What is a hydrate?
A gas hydrate is a solid compound in which a large amount of methane is trapped within a crystal structure of water forming a solid similar to ice.
Where are they found?
Hydrates can be found in ocean sediments and in the frozen soil of polar regions. They form in conditions of low temperature and high pressure. In the deep ocean, the weight of the water mass is sufficient to create the pressure necessary for the process of hydrate formation.
Why is it important to study them?
Gas hydrate studies provide answers to several scientific questions. Fundamentally, they provide a better understanding of the ocean carbon cycle. They occur on virtually all continental margins, and the methane they contain promotes the development of very specific ecosystems. They also play a role in the stability of the seabed, so it is important to know the factors that may lead to their destabilization. Some scientific theories postulate that the destabilization of gas hydrates has fostered global warming in the past. Thus, an understanding of the evolution of hydrate behaviour in the ocean floor over time would validate or refute these theories.
From an applied point of view, some countries have even considered extracting the methane to use it as natural gas, because the quantities available are considerable.