“Flammable Ice”: Turkish – Chinese cooperation in emerging energy markets

“Flammable Ice”: Turkish – Chinese cooperation in emerging energy markets

The term “Flammable Ice” will soon be a part of our daily lexicon. The phenomena’s scientific name is “clathrate hydrates” (gas hydrates), describing ice-like, crystalline formations created under high pressure and low temperature hydrocarbon gas molecules on the sea bottom. Under standard pressure and temperature conditions, 1 cubic meter of gas hydrate contains up to 164 cubic meters of natural gas. Gas hydrate deposits are considered the “Clean Energy Source of the Near Future ” around the world.

Turkey and the Rimland panic of the US



Turkish scientists identified that one of the largest clathrate hydrates reserves is in the Black Sea. It is no secret that there is an intense clathrate hydrate reserve in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as in the Black Sea.

A team from Dokuz Eylül University, headed by Prof. Dr. Günay Çifçi and consisting solely of Turkish researchers, conducted research in the pilot region in the West Black Sea for three years. As a result of studies and calculations, it has been concluded that some 10% of the gas present in the reservoir detected would satisfy Turkey’s annual gas consumption. On the other hand, in a different area of the Central Black Sea, Turkey has reserves of clathrate hydrates to meet their natural gas needs for at least 11 years.

According to Prof. Çifçi, “clathrate hydrates are substances that are found in more superficial areas than petroleum and natural gas and are relatively easier to drill and extract. The development of technologies for economic drilling is ongoing. In geographies where clathrate hydrates are located, methane is emitted in a way that increases greenhouse gas, this gas adversely affects the ozone layer. This substance must be mined from the soil or sea where it is found and turned into an energy source by processing. Thus, by minimizing the damage to the environment by processing gas and bringing it to the economy, double benefits will be achieved.” (1)


Clathrate hydrates in the world are calculated to be approximately 50 times the volume of gas produced from fossil sources all over the world. There are large deposits under all oceans around the world, especially at the edges of continental shelves. Countries are looking for a way to make clathrate hydrates mining safe and affordable.

In March, China has managed to extract 861,400 cubic meters of natural gas from “flammable ice” in the South China Sea. (2)

The Natural Resources Ministry says that the volume of fuel extracted from gas hydrates is a new world record. It is emphasized that the month-long trial also sets a ‘solid technical foundation for commercial exploitation’. The gas was extracted from an area in the north of the disputed waterway in the South China Sea, and from a depth of about 1,225 meters. 300,000 cubic meters of gas hydrate was obtained over a 60-day period in 2017. (3)

China is the first country in the world to exploit gas hydrates using a horizontal well-drilling technique. China stands out with the most patents among other countries researching clathrate hydrates.(4)

Associate Professor Praveen Linga from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the National University of Singapore identifies China as an advanced country in this regard, and adds the following: “Compared with the results we have seen from Japanese research, the Chinese scientists have managed to extract much more gas in their efforts. So in that sense it is indeed a major step towards making gas extraction from methane hydrates.”

China’s “Economic Daily” reported in 2017 that China’s Flammable Ice (clathrate hydrates) reserves were equivalent to nearly 100 billion tons of oil, of which 80 billion tons were in the South China Sea.

What is the Blue Homeland in the 21st century?



Clathrate hydrate sources were discovered in the north of Russia in the 1960s. However, research on how to extract gas from sea sediment only began over the last 10-15 years.

As a country lacking natural energy resources, Japan has been a pioneer in this field. India and South Korea, which does not have its own oil reserves, is also making great efforts in this area.

The US and Canada are focusing on gas hydrates under the frozen solid in the far north of Alaska and Canada.

Many countries, including the US and Japan, are working on how to exploit these reserves, but they emphasize that finding and mining reserves is extremely difficult. (5)

Despite these concerns, China has accelerated development; the nation listed this development as a key policy goal in its national 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020). China’s State Council added methane hydrate to its mineral resource list in November 2017. With the last successful trial in March 2020, China will be able to switch to widespread production to obtain natural gas from flammable ice, thanks to the advanced technology it has developed. Turkey needs to launch its cooperation with the China Geological Survey, one of the most important centers in this area.


Our Turkish Petrolleri company (TPAO) made our nation happy with the discovery of natural gas in the Black Sea. It has put forward the importance of “Blue Homeland”, Turkey’s program to protect their marine resources. Let us leave the stage to our dear friend Retired Admiral Cem Gürdeniz, one of the pioneers of the Blue Homeland struggle and idea: “Cooperation and joint investment processes should be initiated with China in the field of natural gas extraction from gas hydrates. In this process, gas hydrate research in the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean should be among the priorities of duty of Barbaros Hayreddin belonging to TPAO and Oruçreis seismic research vessels newly procured by MTA. The Turkish people need good news from the sea, i.e., the Blue Homeland!” (6)

Imperialist attacks against the Blue Homeland

Turkey was liberated from American tutelage on July 15. The enthusiasm of our nation is real: this is the energy we need for a great and strong Turkey. The only thing we need is to trust and rely upon our nation.


(1) https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/ekonomi/enerjide-gaz-hidrat-donemi-40226570

(2) http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-03/26/c_138920204.htm

(3) https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3077156/china-extracts-861400-cubic-metres-natural-gas-flammable-ice

(4) https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-39971667

(5) https://thediplomat.com/2018/06/will-flammable-ice-be-a-critical-factor-in-asias-regional-security/

(6) https://www.aydinlik.com.tr/kose-yazilari/cem-gurdeniz/2017-mayis/enerjide-gaz-hidrat-donemi-ve-turkiye

Adnan Akfırat

Adnan Akfirat is former representative to China and Member of International Relations Bureau of the Patriotic Party of Türkiye; Chairman of Turkish-Chinese Business Development and Friendship Association (Turk-Cin Is Der); visitor researcher of Shanghai University Turkish Studies Center and Shihezi University Silk Road Research Center. Mr. Akfirat has been living in Shanghai since 2011.

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May 2024