All over the world (my path: Timmy -> Torygraph -> google -> Nude scientist -> JOGMEC press release -> JOGMEC) there is excitement about “Japan cracks seabed ‘ice gas’ in dramatic leap for global energy”. Which is indeed interesting, but not quite as dramatic as suggested. Because as the pic of the flare makes clear, this is a very small flow. If you read the press release, is clear this is still experimental:
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.
Preparatory drilling started: February 15, 2012
Came back to Shimizu Port: March 26, 2012
Operation to acquire pressured core samples: from June 29 to July 7, 2012
Started the operation at the test site: January 28, 2013
Started the flow test and confirmed gas production: March 12, 2013
Ending the flow test, retrieving test equipments: until end of March
Retrieving remained equipments from the site: August, 2013
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.
So, an important step but not yet commercial or even close (NS says “could start as early as 2018”).
Sweetly, JOGMEC cares about your safety:
Since this is a flow test of flammables, please do not approach to the site because of the safety reason.