Japanese Gas Producers Successfully Extract Gas from Methane Hydrate

May 30th, 2017

The Ministry of the Environment of Japan reported that Japan Oil, Gas and Metals Corp. (JOGMEC) had extracted natural gas from methane hydrates. In early May, the company successfully produced the first batch of gas from methane. The gas forms from methane and water at high pressure and low temperatures found in the Arctic Region and deep-ocean trenches.

To do this, JOGMEC has established a special technology, which is currently being tested to determine its degree of reliability and safety. Testing will be held for the next two months. The idea of unconventional gas extraction is relevant, as many experts estimate that the globe has about hundreds of trillions of cubic meters (nm3) of methane hydrate. The gas reserves of Japan discovered in the Nankai fault are more than one trillion nm3.

The technology was developed with the support of Japanese authorities who have invested $ 180 million in this project. Despite large resources and substantial funding, national companies do not hurry to actively engage in gas production because of the complicated extraction procedure method. The main difficulty is that during production the equipment is clogged with sand. In 2013, JOGMEC had to halt test production of gas off the Aichi coast that gave the country over 120 thousand nm3 of methane hydrate gas. Another difficulty is that the production is performed in offshore areas, which requires some infrastructure. In contrast to regions with available infrastructure, an offshore project of gas extraction from methane hydrate will be more expensive.

Gas hydrates or clathrates have a crystalline structure, which is formed of methane and water in thermobaric conditions. Therefore, the methane hydrate is the ice consisting of clusters which contain methane or other methane compounds. Gas hydrates are a quite promising unconventional source of hydrocarbons, as by some estimates the global reserves of gas hydrates exceed conventional natural gas reserves. Methane and water form an unstable connection, while ice melting methane is released and evaporates. While ice is heated the process of methane yield becomes explosive.