US, Japan agree to joint methane hydrate study

Japan has decided to pursue joint research and development on methane hydrate with the US, aiming to commercialize it as an energy source by 2018.

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, May 19 -- Japan has decided to pursue joint research and development on methane hydrate with the US, aiming to commercialize it as an energy source by 2018.

By sharing their findings, Japan and the US aim to accelerate research and development efforts and establish a global standard for production technology. The two governments already have begun working-level talks, and are expected to reach a final agreement by this summer.

The world's largest methane hydrate reserves are thought to be off Japan's Aichi and Mie prefectures. Estimated at 7.4 trillion cu m, the reserves are equal to about 100 times the amount of gas consumed in Japan every year (OGJ Online, Apr. 28, 2008).

Under the commercialization scheme, methane hydrate will be converted underground into methane gas and water. The gas will then be collected, and transported for production and sale as with natural gas.

As a site for undertaking joint studies, the two countries are considering locations in Japanese waters and off the coasts of Oregon and Alaska. Other sites, yet to be named, also are under consideration.

In March, independent administrative agency Japan Oil, Gas & Metals National Corp. achieved the world's first continuous production of methane hydrate.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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