Nikkei. The Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. (JOGMEC), an independent administrative agency charged with ensuring the country has a stable supply of natural resources, has achieved continuous production of methane hydrate.
Methane hydrate, also called methane clathrate, is a cage-like lattice of ice inside of which are trapped molecules of methane. If methane hydrate is either warmed or depressurized, it will revert back to water and natural gas. When brought to the earth’s surface, one cubic meter of gas hydrate releases 164 cubic meters of natural gas.
Hydrate deposits may be several hundred meters thick and generally occur in two types of settings: under Arctic permafrost, and beneath the ocean floor.
For six straight days, the JOGMEC was able to produce methane gas from methane hydrate deposits 1,100 meters below arctic permafrost in northwest Canada. The agency used its proprietary technology to obtain the gas efficiently by lowering the subsurface pressure when converting methane hydrate into water and gas.
The JOGMEC aims to use the data from the experiment in Canada to begin test production in the waters off Japan in 2009 or later, targeting eventual commercial production.
Japan’ Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry confirmed the existence of methane hydrate reserves estimated at 1.1 trillion cubic meters off the coast of Aichi and Mie prefectures, an amount 14 times larger than Japan’s annual natural gas consumption.
The world’s largest methane hydrate reserves are thought to be under the waters surrounding around Japan. Estimated at 7.4 trillion cubic meters, the reserves are equal to about 100 times the amount of natural gas consumed annually in the country.