The US Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory has issued a solicitation (DE-FOA-0000891) for up to $20 million in funding for projects that focus on the following three technical topic areas: (1) characterization of methane hydrate deposits; (2) response of methane hydrate reservoirs to induced environmental change; and (3) response of methane hydrate systems to natural environmental change.
Selected projects will be intended to support program goals to determine the (1) likelihood of methane hydrates as a potential energy resource and (2) their role in the natural environment. The objective of the program is to fund research that significantly advances the current state of knowledge or technology with respect to methane hydrate science.
Methane hydrate—molecules of natural gas trapped in an ice-like cage of water molecules—represents a potentially vast methane resource for both the United States and the world. Recent discoveries of methane hydrate in arctic and deep-water marine environments have highlighted the need for a better understanding of this substance as a natural storehouse of carbon and a potential energy resource.
The volume of methane held in methane hydrate deposits worldwide is immense. A frequently quoted estimate of the global methane hydrate resource is 20,000 trillion cubic meters, or about 700,000 trillion cubic feet. In addition, methane is itself a potent greenhouse gas, remaining in the atmosphere for about a decade before it is converted to carbon dioxide. Clearly, methane hydrate has a significant role in the global carbon cycle, and it is gaining recognition as an important player in global climate processes and climate change.—DE-FOA-0000891
|DOE-Alaska cooperation on unconventional resources|
|In April 2013, Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the US DOE signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to improve cooperation and collaboration related to R&D as well as information sharing connected to the development of unconventional energy resources, including methane hydrates, in Alaska. (Earlier post.)|
|DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy will be responsible for developing R&D opportunities in Alaska and providing scientific expertise and resources in support of projects. Alaska will use its best efforts to resolve land access issues, arrange for the leasing of state land, and coordinate infrastructure, logistics, permitting and regulation where appropriate.|
The FOA includes three distinct technical topic areas:
Characterization of Gas Hydrate Deposits. Projects are to utilize existing field data, and/or collect field data (including log, core, and remote sensing data) to evaluate the occurrence, nature, and behavior of gas hydrate geologic systems.
Applications that evaluate gas hydrate occurrences on the Alaska North Slope, including those areas beyond the existing Prudhoe Bay infrastructure area, as well as within the highest hydrate-potential areas within the US lower-48 outer continental shelf as identified in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) recently released assessment (BOEM Assessment), will be considered highly responsive.
Response of Gas Hydrate Reservoirs to Induced Change. Applications are sought that utilize data from past scientific field experiments (for example, the Mt. Elbert and Iġnik Sikumi tests in Alaska; Mallik tests in Canada) to (1) provide insight into the design of future field production experiments and (2) elucidate the nature of gas-hydrate-bearing sediments and their response to induced changes in physical and/or chemical environmental conditions.
Response of Methane Hydrate Systems to Environmental Change. Applications are sought for research to clarify gas hydrate’s role in the global natural environment, with specific emphasis on research that synthesizes existing insights and information to clarify the potential for significant feedbacks to warming climates (and attendant implications for ocean and atmospheric chemistry and geohazards) from climate-driven gas hydrate dissociation.
Approximately $3,500,000 of DOE funding is expected to be available for new awards under this announcement in FY 2013; up to $20,000,000 of DOE funding could be available over a 4-year period for these awards. Funding for all awards and future budget periods are contingent upon the availability of funds appropriated by Congress for the purpose of this program.
DOE anticipates making a total of 3-10 awards under this announcement depending on the size.