methane hydrates
methane-hydrates.jpg

Maintaining a focused vision on what’s next is one trait that makes NETL a lab of the future, and methane hydrates are one “cool” part of that vision. Found in Arctic and deep-water marine environments, methane hydrates are an untapped abundant source of natural gas.  A hydrate comprises a crystal structure in which frozen water creates a cage that traps molecules of primarily methane (natural gas).  NETL researchers are exploring and developing solutions to the technical challenges of sustainable, commercially viable methane hydrate production as a new energy resource. NETL is also leading the effort to fully understand gas hydrate’s role in the natural environment, including its potential response to future environmental change.

Methane hydrate science has advanced steadily over the past decade, resulting in a series of hydrate production field experiments; however, many scientific uncertainties and technical challenges must be overcome before hydrates can be produced commercially and sustainably. For example, NETL researchers are advancing the ability of numerical modeling codes to simulate methane hydrates’ behavior in the natural environment and under production scenarios.  NETL is also working with external partners, including University of Texas—Austin, Japan, and the State of Alaska, to conduct the necessary field programs in both Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico to better assess the abundance and nature of U.S. gas hydrate resources.

As the lead of the U.S. National Program, NETL coordinates activities with seven federal agencies and numerous international partners to advance gas hydrates science.  The forward-looking research is taking the mystery out of this abundant deep-water energy source and opening a potential avenue to a new clean-burning energy resource.