US Dept. of Energy exploring Methane Hydrate resources in Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and elsewhere

The U.S. Government is supporting research into developing Methane Hydrate “resources”.  A month ago I reported on a joint project between the Dept. of Energy and the State of Alaska to develop methane hydrate resources in Alaska’s North Slope, as well as tar sands deposits in that area.  Today there is a press release from the Dept. of Energy about an exploratory trip in the Gulf of Mexico also focusing on Methane Hydrate deposits.

The trip is described as:  A joint-federal-agency 15-day research expedition in the northern Gulf
of Mexico yielded innovative high-resolution seismic data and imagery
that will help refine characterizations of large methane hydrate
resources in the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.

The expedition was planned by DOE, the U.S Geological Survey (USGS) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and conducted by the USGS.

This survey was a follow-up to one conducted 4 years ago which confirmed “that gas hydrate can and does occur at high saturations within reservoir-quality sands in the Gulf of Mexico” and that “highly saturated hydrate-bearing sands discovered in at least in two of three sites drilled.”  The results from that expedition support the potential of gas hydrate as an energy resource.  This potential forms the foundation of the Office of Fossil Energy’s
Methane Hydrate R&D Program, which is focused on expanding future
energy options by developing the information and technology required for
eventual production of natural gas from hydrate. During the expedition,
gas hydrate was found at saturations ranging from 50 percent to more
than 90 percent in high-quality sands. The deposits were also found in
close accordance with the project’s pre-drill predictions, providing
increased confidence in our gas hydrate exploration and appraisal
technologies.

“Understanding the nature and setting of deepwater gas hydrates is
central to the National Methane Hydrates R&D Program, which is led
by DOE and managed by FE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory,” said
Christopher Smith, Acting Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy. “Over
the past 8 years, research carried out under this program has resulted
in significant advances in our understanding of methane hydrates, their
role in nature, and their potential as a future energy resource. This
success is largely due to an unprecedented level of cooperation among
federal agencies, industry, national laboratories, and academic
institutions.”

“This expedition represents a significant milestone,” said USGS Energy
Resources Program Coordinator Brenda Pierce. “The data and imagery
provide insight into the entire petroleum system at each location,
including the source of gas, the migration pathways for the gas, the
distribution of hydrate-bearing sediments, and traps that hold the
hydrate and free gas in place. The USGS has a globally recognized
research effort studying gas hydrates in settings around world, and this
project combines our unique expertise with that of other agencies to
advance research on this potential future energy resource.”

My take is – this is a big step backwards, in that it will keep our society wedded to fossil fuels.

The excitement is just oozing from these press releases that the U.S. is on the verge of developing more fossil fuel resources.  These reservoirs apparently have a significant quantity of natural gas (methane) available, which can be processed into liquid fuels or used directly as natural gas.

The pattern here is the problem.  Fossil fuel resources are part of the death spiral pattern, because it is an energy resource that is non-self-replenishing.  Every ounce of fossil fuel used depletes the resource.  Dependence on fossil fuels means an eventual death by depleting the resource to the point it is unfeasible to continue extracting fuel.

That they’re exploring methane hydrates at all is a demonstration of that factoid.  We, collectively speaking, have tapped out the easy-to-extract fossil oil resources to the point where it’s growingly expensive to extract the oil.  That’s causing we, collectively, to start exploring other resources that are themselves more expensive but not as fully tapped out.

Additionally, every ounce of fossil fuel consumption represents carbon being desequestered.  The planet sequestered zillions of pounds of carbon in previous era’s.  Given that we’re concerned about carbon being added to the environment, we have to be concerned about any effort that will expand the desequesterising of carbon.

You can learn more about the Dept of Energy’s Methane Hydrate Research here:- http://energy.gov/fe/science-innovation/oil-gas-research/methane-hydrate

The specific reservoir studied in the Gulf of Mexico is thought to have almost 7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas equivalent:  http://www.boem.gov/uploadedFiles/BOEM/Oil_and_Gas_Energy_Program/Resource_Evaluation/Gas_Hydrates/MMS2008-004.pdf

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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