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Sat12202014

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Japan’s seas yielding natural gas

The waters of Japan are offering the Asian country an alternative to the importation of fossil fuels, as researchers have successfully extracted gas from its offshore deposits of frozen methane hydrate.

State-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation announced on March 12 that they had successfully conducted the world’s first tests to extract natural gas from methane hydrate deposits located in the Nankai Trough, off the central coast of Japan.

Methane hydrate is methane trapped within a crystal structure of water. Forming a solid similar to ice, deposits of methane hydrate are found under the sediments of the ocean floor and trapped in Antarctic ice cores.

A team aboard the research drilling ship Chikyu extracted the gas from the methane hydrates by applying a depressurization method. The tests are expected to continue for about two more weeks as J.O.G.M.E.C. continues to analyze the data.

Although this first offshore production test is not a commercial production and remains an experimental operation, it represents progress in the research and development of methane as an energy resource.

J.O.G.M.E.C. is also expecting to get data on the behavior of methane hydrate under the sea floor and the potential impact extraction would have on the surrounding environment.

The eastern Nankai Trough is seen to have some 40 trillion cubic feet of methane held in methane hydrate deposits. Extracting this would amount to approximately 11 years of liquefied natural gas.

According to The Japan Times, large concentrations of methane hydrate are believed to exist under other seabeds around Japan. If successfully extracted, these deposits could cover domestic consumption of natural gas for about 100 years.

Under the fiscal 2013 budget, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has set aside funds to cover the cost s of investigating exactly how much methane hydrate exists off the coast of Japan.

Last October 2012, a research team from Meiji University discovered methane hydrate deposits under the seabed in the Sea of Okhotsk and in the Sea of Japan off Akita, Yamagata and Niigata prefectures. There is also a high possibility that such deposits exist under the seabed off Shimane Prefecture.

Japan hopes to move toward commercial production of methane from methane hydrate by 2016. Other countries, including Canada, the U.S. and China have also been reported to be looking into ways of utilizing methane hydrate deposits as well. – K.R. Jalbuena



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