Evaluating China’s Environmental Management and Risks Avoidance Policies and Regulations on Offshore Methane Hydrate Extraction

Yan, Dong
Farah, Paolo Davide
Gaskova, Ivana
Giabardo, Carlo Vittorio
Methane hydrates (hereinafter, MH), for many reasons, are widely recognized as a form of sustainable energy due to their environmentally friendly nature. MH, while burning, produce fresh water, which could in turn offer one possible solution to worldwide shortages of water. MH also maintains the capacity to change the landscape of the global energy supply. According to recent scientific evaluations, the potential global supply of MH is even higher than the total storage of traditional crude oil and conventional natural gas. However, its offshore extraction process could be linked to both catastrophic and non-catastrophic events that may contribute to global warming and climate change, cause harm to human health and life, endanger the flora and fauna, and threaten the very global environment as a whole. Therefore, from a legal viewpoint, an efficient and effective system of civil liability rules seem crucial to control the risks, and to compensate the victims to which damages may occur. This article takes into consideration China’s legal framework in assessing the risks connected to MH offshore extraction. Such a choice for examination is justified by China’s leading position for implementing the technology necessary for extracting MH. This analysis shows that China’s current legal instruments are still far from fully equipped to prevent the risks associated with the offshore extraction of MH, as well as to offer effective remedies for the victims once any damages have occurred. Therefore, more efficient measures and remedies should be considered (or even imposed) to address the specific risks of offshore methane hydrate extraction. Indeed, in the past few decades, China’s environmental protection laws and regulations have mainly focused on the environmental risks that may occur during the process of extracting conventional resources; however, they do not address methane hydrates specifically. This presents a legal challenge for environmental protection laws. The potentially catastrophic events that may occur as a result of the offshore MH extraction processes in particular present a legal challenge for environmental protection laws in China and across the globe. Thus, this article focuses on how to prevent these risks before they even occur, followed by a careful attempt to address compensation efforts for any damages caused by said catastrophes ​
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