taxes/etc.

    • #6
  7. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    There seems to be considerable difficulty harvesting the methyl hydrate.  The recovery technology is in its infancy.  However, if there were ever truer words spoken than: “Imagine if the total cost of the War on Terror — Iraq, Afghanistan, you name it — had been spent drilling for domestic oil, developing our natural gas resources, figuring out how to do what Mitsui is doing above, and reducing (or eliminating) the crippling leverage our enemies abroad have over the price of energy.”, I would like to hear them, because I am sure-as-shootin they would lead to “total consciousness”.

    • #7
  8. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    John’s example of satellite energy might be a case where it would make sense for the US to blaze a trail, because there is apparently a tremendous first mover advantage.

    With hydropower, though, there appears no equivalent benefit.  We know why we don’t use conventional hydropower much (it’s expensive and terrible for the environment). New forms of hydropower may be great, but there’s no need to spend money on developing the science when there are other countries out there keen to do the work.

    It will be politically easier, and financially more sensible, to build some of this stuff after Japan and others have properly tested it in practice and found it to be great. Early adopting is for hobbyists, and American public funds are already spent on toys far too frequently.

    • #8
  9. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    2 problems:

    1) it makes a really cool weapon;

    2) isn’t it directly heating the earth by diverting sunlight that would not have reached earth?

    • #9
  10. user_129539 Member
    user_129539
    @BrianClendinen

    anonymous: In fact, all energy released by human activity is a small fraction of passive solar energy input. Solar power satellites would completely eliminate CO2 emissions for energy generation.

     John, that makes no sense economically unless there is some new solar panels that go way pass the 29% maximum efficiency (which we have not been able to reach yet) of Silicon solar panels that actually last longer than 15 years and become way lighter.  Based on current launch cost of 10k per pound it cost almost 400 million to launch the space stations 84 to 120 KW system. If we doubled the efficency per pound and cut launch cost in half we are looking at around a million a KW just to launch. No development or production cost of the unit and we don’t have working transmitters yet.

    Therefor,  can’t ever see solar satellites ever being economic viable in my life time. There are just to many individual pieces of technology that would have to be developed and be cheap.

    Fusion is way more practical. If  we can ever get working stable fission reactors, electricity will get insanely cheap, assuming morons don’t stop their building.

    • #10
  11. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    We have, for all practical purposes, infinite natural gas and petroleum. It is economically recoverable. No need to up further up or down for more.

    • #11
  12. Cornelius Julius Sebastian Inactive
    Cornelius Julius Sebastian
    @CorneliusJuliusSebastian

    What Manfred said about the technology. Several countries and companies are working on this. It will be a game changer when it breaks. Just not quite there get.

    • #12
  13. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Before we are all swept away with amazing visions of a future with limitless energy let us consider the original article. The “development of oceanic resources” is this in anyway financially viable in this instance?

    Offshore drilling is a hazardous and expensive enterprise, this entire piece reeks of fluff; Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding Co. attempting to generate some press in hopes of receiving tax payer funded exploration courtesy of the people of Japan.

    • #13
  14. user_961 Member
    user_961
    @DuaneOyen

    Rob Long:
    John, I was under the impression — based, I’m sure, on my vast knowledge of the subject — that natural gas was a complicated and basically inefficient way to fuel individual cars. (Fleet vehicles were the exception.)
    So, question: 1) Am I wrong? (I think I know the usual answer to this question); and 2) Isn’t this is kernel of a sensible and pro-growth policy for the next national Republican candidate?

     Storage is an issue for pressurized tanks, and natural gas is less energy-dense than even methanol.  It also takes a long time to re-fuel.  It’s great for fleet vehicles in a local area, less so for regular people; it actually makes more sense to convert natural gas (CH4) to methanol (CH3OH) and use the existing infrastructure.  In addition to the very good Zubrin book, also read Nobel laureate George Olah’s The Methanol Economy.

    • #14
  15. user_961 Member
    user_961
    @DuaneOyen

    BTW, we are working on methane clathrates as well- we have a US-Japan joint venture for the technology.  But at present, it is not cost-effective compared with shale.  When we need it, it will be there.

    • #15
  16. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Aaron Miller:
    Free energy exploration and development are pipe dreams (literally) so long as regulators have the last word.
    On another note, every time I watch 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea I wish we “farmed” oceanic resources more. Space exploration is cool, but marine exploration is more practical … or would be if it wasn’t so focused on climatology and the sex lives of fish. I wonder how research into building better fish farms compares to research toward improving traditional agriculture techniques.

     Traditional agriculture is way ahead of fish farming, and in fact represents more money over all. Considering the wide abundance of crops that are grown.  I think one of the problems with farming certain sea fish is that many require years to grow and a lot of room. I know people work on farming tuna because it is so popular and profitable. But artificially breeding them is proving hard.  

    • #16
  17. Spin Inactive
    Spin
    @Spin

    The reason we aren’t doing it, Rob, is because Raymond Tusk and President Walker are in a tiff, all because Vice-President Underwood is sore about the Secretary of State job.

    • #17
  18. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    anonymous:
    For a trillion dollars (substantially less than the cost of the wars), you can get a long way toward the technological base for solar power satellites, which will provide electricity for less than current grid costs with no emissions, fuel costs, or nuclear waste disposal problems. From a balance of payment standpoint, the country which develops this technology will be in an excellent position to sell power to customers around the globe, since it’s a lot cheaper to build a ground-based receiver antenna than develop the infrastructure to launch their own powersats.
    And if you’re into the great game, imagine having an off switch for the electricity of potential adversaries.
    Transportation remains a problem, since we still have a way to go solving the electric energy storage problem. But if solar power satellites took over the base load electricity generation requirement, there would abundant coal and natural gas to use, converted into methanol as discussed above, for transportation.

     If we can put energy beams into space, who needs to just use them against enemies as an off switch. Just turn them into a way to fry the enemy while we are at it! :)

    • #18
  19. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Seriously though, I figure if we can make motors that can run anything, it would help with the problem of infrastructure.

    I think mostly, the government should get out of the way. The Greens just want us to use less energy. Energy is the core of civilization. Without it, we have nothing. The more we have, the higher our standard of living and the less we have to work.

    • #19
  20. flownover Inactive
    flownover
    @flownover

    Get the government (EPA) out of the way. Allow federal lands and Indian Reservations to be open to drilling and mining. The coal will relieve the pressure on another resource (oil) which will in turn relieve the pressure on another(natural gas) . Quit making ethanol altogether, quit subsidizing wind and energy . Start building nuclear plants.   Sell coal and oil and natural gas to the world, that would turn Russian revenue off and defund the Middle West wahhabis that paid for the 9/11 attacks. Let the repressed people of Marin county burn all the firewood they want.  The problem is that we bought into the global warming bs and now dance around these issues with the care of a ballerina on eggshells .  One volcano spewing for one week will obliterate any global carbon saving of the prior five years anyway .  Get over it folks. And throw another log on the fire ! Set the market free and watch the capitalists drive down the price of energy .  Get the government out of the “sue and settle” schemes which avoid legislation by the people we voted for .

    • #20
  21. user_83937 Inactive
    user_83937
    @user_83937

    We hardly need to mine the depths for methane hydrates, when we must “vent” methane during drilling, simply because we have no market for methane.  Drillers are desperate for a market and wish us to allow more exports, as Liquified Natural Gas.

    As John and Rob’s discussion points out, we could convert methane to methanol, to become a liquid fuel, so that it is more easily incorporated into our existing transportation fleet.  That would be OK, but the fueling stations are always the problem.  Also, alcohol fuels, (such as methanol), have short shelf lives in fuel tanks, and are destructive to older vehicles, in that they eat up older seals, hosing, and fuel tanks.  Literally, billions of dollars of older farm equipment, boats, and cars are being ruined by just the 10 percent inclusion of ethanol (an alcohol) in our pump fuels.  Our societal direction is to phase out the older equipment.

    We are spewing the methane we already have into the air, because we have no market for it.  Get the government out of regulating vehicle fuel  conversions and just watch what happens.  We’re not allowed to convert our cars/boats, on our own.

    • #21

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.