Japan discovers large methane hydrate deposit

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry reported a methane hydrate discovery of some 1.1 trillion cu m of estimated gas in place in a section of the Nankai Trough about 50 km off eastern Japan.

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Mar. 7 -- Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry reported a methane hydrate discovery of some 1.1 trillion cu m of estimated gas in place in a section of the Nankai Trough about 50 km off eastern Japan.

The figure includes recoverable and unrecoverable gas in natural methane hydrate in the area, the METI statement said. State-run Japan Oil, Gas & Metals Corp. (JOGM) assessed the 5,000-sq-km area as part of a project to draw gas from the hydrate.

As a result of the find, METI said it will broaden the scope of its exploratory efforts in Japan's coastal seabeds, which are thought to hold substantial deposits of methane hydrate which as yet cannot be produced economically.

Last October METI announced new efforts in Canada to develop technologies associated with the development of methane hydrate. Starting in December, METI and JOGM planned to conduct methane production tests in northwestern Canada with the Canadian government.

Following the drilling of an exploratory well in Canada's Arctic Circle on Feb. 23, JOGM said Feb. 27 it will start test-production of gas from methane hydrate in the permafrost area this month.

Depending on the outcome, Japan expects to start trial exploitation of methane hydrate deposits from the Pacific Ocean floor in 2009 with the hope of beginning commercial output from 2017.

The US, Canada, and Germany are all studying ways to use methane hydrate. In February, BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. successfully drilled a research well on the Alaska North Slope in partnership with the US Department of Energy and the US Geological Survey to collect samples and gather knowledge about the potential gas source.

Drilling crews and research team members collected about 430 ft of core samples which will be distributed to US-based gas hydrate researchers.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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