The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a funding opportunity announcement for up to $20 million (DE-FOA-0001023) for applications for selection and award in FY 2014 that focus on the (1) methane hydrate reservoir-response field experiments in Alaska; and (2) field programs for marine gas hydrate characterization. DOE anticipates that individual total project values may be up to $80 million depending on the number of awards, complexity, duration, and level of recipient cost share.
These projects are to support program goals and represent a critical component of advancing several of the specific mandates previously established for the Methane Hydrate Program under the Methane Hydrate Act of 2000 (as amended by Section 968 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005).
Methane hydrate—molecules of natural gas trapped in a cage of frozen 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 methane hydrate 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. As two points of comparison, total US proved natural gas reserves were 322.7 trillion cubic feet at the end of 2012, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). The Oil and Gas Journal says that Russia holds the world’s largest natural gas reserves, with 1,688 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), as of 1 January 2013.
In addition, methane is itself a potent greenhouse gas, remaining in the atmosphere for about a decade before it is converted to carbon dioxide.
The methane hydrate Funding Opportunity Announcement seeks projects in FY14 that will:
conduct scientific field tests in Alaska to further the understanding of the long-term response of gas hydrate occurrences to controlled destabilization via depressurization and other complimentary approaches; andbetter characterize naturally-occurring gas hydrate deposits on the US Outer Continental Shelf via multi-site deepwater marine drilling, logging, and/or sampling programs. /ul>
Extended Duration Testing of Arctic Gas Hydrate Deposits. DOE is seeking projects that will conduct field operations to evaluate the occurrence, nature, and extended-duration response of gas hydrate accumulations in Arctic regions to destabilization via depressurization and other complimentary approaches. Field programs on the Alaska North Slope, including those areas beyond the existing Prudhoe Bay infrastructure area—and in particular, those areas recently set aside by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (oil and gas set-aside tracts)—will be considered highly preferred.
DOE expects projects under Topic Area 1 to be highly leveraged (significant recipient cost share) and structured with separate phases (performance periods) based on the proposed research approach.
DOE anticipates that projects proposed will consist, at minimum, of an initial planning phase (including activities designed to evaluate and satisfy all applicable state land access and permitting requirements); a geophysical and/or geologic characterization phase; and a field-based testing phase.
Field Programs for Marine Hydrate Characterization. This area seeks field programs that will collect in situ data and samples (e.g., cores) in marine gas-hydrate-bearing sediments. Proposed projects that investigate documented or interpreted occurrences of gas hydrate within the highest potential areas of the US Lower-48 Outer Continental Shelf will be considered highly preferred.
DOE expects projects under Topic Area 2 to be structured with separate performance periods based on the proposed research approach. For example, it is anticipated that projects proposed may consist of a minimum of a site selection phase, an operational planning phase, and a field execution and analysis phase.
DOE is looking for projects that will conduct field-based scientific evaluation programs that industry is not likely to pursue on its own accord in the near term (2-3 years) in the absence of public funding.
The FOA specifies two technical topic areas:
DOE anticipates making 1-4 awards under this announcement depending on the size of the awards.