PDF _ RS22990 - Gas Hydrates: Resource and Hazard
25-May-2010; Peter Folger; 9 p.

Abstract: Solid gas hydrates are a potentially huge resource of natural gas for the United States. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that there are about 85 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of technically recoverable gas hydrates in northern Alaska. The Minerals Management Service estimated a mean value of 21,000 TCF of in-place gas hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico. By comparison, total U.S. natural gas consumption is about 23 TCF annually. The in-place estimate disregards technical or economical recoverability, and likely overestimates the amount of commercially viable gas hydrates. Even if a fraction of the U.S. gas hydrates can be economically produced, however, it could add substantially to the 1,300 TCF of technically recoverable U.S. conventional natural gas reserves. To date, however, gas hydrates have no confirmed commercial production.

Gas hydrates are both a potential resource and a risk, representing a significant hazard to conventional oil and gas drilling and production operations. If the solid gas hydrates dissociate suddenly and release expanded gas during offshore drilling, they could disrupt the marine sediments and compromise pipelines and production equipment on the seafloor. The tendency of gas hydrates to dissociate and release methane, which can be a hazard, is the same characteristic that research and development efforts strive to enhance so that methane can be produced and recovered in commercial quantities. Gas hydrates have hindered attempts to plug the Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, and may have had some role in contributing to anomalous gas pressure in the wellbore that caused the blowout itself.

Developing gas hydrates into a commercially viable source of energy is a goal of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) methane hydrate program, initially authorized by the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-193). The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58, Subtitle F, ยง 968) extended the authorization through FY2010 and authorized total appropriations of $155 million over a five-year period. Congress appropriated $15 million for the gas hydrate research and development (R&D) program in FY2009. The Obama Administration requested $25 million for the natural gas technologies program for FY2010, which includes gas hydrate R&D. Congress appropriated $17.8 million for the program in FY2010, which would also fund research and development into unconventional gas production from basins containing tight gas sands, shale gas, and coal bed methane, as well as for gas hydrates.

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Topics: Energy, Pollution

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