The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), as part of an international partnership, will investigate the resource potential of natural gas hydrates within the Prudhoe Bay Unit (PBU) on the Alaska North Slope. NETL in partnership with the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation; the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); and Petrotechnical Resources-Alaska have arranged with the Prudhoe Bay unit owners to drill and log an initial test well, as well as gather samples to confirm the occurrence of gas hydrate at a location in within the currently operating Prudhoe Bay oil field. 

Gas hydrates are naturally occurring combinations of natural gas and water that form in specific conditions of relatively cold temperatures and relatively high pressures. They are known to occur in abundance on the Alaska North Slope, as well as in the shallow sediments of deepwater continental margins around the world—most notably in the Gulf of Mexico and off the southeastern coast of Japan.

“This test will move us closer to understanding gas hydrates, which have the potential to provide an enormous new energy source,” said Steven Winberg, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy. “We look forward to working with our partners on this important project.”

The initial well will feature temperature- and acoustic monitoring devices that will allow it to serve as a monitoring well for potential long-term field experiments. This effort builds upon prior gas hydrate field research conducted by both the United States and Japan, including successful short-duration tests in: Canada in 2002, 2007, and 2008; Alaska in 2007 and 2012; and offshore Japan in 2013 and 2017.  The work of the United States and Japan confirmed the occurrence of gas hydrates, identified many technical details of its occurrence and nature, and demonstrated the technical feasibility of producing natural gas from the select hydrate deposits.

The next critical step is to conduct field experiments of sufficient duration to reveal how gas hydrates release natural gas in response to reservoir depressurization. The site in Alaska has the potential to provide a unique opportunity to conduct experiments over many months because the partnership with industry will allow access to sites on a year-round basis.

The collaborative effort has benefitted from the support of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to facilitate gas hydrate evaluation in Alaska. 

Read more on NETL’s website.