What a bargain!
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- May 8, 2012
Nordic-Calista Methane Hydrate field trial drilling rig #3 on site at the Ignik Sikumi #1 on Alaska’s North Slope.
On March 30, 1867, Secretary of State William H. Seward agreed to purchase the Alaska territory from a financially strapped Russia for the mere sum of $7.2 million. At the time, critics thought Seward was nuts and called the deal "Seward's folly." And oh boy have those critics been proved wrong again and again.
With the purchase, the United States gained an additional 586,412 square miles territory (more than twice the size of Texas) and expanded its land mass by over 20%.
The financial value of the Alaska Territory purchase as we all know turned out to be tens of thousands of times greater than what was paid as it is absolutely teeming with natural resources including gold, oil and something else that you may not have heard of before. That being methane hydrates
The 21st Century Gold Rush - Natural Gas
On May 2, the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced the successful field trial of Methane Hydrate production technologies by a collaborative effort between the U.S. and Japan.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the completion of the unprecedented test occurring on the North Slope of Alaska that was able to “safely extract a steady flow of natural gas from methane hydrates – a vast, entirely untapped resource that holds enormous potential for U.S. economic and energy security
With the initial, small-scale test success, the DOE is launching a new more exhaustive research effort for a long-term production test as well as research to test additional technologies that could be used to locate and safely extract methane hydrates on a larger scale in the U.S. Gulf Coast.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu:
What are Methane Hydrates
“While this is just the beginning, this research could potentially yield significant new supplies of natural gas.”
According to the DOE release, Methane hydrates are 3D ice-lattice structures with natural gas locked inside, and are found both onshore and offshore – including under the Arctic permafrost and in ocean sediments along nearly every continental shelf in the world. The substance looks remarkably like white ice, but it does not behave like ice. When methane hydrate is “melted,” or exposed to pressure and temperature conditions outside those where it is stable, the solid crystalline lattice turns to liquid water, and the enclosed methane molecules are released as gas.
The Field Test on Alaska’s North Slope
The DOE partnered with ConocoPhillips and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation to conduct a test of natural gas extraction from methane hydrate using a production technology developed through laboratory collaboration between the University of Bergen, Norway, and ConocoPhillips. This ongoing, proof-of-concept test commenced on February 15, 2012, and concluded on April 10. The team injected a mixture of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen into the formation, and demonstrated that this mixture could promote the production of natural gas. Ongoing analyses of the results from the field will be needed to determine the efficiency of simultaneous CO2 storage in the reservoirs.
This test was the first ever field trial of a methane hydrate production methodology whereby CO2 was exchanged in situ with the methane molecules within a methane hydrate structure. As part of this exchange demonstration, the depressurization (i.e., production through decreasing pressure of the deposit) phase of the test extended for 30 days. The prior longest-duration field test of methane hydrate extraction via depressurization was six days (Japan-Canada 2007/2008 Mallik well testing program).
This testing will provide critical information to advance the Department’s efforts to evaluate various potential gas hydrate production technologies. The next stages of the Department’s research effort will be aimed in part at evaluating gas hydrate production over longer durations, likely through depressurization, with the eventual goal of making sustained production economically viable. While this 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.
Today, the Department is announcing two major new steps in the overall methane hydrate research effort:
- The Department is making $6.5 million available in Fiscal Year 2012 Funding Opportunity Announcement for research into technologies to locate, characterize and safely extract natural gas from methane hydrate formations like those in the Arctic and along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Specifically, projects will address (1) deepwater gas hydrate characterization via direct sampling and/or remote sensing field programs; (2) new tools and methods for monitoring, collecting, and analyzing data to determine reservoir response and environmental impacts related to methane hydrate production; and (3) clarifying methane hydrates role in the environment, including responses to warming climates.
- 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 both domestically, and in collaboration with international partners. The exact nature of that research effort will be determined in the coming months; however, a longer duration test of methane hydrate extraction on the North Slope on an existing gravel bed pad that can accommodate year-round operations is envisioned. Such an effort would again require engaging private sector and international partners.
While the DOE may have taken credit for the find, results and future research, it was the determined push over many years by Republican Senator from the Great State of Alaska that budgeted the project in the first place.
That senator was none other than U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
In a prepared statement, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska said the following:
“The success of this test is wonderful news for Alaska and America. The test not only demonstrated that we have the ability to release methane hydrates from their frozen state, but also that the same process can effectively be used to sequester carbon dioxide. If we can bring this technology to commercialization, it would truly be a game changer for America.”
Murkowski is the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee. She has been an outspoken proponent in support of research to unlock the tremendous energy potential of methane hydrates.
She sponsored the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act in 2005, which is the foundation for today’s federal research into unlocking the energy potential of the methane hydrates.
Murkowski approved appropriation language to fund the DOE tests in the 2011 and 2012 budgets. During last week’s markup of the Energy and Water appropriations bill for the coming fiscal year, Murkowski won inclusion of an additional $5 million to fund methane hydrate research in 2013 that the DOE mentioned above.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska’s North Slope is likely to contain up to 590 trillion cubic feet of methane hydrates onshore. On the central North Slope, two hydrate accumulations, Eileen and Tarn, alone account for a potential natural gas resource of as much as 100 trillion cubic feet!
According to the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, Alaska contains as much as 200,000 trillion cubic feet of methane hydrates
offshore. Taken together, U.S. lands and waters contain a quarter of the world’s methane hydrates – enough to power America for 1,000 years at current rates of energy consumption!
This is one of those times when Government $’s in support of advanced technology is more than likely spent properly.
Does anyone know where I can buy one-half a million square miles of “useless” land for $7.2 Million today and afterwards, would you mind loaning me a few million to cover the purchase