An international research program involving the Department of the Interior's U.S. Geological Survey has proven that it is technically feasible to produce gas from gas hydrates. Gas hydrates are a naturally occurring ice-like combination of natural gas and water that have the potential to be a significant new source of energy from the world's oceans and polar regions.
In in Japan, the successful results of the first modern, fully integrated production testing of gas hydrates were discussed by an international gathering of research scientists. The international consortium conducted test drilling at a site known as Mallik, in the Mackenzie Delta of the Canadian Arctic, chosen because it has one of the highest concentrations of known gas hydrates in the world.
Even though gas hydrates are known to occur in numerous marine and Arctic settings, little was known before the Mallik project about the technology necessary to produce gas hydrates. The results from this research form the world's most detailed scientific information about the production characteristics of gas hydrates.
The estimated amount of natural gas in the gas hydrate accumulations of the world greatly exceeds the volume of all known conventional gas resources. While gas hydrates hold great potential as an environmentally-friendly fuel for the 21st Century, the technical challenges of realizing them as a resource are substantial. Additional research is required to understand and develop new techniques to quantify their distribution in nature.
Depressurization and thermal heating experiments at the Mallik site were extremely successful. The results demonstrated that gas can be produced from gas hydrates with different concentrations and characteristics, exclusively through pressure stimulation. The data supports the interpretation that the gas hydrates are much more permeable and conducive to flow from pressure stimulation than previously thought. In one test, the gas production rates were substantially enhanced by artificially fracturing the reservoir.
The U.S. Geological Survey provides scientific information to describe and understand the Earth.