In a unique international effort, the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) have made a leap forward in investigating the resource potential of natural gas hydrates within the Prudhoe Bay Unit (PBU) on the Alaska North Slope. DOE/NETL formed a partnership with the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, the US Geological Survey (USGS), and Petrotechnical Resources-Alaska, in cooperation with the Prudhoe Bay unit owners, to successfully drill and log an initial test well (Stratigraphic Test Well).
Methane hydrate is an ice-like material in which methane molecules and water molecules combine and form under the condition of high pressure and low temperature.
The well was located in the greater Prudhoe Bay Oil field, which has confirmed the occurrence of gas hydrates in two reservoirs that are suitable for future testing. The initial well was completed with temperature- and acoustic-monitoring devices in place that will allow it to serve as a monitoring well for any future field experiments.
The success of this test moves us closer to characterizing, evaluating, and confirming the potential for gas hydrates production on the North Slope. We look forward to continue working with our partners to conduct world-class gas hydrates research on the Alaska North Slope.—Steven Winberg, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy
The location of this site in the greater Prudhoe Bay Oil field provides the necessary infrastructure to conduct field experiments of sufficient duration to reveal how gas hydrates release natural gas in response to reservoir depressurization.
In addition, this effort builds upon prior gas hydrate field research conducted by both the United States and Japan, including successful short-duration tests in: Canada in 2002, 2007, and 2008; Alaska in 2007 and 2012; and offshore Japan in 2013 and 2017 (earlier post).
The work of the United States and Japan has confirmed the occurrence of gas hydrates in both the United States and in Japan, identified many technical details of its occurrence and nature, and demonstrated the technical feasibility of producing natural gas from the reservoir.
The collaborative effort has benefitted from the support of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to facilitate gas hydrate evaluation in Alaska.