Traditionally, natural gas has been transported over long distances via pipelines or LNG. For some time, technologists have been grappling with a third method: to make hydrates of gas, or blocks of ice containing the gas.
Gas hydrates form naturally and have been long known to be a great source of energy — if only we could mine it safely. India has large gas hydrate deposits off the Krishna-Godavari coast and in the Andaman seas. A National Gas Hydrate Programme has been working on how to make use of these deposits for over a quarter century.
Mining naturally-occurring gas hydrates may be fraught with challenges, but in today’s world, a leading industrial manufacturing philosophy is to mimic nature. We can make hydrates of natural gas in factories, which can then be pelletised and transported in refrigerated trucks or ships.
The question remains of commercial viability. You have to pack more gas per block of hydrate and/or, you have to produce the hydrate blocks faster.
Packing more gas
And now, BusinessLine has learnt that Indian scientists have made a significant contribution. A team of scientists from IIT Madras and SN Bose National Center for Basic Sciences, Kolkata, has come up with surfactants that improve gas intake in hydrates.