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Charting the Future of Methane Hydrate Research in the United States
workshop held in January 1998 in Denver, Colorado. Approximately 120 attendees from government, academia, and industry participated. A follow-up workshop was held in Washington, D.C., in May 1998. Building on the results of these workshops, DOE prepared A Strategy for Methane Hydrates Research and Development, published in August 1998. This document includes lists and discussions of many research projects under way in the United States and other countries and sets out four program goals: (1) resource characterization, (2) knowledge and technology for production, (3) understanding the role of hydrate in the global carbon cycle and climate change, and (4) the developing the understanding necessary for safe practice and seafloor stability (DOE, 1998).
The main research emphasis was on production, as indicated by the statement: “The major long-term benefit will be an increased supply of cleaner fuel …” (DOE, 1998, p. 18). Another important objective was stated more explicitly: “Develop the knowledge and technology necessary for commercial production of methane from oceanic and permafrost hydrate systems by 2015” (DOE, 1998, p. 23).
By June 1999, the staff at DOE had developed a plan for the activities to be carried out, which was presented in the National Methane Hydrate Multi-Year R&D Program (DOE, 1999). This document laid the groundwork for DOE’s role in carrying forward the necessary activities should “the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 1999” be enacted into law and funded at anticipated levels (DOE, 1999).
In 1999, the U.S. Congress drafted legislation that culminated in the Methane Hydrate R&D Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-193; Appendix B). The purpose of this act was to improve coordination among the various public and private agencies and the multiple engineering and scientific disciplines involved in gas hydrate research. The act significantly increased the level of funding available for gas hydrate research (Table 1.1). It authorized $47.5 million in expenditures to the DOE from Fiscal Year (FY) 2001 to FY 2005 to support the program; DOE had managed $29 million under this program through FY 2003 (Table 1.1).
Organization of the DOE Methane Hydrate R&D Program
Activities authorized under the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000 are the responsibility of the Assistant Secretary of