Is Gas Hydrate Energy Within Reach?

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Science  21 Aug 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5943, pp. 957-958
DOI: 10.1126/science.1175074

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Technological advances have opened up natural gas resources that were previously unobtainable, including deep-water areas (depths >305 m) and unconventional resources, such as coal-bed methane, and gas in shale, that do not readily release their gas to wells. The next resource poised to be delivered is gas hydrates, which form from methane and water at low temperatures and moderate pressures. Gas hydrates occur in permafrost (1), but most of this vast resource occurs in marine sediments on the outer continental shelves (2). Physical barriers posed by Arctic and deep-water settings, as well as a lack of proven extraction methods, have made them an unexploited resource. However, a series of international field programs in the last 5 years, in conjunction with experimental studies and numerical simulations, show that it should be possible to extract the most favorable gas hydrates—those enclosed in sandy sediments that lay at the apex of the gas hydrate resource pyramid (see the figure)—with existing technologies.