Velda Addison, Hart Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that there are between 11,000 and 34,000 Tcf of methane in-place in hydrate form in the northern Gulf of Mexico alone.

Additional methane gas hydrate prospects exist both onshore and offshore across other parts of the world, including in the Arctic as well as India and Asia where scientists are learning more about the accumulations in hopes of producing it someday.

Methane hydrates could become an energy game changer. However, much effort is needed to help unlock the potential natural gas power packed into the 3-D ice structures. At this point, technical and economical hurdles remain. Currently, no technology exists to commercially produce hydrates.

Research efforts recently received a $3.8 million boost. The energy department said it has selected six multiyear projects to receive the funding that aims to “enhance the understanding of methane hydrate system behaviors when subjected to natural, environmental, or induced production-related changes, helping to determine both the production viability of a vast source of natural gas and to assess the role of gas hydrate in the larger global climate cycle.”

As unveiled by the energy department, recipients of the funds and their research projects, which will be managed by the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, are the:

  • University of Rochester in New York, $887,836 to study environmental implications that methane leaking from dissociating gas hydrates could have on the ocean-atmosphere system;
  • University of Texas at Austin, about $1.2 million to evaluate the dynamic petrophysical attributes of gas hydrate-bearing sands in response to pressure reduction;
  • Louisiana State University, $322,290 to evaluate the migration of fine-grained particles during gas production, focusing on factors unique to gas production from hydrate-bearing sediments;
  • Texas A&M University Engineering Experiment Station in College Station, $361,533 to study the fate of methane in water columns where hydrate shells form around methane bubbles in a process called hydrate bubble armoring; and
  • The Regents of the University of California in La Jolla, California, $533,406 to assess controlled source electromagnetic technologies for locating marine hydrate deposits.

Texas A&M also received $731,414 in funding for research efforts aimed at advancing the capabilities of a leading integrated model for hydrate system behavior.

“Recent discoveries of methane hydrate deposits in arctic and deepwater marine environments have highlighted the need for a better understanding of methane hydrate as a natural storehouse of carbon and a potential energy resource,” the energy department said.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said it helped India find a large accumulation of natural gas hydrate in the Bay of Bengal. Found in the Krishna-Godavari Basin, the discovery is made up of a sand-rich, gas-hydrate-bearing fan and channel-levee gas hydrate prospects, according to the USGS. Plans include conducting production testing in the sand reservoirs to determine whether natural gas production is practical and economic.

Velda Addison can be reached at