Starting from the discovery, in the mid-1930s, that petroleum pipelines in the colder regions of the Northern hemisphere contained crusts of some crystals, and were often blocked by them, a short history of the development of research on the structures, properties, and possible exploitation of the class of inclusion compounds known as gas hydrates is given. The state of the assessment of the natural reservoirs and their perspectives for exploitation are presented, together with an analysis of the hypotheses on the origins of the hydrates. Finally, the phase diagrams are shown in relation to environmental problems arising from the instability of the hydrate fields due to global warming or geological activity.
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