Natural gas supplies could be augmented with methane hydrate

WASHINGTON — Naturally occurring methane hydrate may represent an enormous source of methane, the main component of natural gas, and could ultimately augment conventional natural gas supplies, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council. Although a number of challenges require attention before commercial production can be realized, no technical challenges have been identified as insurmountable. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Methane Hydrate Research and Development Program has made considerable progress in the past five years toward understanding and developing methane hydrate as a possible energy resource.

“DOE’s program and programs in the national and international research community provide increasing confidence from a technical standpoint that some commercial production of methane from methane hydrate could be achieved in the United States before 2025,” said Charles Paull, chair of the committee that wrote the report, and senior scientist, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California. “With global energy demand projected to increase, unconventional resources such as methane hydrate become important to consider as part of the future U.S. energy portfolio and could help provide more energy security for the United States.”

Methane hydrate, a solid composed of methane and water, occurs in abundance on the world’s continental margins and in permafrost regions, such as in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s North Slope. Although the total global volume of methane in methane hydrate is still debated, estimates yield figures that are significant compared with the global supplies of conventional natural gas. The existence of such a large and untapped energy resource has provided a strong global incentive to determine how methane might be produced from methane hydrate safely, economically, and in an environmentally sensible way.

Some of the remaining challenges to production identified by the committee include developing the technology necessary to produce methane from methane hydrate and understanding methane hydrate’s potential to behave as a geohazard. For example, industry practice is to avoid methane-hydrate bearing areas during drilling for conventional oil and gas resources for safety reasons. However, avoidance will not be possible if methane hydrate is the production target. In addition, the committee recommended research and development areas for DOE’s program, such as designing production tests, appraising and mitigating environmental issues related to production, and determining with greater accuracy the methane hydrate resources on the Alaska North Slope and in marine reservoirs.

The report was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are independent, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under an 1863 congressional charter. Committee members, who serve pro bono as volunteers, are chosen by the Academies for each study based on their expertise and experience and must satisfy the Academies’ conflict-of-interest standards. The resulting consensus reports undergo external peer review before completion. For more information, visit http://national-academies.org/studycommitteprocess.pdf. A committee roster follows.

Copies of REALIZING THE ENERGY POTENTIAL OF METHANE HYDRATE FOR THE UNITED STATES are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at HTTP://WWW.NAP.EDU. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

[ This news release and report are available at HTTP://NATIONAL-ACADEMIES.ORG ]

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

Division on Earth and Life Studies

Board on Earth Sciences and Resources

Ocean Studies Board

Polar Research Board

COMMITTEE ON ASSESSMENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY’S METHANE HYDRATE RESEARCH AND
DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM: EVALUATING METHANE HYDRATES AS A FUTURE ENERGY RESOURCE

CHARLES PAULL (CHAIR)

Senior Scientist

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Moss Landing, Calif.

SCOTT R. DALLIMORE

Research Scientist

Terrain Sciences Division

Geological Survey of Canada

Sidney, British Columbia

GONZALO ENCISO

Geological Adviser

Shell E&P Technology Co.

Houston

SIDNEY J. GREEN *

President and CEO

TerraTek (retired);

Manager of Geomechanics Business Development

Schlumberger Data and Consulting Services; and

Research Professor

University of Utah

Salt Lake City

CAROLYN KOH

Associate Professor

Department of Chemical Engineeing

Colorado School of Mines

Golden

KEITH A. KVENVOLDEN

Senior Scientist

U.S. Geological Survey (retired)

Palo Alto, Calif.

CHARLES J. MANKIN

Director

Oklahoma Geological Survey (retired)

Norman

WILLIAM S. REEBURGH

Professor Emeritus of Marine and Terrestrial Biogeochemistry

University of California

Irvine

MICHAEL RIEDEL

Research Scientist

Geological Survey of Canada

Sidney, British Columbia

RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF

ELIZABETH A. EIDE

Study Director

* Member, National Academy of Engineering


The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Have a question? Let us know.

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