significant policy activity. For example, the Department of Energy (DOE) has released both A Strategy for Methane Hydrates Research and Development (DOE, 1998) and a National Methane Hydrate Multi-Year R&D Program Plan (DOE, 1999). Furthermore, in 2000, Congress passed the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act (P.L. 106-193, May 2, 2000; Appendix B) authorizing the DOE, in consultation with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Naval Research Laboratory, to conduct methane hydrate research and development to meet the goals of the act (Box ES.1).
The act also mandates that the National Research Council (NRC) conduct a study, to be completed no later than September 30, 2004, of the progress made under the Methane Hydrate Research and Development (R&D) Program administered by the DOE (Box ES.2).
Following guidance provided by the act and the statement of task above, the NRC Committee to Review the Activities Authorized Under the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000 attempted to provide a fair and balanced review of the program. To do so, it was necessary to consider all of the research goals in Box ES.1. Therefore information was sought from DOE, collaborating agencies, members of the Methane Hydrate Advisory Committee (convened as mandated by the act), and recipients of funding from the DOE program. In addition to reviewing documents provided by DOE and other agencies, the committee held three open meetings in Washington, District of Columbia; Houston, Texas; and La Jolla, California (Appendix C). In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the program, participants were invited to address topics on the role and activities of the federal government in the realm of methane hydrate research, the role of the Methane Hydrate Advisory Committee in the DOE Methane Hydrate R&D Program, the experience to date with industry-managed, targeted research projects, and other topics of interest and relevance (Appendix F).
The timing of this review was mandated to occur after the funding decisions affecting implementation of the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-193) had been made but before most of the technical results of the projects funded by the act were available. In only a few cases were the projects funded mature enough for detailed evaluation of their outcome. Therefore the focus of this report is on recommendations for how to implement a continuation of the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000 based on an evaluation of the DOE Methane Hydrate R&D Program since its inception.