The US Department of Energy said that four national laboratories will begin studies of the properties and production potential of gas hydrates.
The department said that with growing demand for natural gas, it has decided to accelerate gas hydrate research.
The DOE said gas hydrates could be a huge source of natural gas. "It is generally acknowledged � that the amount of methane in hydrates beneath the ocean floor and the Arctic tundra is greater than all other known sources of natural gas�possibly 5,000 times more than the world's known conventional gas resources."
Brookhaven National Laboratory, Brookhaven Town, NY, will spend $75,000 on two projects. The first will study the chemical bonding and structure, thermodynamics, and kinetics of gas hydrates using natural hydrate samples and synthetic hydrates to better understand the stability of hydrates themselves.
The second will track methane hydrate formation, observe the rate at which methane hydrates are formed, and estimate the amount of methane in an average hydrate. In addition, perfluorocarbon tracers (PFTs), chemical markers used to track oil production, will be tested, and the best PFTs will be selected as markers to track methane production.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif., will spend $200,000 to produce geological models of four different gas hydrate deposits representing permafrost and marine environments. The models are designed to improve the understanding of gas hydrate behavior in porous sediments, and emphasize operations or strategies for maximum resource recovery.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Libermore, Calif., will spend $120,000 to study the mechanical behavior of hydrates using synthetic hydrates and controlled mixtures of hydrates and sediment to simulate natural occurrences. The proposed research will be correlated to existing laboratory and sea floor measurements and computer models by measuring hydrate formation, dissociation and physical properties.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn., will use its sea-floor process simulator (SPS) to simulate natural sea floor environments associated with gas hydrate occurrences. Activities will include evaluation of technologies to find hydrate deposits, determine their mass and energy flux, determine the effects of hydrates on sea floor stability and examine methane recovery through dynamic flow experiments using the SPS. The SPS vessel will also be used by the other national laboratories involved in this cooperative research effort. Project cost is $75,000.