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Japan and U.S. DOE Looking into Economical Production of Methane Gas Hydrates

Methane hydrate is methane that is locked in ice. Huge amounts of methane are available for economical production via gas hydrates as soon as humans learn to produce them economically and cleanly. The Japanese have been particularly active in researching ways to produce methane from hydrates cleanly and efficiently.

Japan has been looking to diversify its energy resources since the powerful March 11 earthquake and tsunami triggered the world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant northeast of Tokyo.

Resource-poor Japan relies heavily on energy imports from the Middle East and until recently met one third of its electricity needs with nuclear power...Discover

Methane gas hydrates

Methane hydrates are widely present around the globe, particularly under the deep seafloor, but also in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The US DOE is now partnering with Conoco Phillips and the Japan Oil Gas and Metals National Corporation to test technologies for producing methane hydrates on Alaska's North Slope.

The collaborative testing will take place under the auspices of a Statement of Intent for Cooperation in Methane Hydrates signed in 2008 and extended in 2011 by DOE and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. The production tests are the next step in both US and Japanese national efforts to evaluate the response of gas hydrate reservoirs to alternative gas hydrate production concepts. The tests will provide information to inform potential future extended-duration tests.

The tests will utilize the “I?nik Sikumi” (Iñupiaq for “fire in the ice”) gas hydrate field trial well, a fully instrumented borehole that was installed in the Prudhoe Bay region by ConocoPhillips and the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory earlier this year.

...The current test plans call for roughly 100 days of continuous operations from January to March 2012. Tests will include the initial field trial of a technology that involves injecting carbon dioxide into methane-hydrate-bearing sandstone formations, resulting in the swapping of CO2 molecules for methane molecules in the solid-water hydrate lattice, the release of methane gas, and the permanent storage of CO2 in the formation. This field experiment will be an extension of earlier successful tests of the technology conducted by ConocoPhillips and their research partners in a laboratory setting.

Following the exchange tests, the team will conduct a 1-month evaluation of an alternative methane-production method called depressurization. This process involves pumping fluids out of the borehole to reduce pressure in the well, which results in dissociation of methane hydrate into methane gas and liquid water. The method was successfully demonstrated during a 1-week test conducted by Japan and Canada in northwestern Canada in 2008. _GCC

You can see from the resource chart below, that methane hydrates may well represent the largest source for hydrocarbons in the accessible areas of the planet. With clean and economic access to this huge resource -- a mother lode of energy -- humans are not likely to run low on fuels for hundreds of years.

Hydrocarbon Occurrances

Although some research has been carried out in the past, little is known about the location, formation, decomposition, or actual quantities of methane hydrates. However, national and international research and exploration over the last 20 years by various governmental and industrial entities have resulted in general agreement that methane hydrates should be evaluated as a potential primary energy source for the future. _ORNL

Should Alaskan North Slope methane hydrates prove amenable to clean and economical production, expect significant investment in gas-to-liquids (GTL) production on the North Slope.

By. Al Fin




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