The National Methane Hydrates R&D Program
The DOE-NETL Methane Hydrate Program has expanded its portfolio of research and development projects with the addition of nine projects that focus on building a strong hydrate knowledge base, increasing understanding of methane hydrate’s environmental implications, and encouraging production efforts of this global storehouse of methane . By clarifying the role of hydrates in the natural environment and advancing methane hydrate as a potential energy source, the projects could help supply the United States with abundant, secure, and environmentally sound supplies of domestic natural gas far into the future.
The nine projects include the following anticipated efforts (if carried through all project phases).
Gas Hydrates in the Natural Environment
- Texas A&M University (Corpus Christi, Texas)—Quantify the volume of methane that escapes to the atmosphere from deepwater expulsion sites in the Gulf of Mexico. The project will study methane fate in the water column and will detect hydrocarbon seep locations using satellite data, which will be used to extrapolate regional estimates of methane escaping to the atmosphere.
- University of Alaska, Fairbanks (Fairbanks, Alaska)—Study thermokarst lakes (freshwater arctic lakes formed from melting permafrost) and methane emissions that occur in these lakes. Work will focus on investigation of the potential link between methane emissions and dissociation of methane hydrate.
- University of California, Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, Calif.)—Three-year field and laboratory investigation of aerobic methanotrophy in marine environments. Understanding the potential to oxidize methane and the fate of methane as it travels through the water column will help researchers understand the role methane hydrate may play in global climate change.
- University of Chicago (Chicago, Ill.)—Develop a two-dimensional global model linking sediment, oceans, and the atmosphere. The improved model will be used to perform simulations to assess whether, on a regional and global scale, methane released from hydrates is likely to make its way into the atmosphere.
- University of Delaware (Newark, Del.)—Estimate rates of methane degradation through oxidation and examine methanotrophic microbes responsible for oxidizing methane in Arctic coastal waters and seafloor sediments. The effort will fill key knowledge gaps regarding the extent of hydrates and fate of methane in arctic coastal waters and seafloor.
Gas Hydrate Production Technologies
- ConocoPhillips (Houston, Texas)—Conduct the first field trial of a promising and unique gas hydrate production method that injects CO2 into the reservoir to replace methane molecules in the gas hydrate, freeing methane for production using conventional techniques.
- North Slope Borough (Barrow, Alaska)—Drill, log, core, and test a hydrate accumulation in association with free gas in the East Barrow or Walakpa field on the Alaskan North Slope. Researchers will monitor the reservoir to evaluate hydrate behavior as the pressure is decreased through production of the free gas located beneath the hydrates.
Gas Hydrate Exploration Technologies
- Oregon State University (Corvallis, Ore.)—Study the impact of variations in regional heat flows on continental margins as a tool to predict where hydrates are likely to occur. As such, they will integrate a new, high-quality data set from offshore India into existing data already under analysis to create heat flow maps of the region.
- Scripps Institution of Oceanography (La Jolla, Calif.)—Conduct electromagnetic surveys at three sites in the Gulf of Mexico and undertake complementary lab studies. Efforts will increase understanding of how to detect and characterize gas hydrate via this remote sensing method (complementary tool to seismic interpretation) for assessing hydrate distribution and volumes.