Gas Hydrate: Resource Potential, Geohazard, and Climate Change Factor

Art Johnson
Hydrate Energy International
Kenner, Louisiana

Gas hydrates are naturally occurring "ice-like" combinations of water and natural gas (mainly methane) that form under conditions of high pressure and low temperature. Gas hydrates are known to be widespread in permafrost regions and beneath the sea in sediments of outer continental margins.It is generally accepted that the amount of natural gas contained in the world's gas hydrate accumulations greatly exceeds the volume of known conventional gas reserves, and there is growing evidence that gas hydrates can be commercially produced with existing conventional oil and gas production technology. The global resource potential of gas hydrate is in the range of thousands of trillion cubic feet (Tcf). By comparison, the current annual global demand for natural gas is approximately 117 Tcf. Producing natural gas from hydrate will involve "dissociating" it, converting back to gas and water by heating it and/or depressurizing it.

The formation and dissociation of gas hydrate can also cause problems. Gas hydrate may form in gas pipelines where water is present along with high pressure and low temperature. If the gas hydrate present in sediment is dissociated, there is the potential for underwater landslides. In addition, methane is a potent greenhouse gas and the release of methane to the atmosphere could lead to increases in global warming.

The Deepwater Horizon explosion has brought gas hydrate into the news in recent weeks. Some of the reports are accurate, while others convey serious misinformation. It is unlikely that gas hydrate dissociation played a role in the explosion and fire; however gas hydrate formation has complicated efforts to control the oil spill.

Art Johnson Bio  

Art Johnson

Art Johnson is President and Chief of Exploration for Hydrate Energy International and is engaged in energy consulting in the U.S. and throughout the world. Prior to forming HEI in 2002, Art was with Chevron for 25 years. He is co-chair of the AAPG/EMD Gas Hydrate Committee and is a Past-President of New Orleans Geological Society.

Art chaired the Methane Hydrate Advisory Committee for the U.S. Secretary of Energy from 2001 to 2006 and has advised Congress and the White House on energy issues since 1997. He has an on-going role coordinating the research efforts of industry, universities, and government agencies, and serves as an AAPG Visiting Geoscientist. Art has been appointed as the Gas Hydrate Lead Analyst for the "Global Energy Assessment", an international project supported by the World Bank, UN organizations, and national governments.

Art lives in Kenner, Louisiana with his wife and daughter. Among his recent publications are "Economic Geology of Natural Gas Hydrate" published by Springer, "Alternative Energy and Fuels Technology" published by the Catalyst Group, and "AAPG Memoir 89".

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