Methane hydrates are natural gas trapped in ice-like cages of water molecules. These hydrates can be found beneath the ocean floor, as well as trapped under artic permafrost. When they are warmed or depressurized, they revert to natural gas and water. And when they’re brought back to the earth's surface, one cubic foot of methane hydrate releases 164 cubic feet of natural gas.
One area that holds great potential for methane hydrates is the Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. The Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM), along with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Japan Organization for Metals and Energy Security (JOGMEC) are supporting research and experiments to assess the potential and operational risks of methane hydrate development, and the associated environmental impacts.
On June 20, 2023, Vanessa Nunez Lopez, Director of Advanced Remediation Technologies; Ryan Peay, Deputy Assistant Secretary; and Gabby Intihar, Senior Program Manager; from DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM)’s Office of Resource Sustainability visited the Alaska Gas Hydrates Production Testing site on the Prudhoe Bay Unit (PBU). They were joined by colleagues from USGS and JOGMEC.
The Alaska Gas Hydrates Production Testing site provides a unique opportunity to conduct experiments over many months as the established production infrastructure and the two instrumented scientific test wells enable continuous monitoring at the site. An announcement regarding the Alaska Gas Hydrates production test project was released in October 2022.
DOE will conduct the production testing in partnership with the USGS; JOGMEC; Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; and the project operator ASRC Energy Services (AES), a subsidiary of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC). The testing will be conducted through a drilling agreement executed between AES and Hilcorp Alaska (on behalf of the Prudhoe Bay Working Interest Owners); and approved by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR).