Japan has recently announced that it has extracted natural gas from offshore deposits of methane hydrate – sometimes referred to as “flammable ice.”
The extraction of the gas from an undersea hydrate reservoir is believed to be the first extraction of its kind. It could provide an alternative source of energy to known oil and gas reserves, which is an exciting development for energy-starved nations such as Japan.
The methane gas reserves located off Japan’s coast are believed to hold enough potential fuel to generate 11 years of Japanese gas consumption, according to Reuters.
Other governments such as the US, Canada, Norway, and China are also looking to exploit methane hydrate deposits as an alternative energy source.
Scientists are increasingly using energy analytics to help identify the energy potential of a variety of unusual sources, from spent nuclear waste to energy that can be created through friction.
For example, scientists, including those at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute, are using data analysis to explore different ways in which microbes function and work to offer insights into how microbes might be used to identify new sources of clean energy.
With computing and storage support from the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, scientists are currently studying a community of more than three billion microbial genes. Because microbes live in communities of thousands or more, researchers are studying how the organisms interact with each other and their hosts and how they adapt to different environments.
By applying analytics and computing horsepower to these behaviors and characteristics, scientists hope to unlock mysteries behind the interactions between microbial communities that could pave the way for developing new forms of clean energy.
Scientists once considered burying nuclear waste as one of the only alternatives for disposing of the waste fuel. But researchers such as the University of Toronto’s Peter Ottensmeyer are now exploring potential ways to reuse nuclear waste to generate additional energy while reducing its radioactivity.
The key to Ottensmeyer’s proposal is to build a different type of nuclear reactor, called a fast neutron reactor, that would use heavier U238 uranium instead of the lighter U235 uranium that’s used in most nuclear reactors today.
The U238 that makes up most of uranium is not split. Ottensmeyer proposes that the U238 uranium could be split using fast-moving neutrons, thus harnessing more energy from the uranium. Researchers can use analytics to help determine the amount of energy that could be drawn from nuclear waste.
In fact, Ottensmeyer says there’s the potential to obtain 134 times more energy from what is now simply discarded as used fuel. Ottensmeyer estimates the amount of electricity that could be generated from this fuel could be worth trillions of dollars.
Big data and analytics are also being used by Australian researchers to find geothermal energy sources deep below the earth’s surface.
The National ICT Australia and the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy are among the partners working together to apply machine-based learning and big data analytics to examine potential areas and ways of extracting geothermal energy as an alternative to expensive drilling techniques that have physical limitations.
The groups involved are sharing geothermal sensor data sets and their collective expertise to locate and characterize geothermal targets.
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