April 17, 2003
Natural Gas Made Into Pellet Hydrates For Easier Transportation

Technology review has an interesting article on the work of Japanese researchers to convert natural gas into a solid form to make it easier to transport from small remote fields that would otherwise be too expensive to operate.

Japanese researchers Hajime Kanda and Yasuhara Nakajima at Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding in Tokyo think they’ve found a solution with the aid of hydrates, solid crystals in which natural gas—composed chiefly of methane—is caged inside of water molecules.

If the article is correct then currently most of the natural gas in the world is not exploitable because the fields are too small and can't justify the cost of building pipelines to transport the natural gas from them to market. If these Japanese researchers succeed then natural gas could become a much larger percentage of total fossil fuel use.

It is worth having a look at world natural gas reserves. The world total known reserves of oil is 1212.811 billion barrels and for natural gas it is 5,501.424 trillion cubic feet. Saudi Arabia has the biggest oil reserves at 261.800 billion barrels or about 21% of world oil reserves. But Russia has 1680 trillion cubic feet of natural gas or over 30% of world natural gas. Russia has only 60 billion barrels of oil reserves while Saudi Arabia has only 224.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

What we really need to know is how to compare natural gas reserves and oil reserves for energy content. Some handy tables of energy conversion units provide the needed data. 1 cubic foot of natural gas has 0.00102 million btus of energy whereas 1 barrel of oil contains 5.46 million btus. Therefore 5352.94 cubic feet of natural gas have as much energy as 1 barrel of oil. Armed with these conversion factors let's see how do Russia and Saudi Arabia compare.

  • Saudi Arabia: (261.800 billion barrels x 5.46 million btus/barrel) + (224.7 trillion cubic feet x 0.00102 million btus/cu feet) = 1429.428 + 229.194 = 1658.622 million billion btus.
  • Russia: (60 billion barrels x 5.46 million btus/barrel) + (1680 trillion cubic feet x 0.00102 million btus/cu feet) = 327.6 + 1713.6 = 2041.2 million billion btus.
  • World Oil: (1212.811 billion barrels x 5.46 million btus/barrel) = 6621.94806 million billion btus.
  • World Natural Gas: (5,501.424 trillion cubic meters x 0.00102 million btus/cu feet) = 5611.45248 million billion btus.

If these calculations are correct then Russia has more energy than Saudi Arabia and the world has almost as much energy in the form of natural gas energy as it has in the form of oil. While the Middle East has 56% of the world's oil it has only 36% of the world's natural gas. Any technological development that makes it easier to store and transport natural gas will have a large impact on energy markets. Of the fossil fuel energy producers Russia will benefit the most and the world's demand for energy from the Middle East will be reduced.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 April 17 01:39 AM  Energy Tech

Patrick said at April 21, 2003 9:20 PM:

Do those figures for reserves of natural gas include all the deposits that only become economic if you use new transport methods?

Randall Parker said at April 21, 2003 11:08 PM:

Patrick, I do not know. I've wondered that myself. I suspect so. I suspect that some of the known reported natural gas reserves are not recoverable at current market prices for natural gas.

HAADI said at January 13, 2006 1:22 AM:


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