DOE pulls natural gas from Alaskan ice

The U.S. Department of Energy recently completed a test of a new method for extracting natural gas from ice formations along Alaska's North Slope, according to Reuters.

The Energy Department has been cooperating with ConocoPhillips and Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. for a method of extracting so-called methane hydrates - pockets of methane mixed with water frozen into an ice-like crystal under high pressure.

Tapping into these hydrates could serve to dramatically increase available U.S. natural gas production, but no economically viable method of extracting them has yet been developed.

The Energy Department test sought to develop a means of accessing these reserves by introducing a stream of carbon dioxide and nitrogen into the crystals. Along with taps to help relieve the pressure in the hydrates, the test site was able to create a steady stream of usable natural gas, though the method must still be refined.

"We just completed the test, just plugged the well last week but we've got 30 days of production data which is considerably longer than any field test anyone in the world has ever done," Christopher Smith, deputy assistant secretary for oil and natural gas, Anchorage Daily News. "We're headed back to the laboratory to analyze that and we're excited about the early results."

Information on natural gas exploration in Alaska can be found at PennEnergy's Research area.

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