Gas Hydrates are nonstoichiometric crystalline compounds that belong to the inclusion group known as Clathrates. Hydrates occur when water molecules attach themselves together through hydrogen bonding and form cavities which can be occupied by a single gas or volatile liquid molecule. The presence of a gas or volatile liquid inside the water network thermodynamically stabilizes the structure through physical bonding via weak van der Waals forces.
Instability in oil production and the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels is forcing scientists to find new resources and develop new technologies to keep pace with elevating energy demands. At present, hydrate research is recognized as an important field due to the possibilities that gas hydrates pose in alleviating the energy problem (Englezos, 1993; Kvenvolden, 1999). Naturally occurring hydrates, containing mostly methane, exist in vast quantities within and below the permafrost zone and in sub-sea sediments (Sloan and Koh, 2007). At present the amount of organic carbon trapped in hydrate exceeds all other reserves (fossil fuels, soil, peat, and living organisms) (Suess et al., 1999). Further evidence supporting the amount of naturally occurring hydrate reserves was provided in September of 2002, where researchers from the University of Victoria announced that they found the largest amount of methane hydrates ever discovered on the sea floor off Canada (Chapman, 2002). The amount of naturally available gas hydrate could also be potentially hazardous because if global warming continues, the atmospheric temperature will rise and decompose some of these methane hydrates in the earth. Methane is one of the most harmful greenhouse gases and this effect could be potentially threatening.
Carbon dioxide hydrate is also an important hydrate on a global scale. Carbon dioxide, like methane, is a component of natural gas and may form hydrates in oil reservoirs during enhanced oil recovery, thereby complicating extraction. Carbon dioxide is also a major component in the emissions of thermal power plants, which contributes to global warming. Following the United Nations framework convention on climate change in Kyoto, 1997, a commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 6% below the year 1990 level was made by several countries, including Canada. In order to abide by the protocol and improve atmospheric conditions, carbon dioxide from thermal power plants must be captured and safely disposed of. A means to dispose of carbon dioxide is to transform it into hydrates and sequester them in the deep ocean (Brewer et al., 2000). It is hypothesized that carbon dioxide hydrate, which is denser than water, will be stable at these conditions.