Methane hydrates … a potentially vast source of global energy
A fully instrumented well that will test innovative technologies for producing methane gas from hydrate deposits has been safely installed on the North Slope of Alaska. As a result, the “Iġnik Sikumi” (Iñupiaq for “fire in the ice”) gas hydrate field trial well will be available for field experiments as early as winter 2011–12. Successful trials will add strong argument for the US government to push the development of natural gas fuelled transportation.
The well, the result of a partnership between ConocoPhillips and the Office of Fossil Energy’s (FE) National Energy Technology Laboratory, will test a technology that involves injecting carbon dioxide (CO2) into sandstone reservoirs containing methane hydrate. Laboratory studies indicate that the CO2 molecules will replace the methane molecules within the solid hydrate lattice, resulting in the simultaneous sequestration of CO2 in a solid hydrate structure and production of methane gas.
Methane hydrate consists of molecules of natural gas trapped in an open rigid framework of water molecules. It occurs in sediments within and below thick permafrost in Arctic regions, and in the subsurface of most continental waters with a depth of ~1,500 feet or greater. Many experts believe it represents a potentially vast source of global energy and FE scientists have studied methane hydrate resource potential and production technologies for more than two decades. Researchers are addressing such important issues as seafloor stability, drilling safety, and a range of environmental issues, including gas hydrate’s role in changing climates.
Data from the recently completed operations confirm the occurrence of 160 feet of gas-hydrate-bearing sand reservoirs in four separate zones.
This article primarily compiled using information from a US Department of Energy press release.