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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States Realizing the ENERGY POTENTIAL of METHANE HYDRATE for the United States Committee on Assessment of the Department of Energy’s Methane Hydrate Research and Development Program: Evaluating Methane Hydrate as a Future Energy Resource Committee on Earth Resources Board on Earth Sciences and Resources Division on Earth and Life Studies NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu
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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations contained in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Energy. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. government. Supported by the Department of the Energy, under Award No. DE-AT01-08FE0053. International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-14889-4 International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-14889-8 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet http://www.nap.edu Cover: The backdrop is a three-dimensional rendering of the “structure 1” or s1 methane hydrate in which methane molecules (represented by spheres) are trapped inside hydrogen-bonded water cages. The images embedded within the cages include a hand-held methane hydrate-bearing sediment sample from the Mt. Elbert well at Milne Point, Alaska (upper left), prepared drillcores from the Department of Energy/Joint Industry Project Gulf of Mexico methane hydrate cruise (middle), and the Doyon 14 drill rig at the Mount Elbert test site, Milne Point, Alaska (lower middle). Images courtesy of: M. R. Walsh, Colorado School of Mines (three-dimensional si methane hydrate structure); Mount Elbert Gas Hydrate Research Team (both the Mt. Elbert hand-held core sample and drill rig); Gulf of Mexico Department of Energy/ Joint Industry Project Research Team (prepared drill cores). Designed by Michael Dudzik. Copyright 2010 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.
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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national.academies.org
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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States COMMITTEE ON ASSESSMENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY’S METHANE HYDRATE RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM: EVALUATING METHANE HYDRATE AS A FUTURE ENERGY RESOURCE CHARLES PAULL (Chair1), Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, California WILLIAM S. REEBURGH (Chair2), University of California, Irvine (Retired) SCOTT R. DALLIMORE, Geological Survey of Canada, Sidney, British Columbia GONZALO ENCISO, Oil and Gas Exploration Consultant,3 Houston, Texas SIDNEY GREEN, University of Utah, Salt Lake City CAROLYN A. KOH, Colorado School of Mines, Golden KEITH A. KVENVOLDEN, U.S. Geological Survey (Retired), Palo Alto, California CHARLES MANKIN, Oklahoma Geological Survey (Retired), Norman MICHAEL RIEDEL, Geological Survey of Canada, Sidney, British Columbia4 National Research Council Staff ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Study Director DEBORAH GLICKSON, Program Officer NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Financial and Research Associate COURTNEY R. GIBBS, Program Associate 1 August 7, 2009, to present. 2 June 26, 2008, to August 7, 2009. 3 Shell Exploration and Production Company until March 2010. 3 McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada until May 2009.
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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States COMMITTEE ON EARTH RESOURCES CLAYTON R. NICHOLS (Chair1), Department of Energy, Idaho Operations Office (Retired), Ocean Park, Washington MURRAY W. HITZMAN (Chair2), Colorado School of Mines, Golden JAMES A. BRIERLEY, Brierley Consultancy LLC, Highlands Ranch, Colorado WILLIAM S. CONDIT, Independent Consultant, Santa Fe, New Mexico ELAINE T. CULLEN, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Spokane Research Laboratory (Retired), Chattaroy, Washington GONZALO ENCISO, Oil and Gas Exploration Consultant, Houston, Texas MICHELLE MICHOT FOSS, University of Texas, Austin DONALD JUCKETT, American Association for Petroleum Geologists (Retired), Springfield, Virginia ANN S. MAEST, Stratus Consulting, Boulder, Colorado LELAND L. MINK, U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Program (Retired), Worley, Idaho MARY M. POULTON, University of Arizona, Tucson NORMAN H. SLEEP, Stanford University, Stanford, California RICHARD J. SWEIGARD, University of Kentucky, Lexington SAMUEL J. TRAINA, University of California, Merced National Research Council Staff ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Senior Program Officer ERIC J. EDKIN, Senior Program Assistant NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Financial and Research Associate 1 From 2010. 2 Through 2009.
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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States BOARD ON EARTH SCIENCES AND RESOURCES CORALE L. BRIERLEY (Chair), Brierley Consultancy, LLC, Highlands Ranch, Colorado KEITH C. CLARKE, University of California, Santa Barbara DAVID J. COWEN, University of South Carolina, Columbia WILLIAM E. DIETRICH, University of California, Berkeley ROGER M. DOWNS, Pennsylvania State University, University Park JEFF DOZIER, University of California, Santa Barbara KATHERINE H. FREEMAN, Pennsylvania State University, University Park WILLIAM L. GRAF, University of South Carolina, Columbia RUSSELL J. HEMLEY, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C. MURRAY W. HITZMAN, Colorado School of Mines, Golden EDWARD KAVAZANJIAN, JR., Arizona State University, Tempe LOUISE H. KELLOGG, University of California, Davis ROBERT B. MCMASTER, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis CLAUDIA INÉS MORA, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico BRIJ M. MOUDGIL, University of Florida, Gainesville CLAYTON R. NICHOLS, Department of Energy, Idaho Operations Office (Retired), Ocean Park, Washington JOAQUIN RUIZ, University of Arizona, Tucson PETER M. SHEARER, University of California, San Diego REGINAL SPILLER, Allied Energy, Houston, Texas RUSSELL E. STANDS-OVER-BULL, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Denver, Colorado TERRY C. WALLACE, JR., Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico HERMAN B. ZIMMERMAN, National Science Foundation (Retired), Portland, Oregon
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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States National Research Council Staff ANTHONY R. DE SOUZA, Director ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Senior Program Officer DAVID A. FEARY, Senior Program Officer ANNE M. LINN, Senior Program Officer SAMMANTHA L. MAGSINO, Program Officer MARK D. LANGE, Associate Program Officer LEA A. SHANLEY, Postdoctoral Fellow JENNIFER T. ESTEP, Financial and Administrative Associate NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Financial and Research Associate COURTNEY R. GIBBS, Program Associate JASON R. ORTEGO, Research Associate ERIC J. EDKIN, Senior Program Assistant TONYA E. FONG YEE, Senior Program Assistant
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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States OCEAN STUDIES BOARD DONALD F. BOESCH (Chair), University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Cambridge EDWARD A. BOYLE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology JORGE E. CORREDOR, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez KEITH R. CRIDDLE, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Juneau JODY W. DEMING, University of Washington MARY (MISSY) H. FEELEY, ExxonMobil Exploration Company, Houston, Texas ROBERT HALLBERG, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration DEBRA HERNANDEZ, Hernandez and Company, Isle of Palms, South Carolina ROBERT A. HOLMAN, Oregon State University, Corvallis KIHO KIM, American University, Washington, D.C. BARBARA A. KNUTH, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York ROBERT A. LAWSON, Science Applications International Corporation, San Diego, California GEORGE I. MATSUMOTO, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, California JAY S. PEARLMAN, The Boeing Company, Port Angeles, Washington ANDREW A. ROSENBERG, University of New Hampshire, Durham DANIEL L. RUDNICK, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California ROBERT J. SERAFIN, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado ANNE M. TREHU, Oregon State University, Corvallis PETER L. TYACK, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts DAWN J. WRIGHT, Oregon State University, Corvallis JAMES A. YODER, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts
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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States National Research Council Staff SUSAN ROBERTS, Director CLAUDIA MENGELT, Senior Program Officer DEBORAH GLICKSON, Program Officer JODI BOSTROM, Associate Program Officer SHUBHA BANSKOTA, Financial Associate PAMELA LEWIS, Administrative Coordinator HEATHER CHIARELLO, Senior Program Assistant JEREMY JUSTICE, Senior Program Assistant
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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States Preface The United States is at an important juncture as it considers future, long-term directions for supplying its own energy needs while also reducing the impact on the global environment. Consideration of the greenhouse gas contribution to the atmosphere of each energy source relative to its energy efficiency is a key part of this discussion. Natural gas, and particularly methane, because of its relatively clean environmental footprint—when combusted, natural gas produces less carbon dioxide per energy unit than do other fossil fuels—has emerged as a central piece in planning and implementing the nation’s transition to a future with cleaner, more efficient energy use. Whereas the current estimates of the nation’s undiscovered, conventional natural gas endowment on- and offshore are fairly substantial, the extent and accessibility of alternative sources of natural gas from “unconventional” (more technically challenging) sources are of increasing interest to policy makers, industry, and the public. Methane hydrate, a solid form of methane and water that is widespread in Arctic permafrost areas of the Alaska North Slope and along most of the U.S. offshore continental margins, is an unconventional source of a potentially enormous volume of methane. Although the scientific, engineering, and environmental questions associated with exploration and potential commercial production of methane from methane hydrate are challenging, research programs around the world, including the United States, have made recent, substantial progress in understanding the behavior and extent of the resource and in performing drilling and production tests to extract methane from it. The results of these research endeavors provide the input to gauge the next steps toward realizing sustained, economically and environmentally viable production of methane from methane hydrate. The coming decade will prove pivotal as various nations attempt to make the transition from successful basic research and development programs to full-scale production of methane from methane hydrate in commercially
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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States supported operations. The United States is one of the international leaders in this field by virtue of the excellence of the research its scientists have conducted and the rich natural endowment of methane hydrate offshore and associated with permafrost in Alaska. Our challenge is to realize this resource in a safe and environmentally sound manner. In 2005, Congress reauthorized the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Program, initially established in the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000 (Appendix A), focused on stimulating advancements in the understanding of methane hydrate. The Program’s goals involve generating the needed scientific and technical knowledge to produce methane from methane hydrate as an energy resource in an environmentally sound manner. The Department of Energy, in cooperation with the National Energy Technology Laboratory, has managed this Program through support to about 40 new and continuing projects between fiscal years 2006 and 2009. These projects range in size and scale from large field programs involving multiple institutions focused on drilling into methane hydrate deposits, to single-institution laboratory and modeling studies. The Act also mandates that a National Research Council (NRC) study be conducted to evaluate the progress that the Program is making toward achieving its goals and to make recommendations about future research and development needs. This report is the product of a committee convened by the NRC for this purpose. The members of this review committee represent a range of expertise including geochemistry, geology, oceanography, geophysics, petroleum engineering, risk assessment, and chemical engineering from industry, academia, government, and nonprofit research foundations (Appendix B). The committee met as a whole four times (twice each in Washington, D.C., and Golden, Colorado) to hear invited presentations and review available materials associated with the Program (Appendix C). In this report, the committee has tried to provide an overview for the interested nonspecialist on the present state of knowledge in this field, an assessment of the impact the Program has made on the field, and recommendations as to what the technical emphasis of the continuing program
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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States ought to be over the next several years. The committee has made these recommendations in the context of a long-term goal for the Program and for many in the U.S. methane hydrate research community: to contribute research appropriate toward demonstration of environmentally and economically sustainable production of methane from methane hydrate by 2025. The committee realizes, however, that other factors, including regulatory issues and market economics, will also affect the ability of and timing for the nation to achieve this production aim. Overall, the committee has been impressed with both the quality of the work the Program has enabled and the progress that has been made toward this long-term goal. The committee’s research and development recommendations are thus intentionally high level, but specific with respect to the kind of technical and scientific emphasis we think necessary for the nation to attain this goal. Charlie Paull Chair
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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States Acknowledgments In addition to its own expertise, the committee relied on input from numerous external professionals with extensive experience in various aspects of methane hydrate research. These individuals provided presentations, data, perspectives, and illustrative figures and images which assisted the committee in understanding the scope of domestic and international research in the field and the role played by the Department of Energy Methane Hydrate Research and Development Program and other federal agencies to advance the field. This information was extremely important to the committee in formulating its report, and we would like to express our appreciation to the many highly qualified individuals who provided advice and assistance during the course of the study. In particular, the committee would like to thank the following individuals for their very thorough and helpful responses to our inquiries at all stages of the study: Edith Allison, Ray Boswell, Rick Coffin, Tim Collett, Helen Farrell, Robert Fisk, Matt Frye, Bob Hardage, James Howard, Robert Hunter, Emrys Jones, Tim Kneafsey, Debbie Hutchinson, Yoshihiro Masuda, Ian MacDonald, Kenji Ohno, Brenda Pierce, Kimberly Puglise, Kelly Rose, Carolyn Ruppel, Carlos Santamarina, Dendy Sloan, Bob Swenson, and Scott Wilson. This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report:
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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States Amos A. Avidan, Bechtel Corporation, Houston, Texas Nathan L.B. Bangs, University of Texas, Austin Inez Y. Fung, University of California, Berkeley Steven H. Hancock, RPS Energy Canada, Calgary, Alberta Kenneth C. Janda, University of California, Irvine Joel E. Johnson, University of New Hampshire, Durham Salomon Levy, Levy & Associates, Campbell, California John R.A. Pearson, Schlumberger Cambridge Research, United Kingdom Mehran Pooladi-Darvish, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada Vladimir E. Romanovsky, University of Alaska, Fairbanks Terry E. Whitledge, University of Alaska, Fairbanks Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Charles G. Groat, University of Texas, Austin, who was appointed by the NRC and was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States Contents SUMMARY 1 1 METHANE HYDRATE RESEARCH IN THE UNITED STATES 13 National Approach to Methane Hydrate Research and Development, 14 The DOE Methane Hydrate Research and Development Program, 2000-Present, 23 Committee Process, 27 Concluding Remarks, 28 References, 29 2 STATE OF THE SCIENCE: RECENT ADVANCES AND CURRENT CHALLENGES IN METHANE HYDRATE RESEARCH 31 Methane Hydrate Resource Assessment, 32 The Challenge of Mapping and Quantifying Methane Hydrate, 44 The Challenge of Producing Methane from Methane Hydrate, 52 Geologic Processes and Features Associated with Methane Hydrate Occurrences, 62 Geohazards and Environmental Issues Related to Methane Hydrate Production and Field Development, 67 State of the Research Field, 72 References, 74
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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States 3 REVIEW OF CENTRAL RESEARCH EFFORTS WITHIN THE METHANE HYDRATE RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM 83 Field Studies with Aims Toward Drilling and Production Tests, 84 Experimental and Modeling Studies to Assess the Geomechanics and Feasibility of Methane Hydrate Production, 95 Remote Sensing, 98 Environmental and Geohazard Research Related to Methane Hydrate Degassing Through Geologic Time, 103 References, 105 4 COORDINATING PROCESS FOR THE METHANE HYDRATE RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM 109 Research Infrastructure, Science Communication, and Education and Training, 109 Collaborative Engagements: Interagency and International Coordination, 117 External Program Oversight—The Methane Hydrate Advisory Committee, 128 Concluding Remarks, 129 References, 130 5 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 133 Toward Production, 134 Appraisal and Mitigation of Environmental and Geohazard Issues Related to Production, 135 Quantification of the Resource, 136 Methane Hydrate in Nature, 137 Program Management, 137
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Realize the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States APPENDIXES A Legislative Authorization Language 141 B Committee and Staff Biographical Sketches 149 C Presentations to the Committee 157 D Comparison of Units of Measurement of Amounts of Methane by Volume and Weight 159 E Program Authorizations and Appropriations FY2000-2010 161 F Project Summary Table 163
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