Oklahoma State University has been awarded a one-year, $96,000 grant to study methane hydrates, ice lattices with trapped pockets of natural gas. The OSU research will focus on structural and geologic controls on formation of hydrates in the Walker Ridge and Green Canyon areas in the Gulf of Mexico near Houston.
Methane hydrates were a problem in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The buildup of methane hydrates from the ocean floor hampered the plugging of the well in the weeks after the deadly explosion.
But recent research into methane hydrates shows great promise that the formations can be a future source of natural gas. However, much of it is hard to recover, according the Department of Energy:
The first challenge is to more accurately determine the extent of methane hydrate in sand reservoirs in arctic and marine environments. The second challenge is to determine whether such deposits can yield methane gas at the rates necessary to make high-cost arctic or deep-water production commercially viable.
The OSU research is part of a larger research project into methane hydrates involving universities in 11 states.
“The Energy Department’s long-term investments in shale gas research during the ’70s and ’80s helped pave the way for today’s boom in domestic natural gas production that is strengthening U.S. energy security while creating thousands of American jobs,” Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu said in a statement. “While research on methane hydrates is still in the early stages, these research efforts as part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy could potentially yield significant new supplies of natural gas and further expand U.S. energy supplies.”