Energy on Ice

A vast, untapped source of natural gas comes in from the cold

11:02am, June 21, 2005

In March 2002, an international team of scientists pumped hot water down a 1,200-meter well located at the edge of the Mackenzie River Delta in northwestern Canada. The water seeped into the pores of the perpetually frozen sediments, melting icelike crystals along its path. These were no ordinary crystals, but frozen cages of water molecules filled with methane, the main constituent of natural gas. The structures had formed millennia ago and now reside in layers deep below the permafrost. As the crystals melted, the natural gas escaped and bubbled to the surface to fuel a flame rising high above the white Arctic landscape.

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