pace of gas hydrate energy assessment projects has accelerated over
the past year, with a series of planned field tests in 2004 that
may help prove the viability of gas hydrates as a commercial resource.
is an ice-like substance that forms when gas and water combine under
conditions of relatively high pressure and low temperature. Gas-hydrate-bearing
sediments are widespread in marine environments beneath continental
margins and in permafrost regions, and are known to contain significant
amounts of natural gas.
have long speculated that gas hydrates could eventually be a commercial
resource, but technical and economic hurdles historically have made
gas hydrate development a distant goal rather than a near-term possibility.
began to change over the past five years with the realization that
this unconventional resource could be developed in conjunction with
conventional fields. Research coring and seismic programs carried
out by the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP), government agencies and
several consortia have significantly improved our understanding
of how gas hydrates occur in nature -- and have verified the existence
of highly concentrated gas hydrate accumulations at several locations.
significant development was the production testing conducted at
the Mallik site in Canada's Mackenzie Delta in 2002 (EXPLORER, January
2003). The test was conducted by an international consortium led
by the Geological Survey of Canada and the Japan National Oil Company.
of the test will be made public at a Dec. 8-10 symposium in Chiba,
While details of the test are not yet public, the consortium has
confirmed that gas was produced from gas hydrates.
at Mallik is being used to model the potential production characteristics
of gas-hydrate-bearing reservoirs at several other locations.
summer of 2002, ODP Leg 204 investigated the formation and occurrence
of gas hydrates in marine sediments at Hydrate Ridge off the Oregon
coast. The shipboard scientists successfully deployed new core systems
for recovering and analyzing gas-hydrate-bearing sediments at in
situ pressure conditions -- thus allowing the correlation of sediment
properties with seismic, conventional wireline and LWD logging data.
for gas hydrates as a resource has been improved by higher natural
gas prices and forecasts of future tighter supply. Unconventional
gas resources can play an important role in meeting our future demand
as long as they can be economically produced.
gas hydrate researchers have pointed to coalbed methane (CBM) as
a model for gas hydrates: Twenty years ago CBM was widely dismissed
as uneconomical, but today it represents 8 percent of domestic gas
U.S. Gas Hydrate Programs
United States, the Department of Energy (DOE), in cooperation with
the U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies, coordinates gas hydrate
research activities. The DOE lead program funds laboratory and field
research on both arctic and marine gas hydrates.
program information may be obtained at the DOE Web site http://www.fe.doe.gov/programs/oilgas/hydrates/.
Arctic studies include:
three-year program sponsored by Maurer Technology and Anadarko Petroleum,
in partnership with the DOE. Anadarko spudded the "Hot Ice 1" well
on the North Slope of Alaska in March 2003.
1 was designed to validate geological, geophysical and geochemical
models of arctic gas hydrate occurrences. The well was suspended
in April and operations are scheduled to resume this winter. See
the Maurer Web site http://www.maurertechnology.com/.
Exploration (Alaska) and the DOE also have undertaken a project
to characterize, quantify and determine the commercial viability
of gas hydrates and associated free gas resources in the Prudhoe
Bay, Kuparuk River and Milne Point field areas in northern Alaska.
The University of Alaska in Fairbanks, the University of Arizona
in Tucson and the USGS also are participating in the Alaska BP project.
Gulf of Mexico programs are currently under way. The most comprehensive
study is a Joint Industry Project (JIP) led by ChevronTexaco, designed
to further characterize gas hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico. Participants
include ConocoPhillips, Total, Schlumberger, Halliburton Energy
Services, U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS), Japan National
Oil Corp. and India's Reliance Industries.
is planning to drill and core multiple GOM sites in 2004.
primary goal of this JIP is to better understand the safety issues
related to gas hydrates, the results of the program also will allow
a better assessment of the commercial potential of marine gas hydrates.
of gas hydrate production in federal waters, the MMS has recently
launched a project to assess gas hydrate energy resource potential
on acreage under MMS jurisdiction.
the government of Japan established the first large-scale national
gas hydrate research program, which now plays a leading role in
worldwide gas hydrate research efforts. Plans for 2004 include drilling
and coring between 10 and 20 wells in the Nankai Trough off Japan's
East Coast, where gas hydrates were recovered during previous field
studies in 2000.
budgeted more than $65 million (US) for next year's gas hydrate
of India also is funding a large national gas hydrate program to
meet their growing gas requirements. Seismic data have been acquired
on the Indian continental margin, and current plans call for drilling
and coring dedicated gas hydrate wells in 2004.
gas hydrates were recently discovered during drilling for conventional
oil and gas resources in the Krishna-Godavari Basin.
Hydrate Research Committee was established in 1999 to promote gas
hydrate research and development by bringing industry, government
and university researchers together in order to exchange information
past year's AAPG Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City the committee
solicited volunteers as members of a Gas Hydrate Energy Resources
Working Group. This group plans to develop a formal position statement
on gas hydrates as a commercial resource.
wishing to participate in this effort are asked to contact Art Johnson
contribute to our understanding of gas hydrates as a future energy
resource, AAPG is planning a Hedberg Research Conference next fall
that will bring together the gas hydrate research community.