Flue gases extract methane from permafrost while reducing emissions

Researchers from Russia’s Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) Center for Hydrocarbon Recovery (CHR) and Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh are looking at a way of extracting methane from Arctic permafrost in a manner that reduces carbon dioxide emissions. By injecting hot waste flue gases from industrial plants, the goal is to replace the methane with CO2 in significant quantities.

The Arctic regions of Russia are the site of a number of new oil and gas fields, but exploiting these is far from an easy task. Not only are they in remote, sparsely-populated areas with infrastructure that is notoriously lacking, but they’re also home to vast deposits of gas hydrates – frozen deposits of methane mixed with ice, that make conventional drilling difficult and can result in unacceptable methane emissions into the local atmosphere if not handled properly.

However, gas hydrates are also a huge potential source of natural gas that could be harnessed for industrial purposes.

And, according to the Skoltech team, it could be exploited as a trade-off that removes the methane while turning the permafrost into a carbon sink.

According to the recent study, hot flue gases from power plants, metal refineries, and other heavy industries can be pumped into the gas hydrate deposits. This sets up a reaction where the methane is liberated and the carbon dioxide replaces it to produce a new hydrate. Not only that, but the methane could be used in a closed cycle, with the gas powering an industrial plant and the flue gases recycled to reduce the carbon emissions while releasing more methane for the plant.

“Our approach not only helps extract methane and prevents its free release into the atmosphere but also reduces carbon dioxide emissions. I would say our method offers a double dividend in terms of environmental safety,” says Leading Research Scientist at CHR, Evgeny Chuvilin.