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China breaks records in combustible ice extraction

China has extracted more than 300,000 cubic meters of combustible ice from the South China Sea in 60 days, breaking a world record for the total amount extracted and the length of time it took, according to media reports.10 Jul 2017

One cubic meter of combustible ice, a kind of natural gas hydrate, is equal to 164 cubic meters of regular natural gas, China News said. Its report was based on a report in Chinese newspaper the People's Daily.

China reported in May that it had successfully extracted gas from methane hydrate, an ice-like substance that is trapped in ice crystals.

The methane hydrate, sometimes called combustible ice, is usually found in seabed or tundra areas, which have the strong pressure and low temperature necessary for its stability. It can be ignited like solid ethanol, which is why it is called 'combustible ice'.

China collected samples of the combustible substance in the South China Sea in what minister for land and resources Jiang Daming described as a "major breakthrough that may lead to a global energy revolution".

Oil and gas expert Steve Potter of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint law venture partner of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "While commercial production is still approximately 10 years away, progress is being made much faster than many in the energy industry anticipated."

"While estimates vary, the US Department of Energy estimates that global seabed deposits of methane hydrate exceed the combined energy content of other known fossil fuels. Countries involved in methane hydrate exploration and development currently include China, Japan, the US and India, all of whom have discovered significant deposits of methane hydrate. Of those countries, three are significant importers of LNG. As and when it happens, commercial production of methane hydrate by China, Japan and India could therefore have a massive impact on the viability of LNG projects which are underpinned by exports to these three countries," Potter said.

China first found methane hydrate in the South China Sea in 2007.

Japan announced plans last month for a second test to extract gas from methane deposits. Japan managed to extract gas from the deposits in 2013, it said.