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Charting the Future of Methane Hydrate Research in the United States
THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY’S ROLE IN METHANE HYDRATE RESEARCH
The U.S Department of Energy (DOE) is mandated to lead the U.S. government in activities with regard to energy. The mission of the DOE is presented in Box 1.1.
In the United States, the responsibility for funding gas hydrate research has traditionally been split among several different government agencies. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has funded a wide range of hydrate-related research studies, especially as part of the international Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) and its predecessor, the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP). The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has also been involved in gas hydrate research for several decades. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has supported methane hydrate research using submersibles.
An objective of the Methane Hydrate Research and Development (R&D) Act of 2000 is to improve coordination among studies supported by different agencies. Although the missions of these agencies differ, a basic knowledge of gas hydrate is needed to address these mission overlaps. Research to quantify natural gas hydrate and understand its role in the global carbon cycle has been supported intermittently by DOE over the past two decades (Box 1.2). Laboratory work on gas hydrate has been conducted in national labs, as well as within academia and industry.
The DOE developed a gas hydrate research and development program as early as 1982, in response to the retrieval of a methane hydrate core off the coast of Guatemala by RV Glomar Challenger, a research vessel uniquely suited to take deep sea cores. The initial DOE methane hydrate program funded nearly $8 million in basic research, but it was discontinued in 1992.
Box 1.1 The Mission of the Department of Energy
The Department of Energy’s overarching mission is to advance the national, economic and energy security of the United States; to promote scientific and technological innovation in support of that mission; and to ensure the environmental cleanup of the national nuclear weapons complex.