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You are here:  Oil & Natural Gas Technologies > Methane Hydrate R&D

Methane Hydrate -
The Gas Resource of the Future

Methane hydrate is a cage-like lattice of ice inside of which are trapped molecules of methane,  the chief constituent of natural gas. If methane hydrate is either warmed or depressurized, it will revert back to water and natural gas. When brought to the earth's surface, one cubic meter of gas hydrate releases 164 cubic meters of natural gas. Hydrate deposits may be several hundred meters thick and generally occur in two types of settings: under Arctic permafrost, and beneath the ocean floor. Methane that forms hydrate can be both biogenic, created by biological activity in sediments, and thermogenic, created by geological processes deeper within the earth.

Graphic - Types of Methane Hydrate Deposits











While global estimates vary considerably, the energy content of methane occurring in hydrate form is immense, possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels. However, future production volumes are speculative because methane production from hydrate has not been documented beyond small-scale field experiments. 

The U.S. Department of Energy methane hydrate program aims to develop the tools and technologies to allow environmentally safe methane production from arctic and domestic offshore hydrates. The program includes R&D in:

  • Production Feasibility: Methane hydrates occur in large quantities beneath the permafrost and offshore, on and below the seafloor. DOE R&D is focused on determining the potential and environmental implications of production of natural gas from hydrates.
  • Research and Modeling: DOE is studying innovative ways to predict the location and concentration of subsurface methane hydrate before drilling. DOE is also conducting studies to understand the physical properties of gas hydrate-bearing strata and to model this understanding at reservoir scale to predict future behavior and production.
  • Climate Change: DOE is studying the role of methane hydrate formation and dissociation in the global carbon cycle. Another aspect of this research is incorporating GH science into climate models to understand the relationship between global warming and methane hydrates.
  • International Collaboration: International collaboration continues to be a vital part of the program since gas hydrates represent research challenges and resource potential that are important on a global scale.





Energy Department Advances Research on Methane Hydrates - the World's Largest Untapped Fossil Energy Resource




New Methane Hydrates Funding Opportunity


FY 2011 Methane Hydrate Program Report to Congress


FY2010 Methane Hydrate Program Report to Congress[14MB PDF]


Methane Hydrate
Advisory Committee


"Fire in the Ice" Newsletter 


Methane Hydrate R&D Program: Today and Tomorrow

Interagency Coordination on Methane Hydrate R&D [8.24MB PDF] 

> Realizing the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States



Ray Boswell
National Energy Technology Laboratory
P.O. Box 880
U.S. Department of Energy
Morgantown, WV 26507


Lou Capitanio
Office of Fossil Energy
U.S. Department of Energy
Washington, DC 20585

 Page owner:  Fossil Energy Office of Communications
Page updated on: March 21, 2013 

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