Commercial development of gas hydrates likely to remain limited due to the emergence of renewables

Source: press release, 15 April 2021

Prominent gas hydrates deposits around the world (source: GlobalData, Oil and Gas Intelligence Center)
Prominent gas hydrates deposits around the world (source: GlobalData, Oil and Gas Intelligence Center)

Gas hydrate is likely to remain underexplored due to the emergence of commercially viable alternatives, especially renewables. The hydrate molecule is highly sensitive to temperature and pressure variations, which makes gas hydrate extraction a very challenging endeavour, says GlobalData, a data and analytics company.

Various countries around the word have undertaken research programs for the exploration and potential recovery of gas hydrates over different timeframes. While some countries such as Japan were able to obtain some outcome from their experiments, others such as Norway, were not as successful. The inconsistency in test results and lack of sufficient evidence over the presence of gas hydrates has discouraged some countries to pursue further exploration. On the other hand, geological challenges and technological glitches have hindered the progress of those countries that are eager to develop gas hydrates.

According to GlobalData’s latest report, Gas Hydrates – Thematic Research, Japan is leading the charge in gas hydrate development. In the past two decades, the country has conducted several studies at the Nankai Trough hydrate site in the Northern Pacific Ocean, incurring mixed results.

Ravindra Puranik, Oil & Gas Analyst at GlobalData, comments, “Japan has collaborated with the US Geological Survey to potentially extract methane from gas hydrate deposits at the Prudhoe Bay unit in the Alaska North Slope. The country intends to transfer the learnings from this test to the Nankai Trough to facilitate commercial extraction of methane from hydrates by fiscal 2027-28.”

“China and India are also investing in gas hydrates research. The extraction of gas hydrates would enable these two coal-dependent economies in reducing their carbon footprint,” Puranik continues.

Gas hydrates development is primarily driven by government organisations and research institutes from around the world, particularly the US, Japan, China, and India. Institutes such as the US Geological Survey, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (Japan), Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, China Geological Survey, Guangzhou Marine Geological Survey, Indian Institute of Technology Madras are involved in the research and development activities in the field.

Ravindra adds, “Oil and gas companies are studying gas hydrates, primarily to understand their phase behavior for developing suitable extraction techniques and to detect their presence in offshore drilling sites. The second aspect is especially critical in preventing hydrate formations to protect flowlines from blockages.”