Fiery ice is the fuel of the future IT IS called the fuel of the future, or “fiery ice” by some experts, and studies show that Japan has loads of it under its southern waters. Put at its most basic, methane hydrate is methane locked in ice, hence the name “fiery ice”. It is formed at low temperature and high pressure and found in sediment on the ocean floor. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, can be used in power plants to generate electricity. As the world’s biggest importer of liquefied natural gas, Japan is eager to develop its own energy, hence its interest in the methane hydrate deposits in its southern waters. Although it has not yet reached commercial development, enough research is being undertaken by Japanese organizations to suggest that the country is serious about developing methane hydrate as an energy source. There is no consensus on when this could become commercially viable, with most experts simply saying it will take years. Nevertheless, the rapid development of the shale gas industry in the US shows that technology can speed up these programs and take everyone by surprise.