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For Japan, methane hydrate offers the chance to reduce its heavy reliance of imported fuels if it can tap into reserves off its coastline.
In China, it could serve as a cleaner substitute for coal-burning power plants and steel factories that have polluted much of the country with lung-damaging smog.
The official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that the fuel was successfully mined by a drilling rig operating in the South China Sea on Thursday.
Chinese Minister of Land and Resources Jiang Daming declared the event a breakthrough moment heralding a potential “global energy revolution.” A drilling crew in Japan reported a similar successful operation two weeks earlier, on 4 May offshore the Shima Peninsula.
That's in part because of the high cost of extraction techniques, which can use large amounts of water or carbon dioxide to flood methane hydrate reserves so the fuel can be released and brought to the surface.