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Charting the Future of Methane Hydrate Research in the United States
Because commercial production of gas from hydrate is expected to have a long time horizon (20-30 years), most of the professionals practicing today cannot be expected to be active when and if commercial production becomes a reality. It is therefore important that the Department of Energy (DOE) Methane Hydrate Research and Development (R&D) Program place major emphasis on educating a new generation of scientists and engineers to ensure a future pool of appropriate expertise in all aspects of hydrate systems. As discussed in Chapter 3, this can be accomplished through a program of graduate assistantships and fellowships as well as a program of postdoctoral fellowships. The postdoctoral fellowships might be patterned after DOE’s successful Hollander Fellowship program, but be modified to include opportunities for research experience involving cooperation between academia, government, and industry.
As specified in the original enabling legislation, an overarching goal of the Methane Hydrate R&D Program is to conduct applied research to identify, assess, and develop methane hydrate as a source of energy. The Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000 listed activities in a number of areas (P.L. 106-193, Section 3(b); Box ES.1). This section suggests research areas for future program emphasis based on the research conducted since initiation of the Methane Hydrate R&D Program by the act. These priorities are based on addressing the poorly understood aspects of the potential of hydrate as a future resource and optimizing the potential impact given the currently available program funding (~$9 million per year). This research should include both fundamental science and technology development and should involve periodic peer review as specified in A Strategy for Methane Hydrates Research and Development (DOE, 1998). Specifically, the research areas are:
future field experiments, drilling, and production testing with consideration of testing offshore hydrate that might be considered to be of sufficiently large quantity to be potentially commercial;
hydrate deposit identification and characterization;
technology recovery methods and production;
understanding the natural system and climate change potential;