Japan in attempt to recover vast reserves of gas hydrate

Nov 24, 1999 01:00 AM

The first step in a new era of global energy production is being taken, with a Japanese attempt to recover vast reserves of frozen methane gas from under the ocean floor. The drilling project began and is the first commercial offshore attempt but it is fraught with danger. Accidental releases of vast volumes of the buried gas have in the past led to the destruction of oil platforms in the Caspian Sea.
These releases are also a possible explanation for the mysterious disappearances of ships. "It's horrifically dangerous," said Professor Richard Selley, a gas hydrate expert at the Royal School of Mines, Imperial College, London. "If they drill in with a conventional drill ship and they hit the stuff and destabilise it, all the gas comes bubbling up and the ship will sink.
"The Japanese are the brave souls who are drilling this first commercial test offshore," added Professor Selley. "It may be very easy to avoid the risk of a catastrophic blow-out but this is the first to test it." Tatsuya Sameshima, the project's director at the Japan National Oil Company, said that commercial production was not imminent.
"It is expected that 10 more years will be required for more research effort on several aspects," he said. But Professor Selley believes the results of this well will set a likely timescale for the methane coming on stream, and "if the technology works, then they could be producing it commercially very quickly, within 18 months or two years."

Source: BBC via Iinoil
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