Territories 2nd Prize
Work title: Frozen Fuel Network
Even with the lack of more information, the proposal is good in two aspects:
- The Methane Hydrate Harvester is an architecture-based project with a good use of technology.
- It looks to produce food as part of efficiency. This directly affects the local economy in a good way. [EBP]
The project deals with a phenomenon occurring in the arctic region and proposes a low tech device to harvest methane and a distributed network of electricity and food production. It would be desirable a better development of the power station and greenhouse. Conceptually, the proposal works and outline the possibility of developing local economies. I would consider it for the second round. [CRN]
Now more than ever, the rough-hewn terrain of a landscape unknown has been buffed and polished as developed countries contemplate and speculate above and below its surface. To many, the Arctic North is the next frontier for resource extraction and information storage; a hostile environment now tempered and tamed by a warming climate and infrastructural advancements. But to the few 32,000 inhabitants of Canada’s northern-most territory of Nunavut, the Arctic North is familiarly called home, or in Inuktitut “Our Land.”
As one might forecast, the ownership implied in “Our Land” is widely obfuscated and at times, rendered mute. In the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement of 1993, Nunavut was given Inuit title to 356,000 square kilometres of land, approximately 19% of total land area. However, when mineral and metal deposits enter into the equation, ownership is again blurred in a vertical land division of surface and subsurface rights. As in most cases, resources are extracted and shipped back south, while little economic benefit is recirculated in local Nunavut communities.
Nunavut is wealthy in resource extraction but poor in fuel and food sourcing which underlines the severe economic disparity between north and south. As the territory is 100% dependent on imported fossil fuels which is only re-stocked during summer months, residential electricity rates are astronomically high in comparison to the rest of Canada. In Pelly Bay, one can expect the rate of 102 ¢/KWh, whereas in Montreal that rate is 10¢/KWh. Running parallel, the cost of imported perishable food is equally as staggering. One head of cabbage can cost up to $12, a litre of orange juice, $15.
The Frozen Fuel Network scrutinizes the recent expansion of arctic industries made feasible by global warming and finds an opportunistic regional measure in the re-mapping and re-sourcing of Nunavut fuel and food sources.
As the climate warms and arctic waterways thaw, unprecedented mining extraction will not be the only frenzied activity in the territory of Nunavut. Below a melting permafrost, vast deposits of methane hydrate are on the verge of being released into the atmosphere. Nearly twenty-five times more potent than carbon dioxide in global-warming potential, the release of vast amounts of methane would significantly accelerate the warming climate of the arctic. Nunavut is already experiencing the release of large methane hydrate fields. Frozen bubbles of methane hydrate are beginning to float to the surface and when put to flame, will ignite in solid ‘ice’ form.
The Frozen Fuel Network, regionally owned and operated, locates methane hydrate fields off-coast of local communities and harvests the naturally releasing methane hydrate bubbles with a low-tech pressurized net. Surface and subsurface rights are not contested as the harvesting of methane hydrate falls in the same category of local fishing privileges. The methane harvester is anchored above fissures in the ocean floor and traps escaping methane hydrate in its pressurized tanks. Upon reaching capacity, the buoyant harvester floats to the surface for collection. Collection practices vary according to the season. In the winter months, methane hydrate is collected similarly to ice-fishing and the removable tanks are accessible enough to be transported by snowmobile or snow sled. In the summer months, fishing boats are adequate vessels for transportation.
Community collection occurs several times a week according to the size of each methane hydrate field. Methane tanks are brought back into the community to the local power station, which is a prefabricated insulated concrete-paneled structure, assembled on site. The pressurized methane tanks are generated into electricity for local inhabitant consumption. Although methane hydrate burns most cleanly out of all fossil fuels, carbon dioxide is still a resultant byproduct. However, the power station captures and pressurizes carbon dioxide and pipes the fluid throughout the outer skin, providing a coolant barrier against further damage to the surrounding permafrost. Excess carbon dioxide and thermal heat is pumped into an adjacent greenhouse, providing suitable conditions for the growing of a community garden. At night, the carbon dioxide is piped through the outer skin of the greenhouse, trapping any heat from escaping.
Surplus amounts of methane hydrate are transported to regional outposts and communities, developing a viable network of regional exchange.
The Frozen Fuel Network is specifically designed around the economic conditions of Nunavut; however, methane hydrate is not a phenomenon specific to the territory. Vast deposits are located throughout the Arctic with distinct sets of challenges demanding the express need for innovative solutions.