“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 US National Research Council. Although a number of challenges require attention before commercial production can be realized, no technical challenges have been identified as insurmountable, the report says. 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.
NGVAmerica reports that 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. 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. Copies of “Realizing the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States” are available from the National Academies Press.
Additional information on methane hydrates is available from the US National Energy Technology Laboratory.