ANS hydrates R&D to test for extended duration, DOE says

Research on recovering natural gas from methane hydrates on Alaska’s North Slope will enter a new phase as the US Department of Energy, Japan’s Oil, Gas & Minerals National Corp., and ConocoPhillips prepare to continue their tests. The new series will last about 100 consecutive days from January to March 2012 and examine extended duration conditions and results, DOE’s Fossil Energy Office announced on Oct. 24.

It said the tests will use the Ignik Sikumi well that ConocoPhillips and FEO’s National Energy Technology Laboratory installed earlier this year as a borehole with full instruments. Ignik Sikumi is Inupiak for “fire in the ice.”

Tests will include the initial field trial of a technology that involves injecting carbon dioxide into methane hydrate-bearing sandstone formations, resulting in the swapping of CO2 molecules for methane molecules in the solid-water hydrate lattice, the release of methane gas, and the permanent storage of CO2 in the formation, FEO said. This field experiment will be an extension of earlier successful tests of the technology that ConocoPhillips and their research partners conducted in a laboratory setting, it indicated.

FEO said once the exchange tests have been completed, the team will conduct a 1-month evaluation of an alternative methane production method called depressurization. This process involves pumping fluids out of the borehole to reduce pressure in the well, which results in dissociation of methane hydrate into methane gas and liquid water, it said. The method was successfully demonstrated during a 1-week test conducted by Japan and Canada in northwestern Canada in 2008, FEO noted.

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