In many places throughout the world there is a remarkable new source of energy—methane gas (CH4), a major component of natural gas, concentrated in the form of hydrates—whose extent, characteristics, and economic feasibility are now being explored.
Methane hydrates look somewhat like large ice crystals. On the seafloor they appear to be frozen solidly in place as the gas is bound into a water-methane structure by a function of pressure (water depth) and temperature. Generally, water depths would be greater than 1,500 feet and, depending on pressure, the temperature between 32- and 68-degrees Fahrenheit. As one or both of these formative conditions is reduced, methane is released as a gas, increasing in volume 160 times. The source of the gas is decay of organic matter deep beneath the seafloor.