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Gas Production from Methane Hydrate Layers Confirmed

March 12, 2013

 Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (“JOGMEC”, Headquarter: Minato-ku, Tokyo, 
President: Hirobumi Kawano), which has been conducting preparation works for the first offshore production test off the coasts of Atsumi and Shima peninsulas, started a flow test applying the depressurization method and confirmed production of methane gas estimated from methane hydrate layers on March 12, 2013.
 JOGMEC will start analyzing data while it continues the flow test.
 Since this is a flow test of flammables, please do not approach to the site because of the safety reason.

 Methane hydrate (*1) receives attention as one of the unconventional gas resources in the future. 
During the period from FY2001 to FY2008, which is Phase 1 of the “Japan's Methane Hydrate R&D Program” (*2) (Program), seismic surveys and exploitation drillings were conducted at the eastern Nankai 
trough, off the coast from Shizuoka-pref. to Wakayama-pref., as the model area, where a considerable 
amount of methane hydrate deposits is confirmed (*3).
 
 In Phase 2 of the Program starting from FY2009, aiming to develop a technology to extract natural gas through dissociation of methane hydrate, this is the first offshore test ever conducted (*4).
 
 The first offshore production test is planned over a span of two years. In February and March last year, the preparatory works including drilling a production well and two monitoring wells were conducted. From June to July, the pressured core samples were acquired from methane hydrate layers. In this operation, a flow test through dissociation of methane hydrate is conducted after the preparatory works including drilling and installing equipments for the flow test.

Outline of First Offshore Production Test

  • Duration: from February 2012 until August 2013 including preparatory drilling, flow test, well abandonment
  • Operation Site: Daini Atsumi Knoll off the coasts of Atsumi and Shima peninsulas 
  • Project Owner: Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) 
  • Relating Parties: JOGMEC (Implementing Body), JAPEX (Operator)
  • Operating Vessel: Deep Sea Drilling Vessel “Chikyu”
  • Progress

February 15, 2012 Preparatory drilling started
March 26, 2012 Came back to Shimizu Port
from June 29 to July 7, 2012 Operation to acquire pressured core samples
January 28, 2013 Started the operation at the test site
 March 12, 2013 Started the flow test and confirmed gas production
  • Schedule
until end of March Ending the flow test, retrieving test equipments
August, 2013 Retrieving remained equipments from the site

 Although the first offshore production test is not a commercial production and is an experimental operation as an activity in research, it will be a big progress in research and development of methane hydrate as a resource since precious data including dissociation behavior of methane hydrate under the sea floor, impact to the surrounding environment, and so on, would be obtained once this test ends in success. Based on accomplishment of the production test, it is also planned to proceed with the second offshore production test scheduled in Phase 2 and establishing the technological platform toward future commercial production in Phase 3 which is scheduled from FY2016 until FY2018.

Safety at the Site

 Since this is a flow test of flammable gas, please do not approach to the site because of the safety reason.
 The produced gas from this test will be basically combusted at a burner at the stern of the ship (1. in the picture below). During the flow test, there may be situations where the produced gas is not combusted due to weather condition such as wind and when transparent flammable gas may be exhausted from the vent tower (2. in the picture below). Since this is a test dealing with flammables, when you approach to the site, please keep away from “Chikyu” by more than 2km or approximately 1nm for the safety of ship and yourself.
 Also, please keep listening air band frequency of 129.6MHz or marine VHF band channel 16 all the time so that you will be able to receive instruction from “Chikyu,” and please follow the instruction. In the case that approaching aircrafts or vessels are found, the flow test may have to be interrupted to maintain the safety.
 Once video or picture of flaring is available, they will be on the HP of JOGMEC. http://www.jogmec.go.jp/index.html

Copyright@JOGMEC

Copyright@JOGMEC

  • (*1) Methane hydrate is an ice like material which methane molecules and water molecules combine and form under the condition of high pressure and low temperature. It is expected that the methane gas dissociated and produced will be used as an energy resource. It is distributed under a permafrost area and seafloor of the depth of more than 500m.
  • (*2) METI published the Program in 2001. In Phase 2 of the Program, Research Consortium for Methane Hydrate Resources in Japan (MH21, Project Leader: Masuda Yoshihiro, Associate Professor, The University of Tokyo) is implementing the Program as a consortium formed by JOGMEC and National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).
  • (*3)Methane hydrate in place, the amount equivalent to approximately 40tcf or approximately 1.1trillion m3of methane, is confirmed in the model sea area of eastern Nankai trough which is equivalent to around eleven years of the amount of LNG imported into Japan. Methane hydrate concentrated zones, the zones where methane hydrate is concentrated and which are expected to be possible targets for future resource development, occupy one sixth of the total area and contain the amount of methane hydrate equivalent to approximately 20tcf of methane gas, which is a half of the total amount of methane hydrate in place. However, usable resource amount is depending on the amount to be practically recovered.
  • (*4) Japan, a front runner in the world, conducted two times of onshore production tests in Canada as international joint studies. The first test conducted in FY 2001 tested the heating method or the hot water circulation method which dissociates methane hydrate by raising temperature. The second test from FY2007 to FY2008 tested the depressurization method which dissociates methane hydrate by decreasing temperature. As the result, it was proven that the depressurization method is able to dissociate methane hydrate more efficiently. Therefore, it is planned to apply the depressurization method to this offshore production test as well.

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