An international team of scientists had a warning last week: A massive amount of methane trapped in Antarctic ice could be released into the atmosphere.
Which probably prompted some energy companies to think: We gotta get our hands on that.
Gas hydrates are crystalline gas (often methane) molecules surrounded by a "cage" of water in a solid that resembles ice. As it melts, the gas is released. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, methane hydrates are stable compounds in water at a depth of greater than 300 feet.
At right is a map of methane hydrate deposits located off the coast of South Carolina. Right there, just off our coast, all that methane, ready to burn. But who is going to invest in figuring out how to tap into these reserves?
Your rich Uncle Sam, that's who. Late last month, the Department of Energy announced more than $5.5 million in investments granted primarily to universities for research into how the methane in these hydrates could be used.