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DOE to offer up to $4.5M for research on methane hydrates

The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has issued a $4.5-million funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001536) for projects that focus on fundamental research on methane hydrates.

This will include assessing the scale, development, and nature of methane hydrate-bearing geological systems; the role of these systems in the natural environment (including geohazards and potential feedbacks to changing global climate); the potential of these systems for commercial recovery of methane; and the potential environmental implications of methane hydrate resource recovery.

Methane hydrate—molecules of natural gas trapped in an ice-like cage of water molecules—is a potentially vast methane resource for both the United States and the world. A frequently quoted estimate of the global methane hydrate resource is 20,000 trillion cubic meters, or about 700,000 trillion cubic feet.

The goal of the DOE Office of Fossil Energy’s (FE) Office of Oil and Natural Gas is to provide information and technologies that will assure sustainable, affordable, and environmentally-sound supplies of domestic natural gas and oil resources. The Oil and Gas Team of NETL’s Technology Development & Integration Center integrates all elements of FE’s oil and natural gas research and is charged with implementing science and technology development through cost-shared research and the coordination of research activities at the DOE National Labs. Current program elements include: methane hydrates, natural gas technologies, and unconventional fossil energy technologies.

The objective of the FOA is to select projects in FY16 that will further ongoing efforts to characterize naturally occurring gas hydrate deposits as well as their role in the natural environment and that will:

  • Support fundamental laboratory and numerical simulation studies of gas hydrate reservoir response to potential production activities.

  • Support fundamental field, laboratory and numerical simulation studies of the development and evolution of gas hydrate-bearing systems and their response over various temporal and spatial scales to natural perturbations.

Two Technical Topic Areas being considered under the FOA:

Topic Area 1 – Hydrate System Response to Production Activities (Induced Change). Proposals are sought that utilize information from past or ongoing scientific field programs conducted both in the US and internationally, or new experimental studies that advance beyond past laboratory studies and utilize samples and approaches relevant to natural systems, to elucidate the petrophysical and thermodynamic nature of gas-hydrate-bearing sediments (including both the gas hydrate reservoirs and the bounding units), and their response to induced changes in physical and/or chemical environmental conditions.

Issues of particular focus include the response of reservoirs systems to depressurization, including geomechanical implications and the flow of heat within reservoirs.

In addition, studies that propose to utilize the data acquired during the 2012 Ignik Sikumi gas hydrate field trial to ascertain the nature of reservoir response to chemical injection would be of interest. Studies that address the potential environmental implications of production activities at a variety of temporal/spatial scales would also be of interest.

Topic Area 2 – Response of Methane Hydrate Systems to Natural Environmental Change. Proposals are sought for research to clarify gas hydrate’s occurrence and role in the global natural environment, with specific emphasis on work that can synthesize existing insights and information to clarify the processes by which gas hydrate deposits are formed, maintained, and evolve within geologic systems. In addition, analyses of the potential for significant response to warming climates (and attendant implications for ocean and atmospheric chemistry and geohazards) from climate-driven gas hydrate dissociation are of interest.


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