Japan first to extract gas from "methane ice"

State-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) announced today that it has successfully conducted the world’s first tests to extract natural gas from methane hydrate deposits.

Methane hydrate, sometimes referred to as "methane ice," is a crystalline substance which forms when methane and water molecules combine under low temperature, high pressure conditions.

Aa team aboard the research drilling ship Chikyu began extraction of gas from a layer of methane hydrates about 1,000 feet below the seabed Tuesday morning by applying a depressurization method. JOGMEC will begin analyzing data while it continues the flow test through the end of this month.

JOGMEC highlighted that some 40 trillion cubic feet of methane is held in the methane hydrate deposits under the sea in the eastern Nankai Trough, an amount equivalent to approximately 11 years of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The success of Tuesday’s testing could signal a dramatic leap in the area of unconventional gas resources, opening up an energy revival for Japan much like the shale revolution in the US. Japan aims to begin commercial production from methane hydrate deposits by 2018.


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