Analysis & Opinions - ArcticToday

Can We Harness the Arctic's Methane for Energy?

  • Amy Yee
| Sep. 01, 2020

The potent greenhouse gas is abundant in the Arctic. Capturing it for energy could power the region and prevent its release into the atmosphere.

When I first saw Lake Kivu in Rwanda, I was struck not just by its dazzling beauty but also by how little activity there was around its vast expanse. Normally, water bodies like this in Africa would be bustling with boats, fishermen and industrious people on its shores. I later learned why Lake Kivu, one of east Africa's Great Lakes, is so serene. It is full of methane derived from the volcanic landscape. Methane is a greenhouse gas up to 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, trapping more heat before decaying into carbon dioxide within a few decades.

Rwanda is a world away from the Arctic. But alternative energy systems there and elsewhere in the world could spark ideas for how methane can be harnessed rather than released into the air.

Methane is the main element in natural gas, and can generate electricity or be used as cooking fuel. In the Arctic, it's becoming abundant as permafrost thaws and glaciers melt, which accelerates a destructive climate feedback loop. Forty tons of methane leak from Iceland's Sólheimajökull Glacier every day. Greenland's Leverett Glacier, releases six tons in the summer. The East Siberian Arctic Shelf off Russia holds 50 gigatons of methane....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Yee, Amy.“Can We Harness the Arctic's Methane for Energy?.” ArcticToday, September 1, 2020.

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