Murkowski Comments on Success of Methane Hydrate Test

U.S. and Japan Complete Successful Field Trial of Methane Hydrate Production Technologies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today commented on the successful completion of a joint U.S. Department of Energy and Japan field test of technology capable of extracting natural gas from methane hydrates locked in the ice of Alaska’s North Slope.

“The success of this test is wonderful news for Alaska and America,” Murkowski said. “The test not only demonstrated that we have the ability to release methane hydrates from their frozen state, but also that the same process can effectively be used to sequester carbon dioxide. If we can bring this technology to commercialization, it would truly be a game changer for America.”

Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, has been outspoken in her support of research to unlock the tremendous energy potential of methane hydrates. 

She sponsored the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act in 2005, which is the foundation for today’s federal research into unlocking the energy potential of the methane hydrates.  

Murkowski approved appropriation language to fund the DOE tests in the 2011 and 2012 budgets. During last week’s markup of the Energy and Water appropriations bill for the coming fiscal year, Murkowski won inclusion of an additional $5 million to fund methane hydrate research in 2013. Murkowski said she hopes news of the success of the latest round of DOE tests will result in additional funding for research prior to completion of the budget process.

“Longer-term research is still needed to guarantee soil stability, but the results announced today represent a major step toward unlocking America’s, and especially Alaska’s, nearly inexhaustible supply of methane hydrate energy,” Murkowski said. 

Following the successful completion of the latest round of testing by a DOE partnership with ConocoPhillips and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp., DOE announced Wednesday that it was launching long-term production tests in the Arctic, as well as research on additional technologies that could be used to locate and extract methane hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico.

Methane hydrates, found in sea-floor sediments and the arctic permafrost, are natural gas molecules locked in ice crystals. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska is likely to contain up to 600 trillion cubic feet of methane hydrates onshore. According to the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, Alaska contains as much as 200,000 trillion cubic feet of methane hydrates offshore. Taken together, U.S. lands and waters contain a quarter of the world’s methane hydrates – enough to power America for 1,000 years at current rates of energy consumption.