U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced nearly $5 million in funding across seven research projects nationwide designed to increase understanding of methane hydrates — a large, completely untapped natural gas resource—and what it could mean for the environment, as well as American economic competiveness and energy security.
“The recent boom in natural gas production – in part due to long-term Energy Department investments beginning in the 70’s and 80’s – has had a transformative impact on our energy landscape, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support thousands of American jobs,” said Secretary Moniz. “While our research into methane hydrates is still in its early stages, these investments will increase our understanding of this domestic resource and the potential to safely and sustainably unlock the natural gas held within.”
Methane hydrates are ice-like structures with natural gas locked inside, which can be found both onshore and offshore – including under the Arctic permafrost and in ocean sediments along nearly every continental shelf in the world. The substance looks remarkably like white ice, but it does not behave like ice. When methane hydrates are “melted,” or exposed to pressure and temperature conditions outside those where the formations are stable, the solid crystalline lattice turns to liquid water, and the enclosed methane molecules are released as gas.
In May 2012, the Energy Department, alongside Japanese partners, announced a successful field trial of methane hydrate production technologies on Alaska’s North Slope.
Managed by the Energy Department’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, the new projects announced will build on that success by researching alternative methods of extraction and the potential for commercialization, as well as the environmental impact of natural gas extraction from hydrate formations.
LNG World News Staff, December 11, 2013; Image: usgs.gov