Gas from methane hydrates within a decade?

Gas production from the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of shale is already well established (even booming) in the US. Huge amounts of gas and oil bearing shale (as much as all known reserves of natural gas) around the rest of the world are yet to be exploited. But the methane hydrates on the sea beds dwarf all the known fossil fuel reserves put together.

The sheer abundance of methane hydrates around the globe and the thought that much of this gas could soon be economically extractable is almost intoxicating for those involved.

“The worldwide amounts of carbon bound in gas hydrates is conservatively estimated to total twice the amount of carbon to be found in all known fossil fuels on Earth”.

 

Methane Hydrate Resources per Der-Spiegel

Methane Hydrate Resources per Der-Spiegel

Methane hydrate deposits are so widespread around the world’s coastlines that cartel formation will be almost impossible. The technology for extraction however could become a very hot property. The Japanese – who don’t have any shale but do have access to methane hydrate deposits – have been leading the charge for extraction of gas from methane hydrates and tests have been promising. The US and India and China are also active but the Japanese are probably closest to commercial production. Now 11 Japanese companies have formed a consortium to exploit the resource and conduct larger production tests following the successful extraction test carried out by the Japanese government in 2012. Japan could have commercial quantities of methane hydrate gas flowing within a decade.

Natural Gas Daily:

A group of 11 Japanese companies have formed a joint venture to conduct production tests of offshore methane hydrates – an unconventional resource seen as a potential game changer for the world’s largest LNG importer. 

Led by Japan Petroleum Exploration (Japex) and starting with a capital contribution of ¥300 million ($2.8 million), Japan Methane Hydrate Operating Co. (JMH) will provide contractor services and carry out field operations during the medium- and long-term production tests sponsored by the government. 

The JV partners will each share their expertise and technology to support the exploration and testing, JMH said in its first press release on Wednesday. 

“A substantial quantity of methane hydrate is estimated to be in the offshore areas around Japan. Serving as a new domestic energy source, with the potential to make a major contribution to a stable national energy supply for Japan, technological development is necessary for its commercialisation, including the establishment of production technologies,” the company said.

The Japanese government successfully produced the world’s first methane hydrates in March 2012, after drilling an experimental well in the offshore Nankai Trough and carrying out a production test that exceeded expectations (see Japan flows hydrates in landmark offshore test, 12 March 2013). 

That was followed two months later by a steady flow of gas from methane hydrates in Alaska’s North Slope, which a partnership between the United States Department of Energy (DOE), ConocoPhillips and Japan’s state-run JOGMEC called a “successful, unprecedented test of technology”.  ……. 

The government has said it expects to develop the technology needed to produce gas from methane hydrates by about 2018, although it remains to be proven whether the resource will be commercial (see Methane hydrates seen as the next big unconventional gas, 22 April 2013). 

Methane hydrates appear in Arctic sediments and below continental shelves as far apart as India and New Zealand. Worldwide deposits are estimated at up to 20,000 trillion cubic metres of gas – compared with 185.7 tcm of proven gas reserves in the world at the end of 2013, according to BP statistics. …… 

The JMH JV includes Japex (operator, 33%), Japan Drilling Co. (18%), Inpex (13%), Idemitsu Oil & Gas (5%), JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration (5%), Nippon Steel & Sumikin Engineering Co. (5%), Chiyoda Corp. (5%), Toyo Engineering Corp. (5%), JGC Corp. (5%), Mitsui Oil Exploration (5%) and Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Co. (1%). 

With new natural gas reserves being found in the Arctic and with all the shale gas yet to be extracted and, now, with the vast amount of methane hydrates available, “peak gas” is at least 1,000 years away.

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