China’s Minister of Land and Resources Jiang Daming reported that his country has successfully mined combustible ice in the South China Sea, marking a major breakthrough for a mining technique that could potentially change the global energy sector.
This is China's first success in mining flammable ice at sea, after nearly two decades of research and exploration, the minister said at a trial mining site in the Shenhu area of the South China Sea, China’s news agency Xinhua reported.
The successful trial could have a far-reaching impact on the way the world gets its energy because one cubic meter of "combustible ice," a kind of natural gas hydrate, is equal to 164 cubic meters of regular natural gas. And there is a lot of it in the South China Sea.
Sources of methane hydrate are so large that the US Department of Energy has estimated the world's total amount could exceed the combined energy content of all other fossil fuels.
China first found the deposit in 2007.
According to Zhong Ziran, head of the China Geological Survey Bureau, combustible ice is more environmentally friendly and large reserves exist.
Mining of combustible ice started in the 1960s, but China began research in 1998.
Trial mining of combustible ice in the Shenhu sea, about 320 kilometers southeast of Zhuhai City in Guangdong, started on March 28. Experts first tapped the natural gas hydrate at a depth of 1,266 meters underwater.
An average of 16,000 cubic meters of gas with high purity was extracted each day.
"Many countries along the Maritime Silk Road have a demand for combustible ice mining," said Qiu Haijun, director of the trial mining commanding headquarters.
"With the advanced technology we could help resolve the energy resource problem and boost economic development and exchanges between countries," Qiu said.