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Natural Gas Hydrates in Permafrost and Marine Settings: Resources, Properties, and Environmental Issues
Project Number
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The objective of the Department of Energy (DOE)-U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Interagency Agreement (IA) is to provide world-class expertise and research in support of the goals of the 2005 Energy Act for National Methane Hydrates Research and Development (R&D); the DOE-led U.S. interagency roadmap for gas hydrates research; and elements of the USGS mission related to energy resources, global climate, and geohazards. This project extends USGS support to the DOE Methane Hydrate R&D program previously conducted under DE-AI26-05NT42496, DE-FE0002911, and DE-FE0023495


U.S. Geological Survey at Woods Hole, MA, Denver, CO, and Menlo Park, CA, Santa Cruz, CA


The USGS IA involves laboratory research and international field studies in which DOE/NETL has a significant interest. Geological and geophysical support for these efforts is critical to their success, and the USGS is uniquely qualified to provide this support. 
This IA is currently divided into six separate tasks. The primary objective of several tasks is to evaluate the production potential of the known gas hydrate accumulations on the North Slope of Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). 
To serve energy resource goals of the Methane Hydrates R&D program on the U.S. Atlantic margin, the USGS will evaluate the need to conduct additional seismic evaluation of upper slope, gas hydrates in the northern Atlantic Margin, and collaborate with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and other partners on determining potential sites for a future gas hydrates research drilling program. 
To develop a better understanding of gas hydrates, the USGS is conducting laboratory research to measure the properties of sediments containing synthetic hydrates using a range of experimental methods. The USGS also actively supports cooperative projects between the U.S. and international partners.


In the Arctic, the USGS has been involved for decades in geological and geophysical investigations that are helping scientists understand the full extent of the hydrate resource and the role of hydrates in high-latitude climate change. USGS research on marine hydrates is making important advances in our understanding of the occurrence and potential hazard of encountering subsurface gas hydrates during drilling in the northern Gulf of Mexico. This information will provide industry with better tools and data as oil and gas development moves into areas where gas hydrates could present potential hazards. USGS scientists are developing new tools and techniques in the laboratory to better understand the hydrate-bearing sediments. USGS and DOE scientists and engineers, along with industry, will work together to gain a better understanding of the nature and distribution of marine gas hydrates to develop this valuable resource.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)
  • Acquired 10 pressure core storage and transfer chambers (for future use under Alaska hydrate project) and delivered to the Department of Transportation for final testing and certification.

  • Completed design and acquisition of new high-effective stress chamber and initiated pressure testing of the new chamber system.

  • Updated and adapted the downhole “map” of sample requests for Alaska hydrate core, expanding the planning effort to include various shipping requirements.

  • Completed microbial DNA and RNA assessment of microbial communities and functionality in the seal and reservoir sediment from GoM hydrate cores.

  • Provided ongoing support for science and operational plans covering the second GOM2 field program under the DOE project with University of Texas.

  • Completed GoM core measurements to constrain the permeability, compressibility, and strength at and above the in situ effective stress. 

  • Completed sediment permeability anisotropy measurements for GoM core.

  • Completed high-effective stress strength and compressibility measurements of reservoir and interbed sediment from GoM cores.

  • Completed measurements of the lithology differences between the reservoir and fine-grained interbed sediment for GoM cores.

  • Completed analysis/release of MATRIX Seismic Data for the Mid-Atlantic margin.

  •  Analyzed USGS legacy seismic data for New England Margin determining that collection of new data from the area was likely not required.

  • Completed contracting for pressure core storage chamber manufacture and certification (to be used in sample transport/storage for AK hydrate project).

For recent accomplishments from the prior iteration of the IA please see the project summary for DE-FE0023495 .

Current Status

USGS researchers are continuing to prepare for their participation in Alaska North Slope drilling, logging, and coring of a hydrate reservoir leading to a hydrate reservoir flow test now expected to start in late spring 2022. In addition, the team expects (depending on Covid restrictions) to complete remaining lab-based work on GoM cores. They will also finalize and submit multiple journal articles related to the MATRIX Mid-Atlantic margin seismic cruise and reinitialize (based on Covid restrictions) lab-based studies of hydrate-bearing sediments and hydrate-related processes. 

Project Start
Project End
DOE Contribution

$858,150 for Years 1 and 2

Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL – Richard Baker (
USGS – Carolyn Ruppel (

Additional Information