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Methane hydrate offshore is tempting, perilous natural gas

Releasing gas into the atmosphere: The end of the world is just one doomsday scenario floated about messing with methane hydrate deposits offshore.

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Sunday, January 5, 2014 

The volatility of the gas – more than any conventional seismic testing or exploratory drilling – really frightens conservationists and some scientists. This stuff could be a bomb waiting to go off.

It’s called fire ice: methane hydrate, the natural gas lying off South Carolina, the fuel widely acknowledged to be driving a campaign to open the deep ocean offshore to oil and natural gas exploration.

“If we’re going after it, we’d better be careful,” said Richard Charter, senior fellow at the Ocean Foundation, a nonprofit ocean conservation advocate.

Two catastrophes, he said, make the point:

In 2010 the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig blew apart, killing 11 people and spilling more than 200 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

About 8,000 years ago, an undersea cliff collapsed off Norway, plowing out enough of the bottom to bury Scotland and setting off a tsunami as huge as the 2004 wave that killed more than 200,000 people along Indian Ocean coastlines.

What the two very likely had in common is a methane hydrate eruption.

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