Blog: On the Frontiers of a New Energy Source


By:  Steven Chu
Date: May 2, 2012
Location: Unknown

Today, we're announcing that the Department of Energy, along with the Japan Oil, Gas, and Metals National Corporation and Conoco Phillips, has completed a successful and unprecedented test of technology in the North Slope of Alaska that was able to safely extract a steady flow of natural gas from methane hydrates.

Methane hydrates are 3D ice-lattice structures with natural gas locked inside. The United States has an abundance of this untapped resource -- methane hydrates are found in and under the Arctic permafrost and in ocean sediments along nearly every continental shelf in the world.

The Energy Department's long term investments in shale gas research during the 1970s and 1980s helped pave the way for today's boom in domestic natural gas production, which is strengthening our economic and energy security. While we're only at the early stages of our research into methane hydrate extraction, this research could potentially yield additional supplies of natural gas.

Building on this initial, small-scale test, the Department is launching a new research effort to conduct a long-term production test in the Arctic. We're also making $6.5 million available for research into technologies to locate, characterize, and safely extract methane hydrates on a larger scale in the U.S. And as part of the President's budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2013, the Department is requesting an additional $5 million to further gas hydrates research.

While our efforts may take years to accomplish, the same could be said of the early shale gas research and technology demonstration efforts that the Department backed in the 1970s and 1980s. Although the results weren't immediate, the impact is clear today: increased natural gas production, new jobs, and improved national security.

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