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Support for Methane Hydrate Research on the Alaska North Slope
Project Number
Last Reviewed Dated

The objective of this contract between the Department of Energy (DOE) and Petrotechnical Resources of Alaska (PRA) is to provide specific planning, analytical, arctic engineering, and environmental services associated with the potential drilling of methane hydrate stratigraphic test well(s) and a long-term methane hydrate production test well on the North Slope of Alaska.


Petrotechnical Resources of Alaska


This project is being conducted in order to support activities described in a DOE memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (ADNR) and an MoU between the DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and the Japan Oil, Gas, and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC). On April 16, 2013, the ADNR and the DOE Office of Fossil Energy (FE) signed a MoU to enable cooperation and collaboration between the ADNR and the DOE/FE regarding energy development and unconventional resource research and demonstration on the Alaska North Slope (ANS). As an initial action, ADNR took an unprecedented step of withholding from their 2013 lease sale 11 leases proximal to Prudhoe Bay Unit (PBU) and Milne Point Unit (MPU) areas until DOE could assess the set aside land’s suitability for gas hydrate research. ADNR’s expectation was that DOE would facilitate the development of a feasible project structure with interested parties. On November 6, 2014, JOGMEC and NETL signed an MoU under which the parties agreed to establish a cooperative working arrangement in the area of gas hydrate production testing on the ANS. The work initially performed under this MoU included, as a first step, the geologic review of gas hydrate occurrences within the area of the ADNR set-aside acreage on ANS and within leased lands within the PBU and MPU field areas. These efforts resulted in the characterization and ranking of sites with regard to their potential for gas hydrate production testing. Pursuant to the MoU, in January 2015, JOGMEC released a solicitation seeking award of a contract for the planning of methane hydrate stratigraphic test wells, a project to be performed in collaboration with NETL/DOE. In April 2015, PRA, an Alaskan technical services company, was awarded a contract with JOGMEC based on its technical capabilities to perform the work (reference information: To further the project, NETL awarded a separate contract to PRA for performance of additional activities associated with the DOE/JOGMEC MoU.

The scope of work for the PRA effort involves the development of viable plans using arctic construction, petroleum, facility, and drilling engineering design necessary to successfully accomplish ANS gas hydrate stratigraphic test well(s) drilling operations and production testing. These studies will also help develop estimated cost for efforts associated with this work. The project includes support for required prospect site environmental permitting and associated field activities necessary for the permitting of the stratigraphic test well(s), along with the development of comprehensive plans and associated costs for drilling and data acquisition of one to three stratigraphic test wells, and a long-term methane hydrate production test well to follow in the success case.


This collaboration will benefit the DOE Gas Hydrate program, which is part of the Natural Gas and Oil Program, by significantly leveraging the JOGMEC-funded activities; and providing DOE with evaluation of the costs and logistics associated with potential ANS gas hydrate R&D.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)

Studies from 2015 to 2016 utilized geologic information developed by JOGMEC, NETL, and USGS to evaluate potential gas hydrate-bearing reservoir prospects within the remote DNR set-aside leases and within ANS infrastructure areas. Prospect ranking was based on both qualitative and quantitative comparison of parameters, including 1) surface access, logistics, and high-level cost estimates; 2) subsurface geologic parameters (reservoir, temperature, petroleum system); and 3) feasibility of permission for site access and operator.

During the late summer of 2015, PRA contractors conducted fieldwork surveys at ANS candidate remote sites for the stratigraphic test well(s) within the State of Alaska set-aside leases. Contractors completed general reconnaissance via helicopter of potential ice-road routes and stream crossings. The team also conducted an evaluation of the existing gravel at the PBU Eileen pad. A lake studies team evaluated several lakes in the region for their potential to provide water for ice roads and operations activities.

Studies in 2016 completed preliminary draft stratigraphic test well plans and operations schedules for two remote site prospects. However, in mid-2016 project stakeholders shifted emphasis to areas with existing infrastructure, and PRA completed a Basic Operations Plan for a gas hydrate field extended-term production test.

Current Status

Scientists and engineers at PRA are currently developing detailed project operations and permitting plans for a specific site within the greater Prudhoe Bay infrastructure area. The basic plan as developed by DOE, JOGMEC, and USGS includes drilling a stratigraphic test well and, in the success case, conducting an extended-term methane hydrate production test.

Project Start
Project End
DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL – Skip Pratt ( or 304-285-4396)
PRA – Robert Hunter ( or 907-272-1232)