The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the selection of six multi-year research projects to receive $3.8 million in funding that will enhance the understanding of methane hydrate system behaviors when subjected to natural, environmental, or induced production-related changes, helping to determine both the production viability of a vast source of natural gas and to assess the role of gas hydrate in the larger global climate cycle.

The competitively selected projects will involve fundamental research assessing the scale, development, and nature of hydrate-bearing geological systems; the role of the systems in the natural environment; the potential of the systems for commercial recovery of methane; and the potential environmental implications of methane hydrate resource recovery. The research will involve laboratory, field, and numerical simulation studies of gas hydrate reservoir responses to production activities as well as natural variations.

Methane hydrate—natural gas trapped in ice-like cages of water molecules— represents a potentially vast energy resource. Methane hydrate occurs in both terrestrial and marine environments.  It represents an important bridge fuel to a low-carbon energy economy. Recent discoveries of methane hydrate deposits in arctic and deep-water marine environments have highlighted the need for a better understanding of methane hydrate as a natural storehouse of carbon and a potential energy resource.

Since the passage of the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000, the DOE has led a coordinated national methane hydrate research and development program in collaboration with six other federal and international agencies, universities, and industry. The program advances the scientific understanding of naturally occurring methane hydrate so that its resource potential and environmental implications can be fully understood.

The six new projects will be managed by the DOE Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and are described below. Funding amounts may vary as negotiations progress.

University of Rochester (Rochester, NY) – The University of Rochester will advance understanding of the environmental implications that methane leaking from dissociating gas hydrates could have on the ocean-atmosphere system.  It will also enhance knowledge of the distribution and amount of methane emissions from the U.S. Atlantic Margin upper continental slope in the mid-Atlantic zone. DOE Funding: $887,836

University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX) – The University of Texas at Austin will conduct a laboratory evaluation of the dynamic petrophysical attributes of gas hydrate–bearing sands in response to pressure reduction at macro- and micro-scale. This research will enhance understanding of hydrate system behavior, improve the ability to simulate hydrate production, and make more realistic estimates of the ability of the hydrate resource to be a viable energy source. DOE Funding: $1,199,991

Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, LA) – Louisiana State University will conduct a laboratory evaluation of the migration of fine-grained particles during gas production, with specific focus on factors unique to gas production from hydrate-bearing sediments. The research will guide DOE-funded reservoir modeling work on promising field sites as well as benefit hydrate production assessments by providing better understanding of the impact of fine grained sediments (within the overall sediment fabric)  on hydrate system compressibility and permeability in sandy sediment. DOE Funding: $322,290

Texas A&M University Engineering Experiment Station (College Station, TX) – Texas A&M University will leverage prior NETL research and its own fieldwork data to study the fate of methane in water columns where hydrate shells form around methane bubbles in a process called hydrate bubble armoring. This effort will result in new analysis and improved models that will help to clarify hydrate’s role in the global natural environment. DOE Funding: $361,533

The Regents of the University of California (La Jolla, CA) – The University of California at San Diego (Scripps Institution of Oceanography will assess controlled source electromagnetic (CSEM) technologies for locating marine hydrate deposits. Research will provide a fundamental understanding of the electrical properties of hydrate-bearing sediments and assess the usefulness of CSEM as a complementary technology for locating and characterizing gas hydrates. It will also contribute data at locations of known or suspected gas hydrate occurrence in the Gulf of Mexico. DOE Funding: $533,406

Texas A&M University Engineering Experiment Station (College Station, TX) – Texas A&M University advance the capabilities of a leading integrated model for hydrate system behavior. The research will increase understanding of deep oceanic and arctic hydrate deposits and will yield simulation capabilities useful in assessing and predicting production-related performance of hydrate deposits. DOE Funding: $731,414

The Office of Fossil Energy funds research, development and demonstration projects to reduce the risk and cost of advanced carbon technologies and further the sustainable use of the Nation’s fossil resources. To learn more about the programs within the Office of Fossil Energy, visit our website or sign up for FE news announcements.  To learn more about the National Energy Technology Laboratory, visit the NETL website.