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USGS estimates ANS holds 85.4 tcf of gas hydrates
Oil & Gas Journal ^ | Oct. 21, 2008 | Nick Snow

Posted on 10/23/2008 11:46:43 AM PDT by thackney

There are 85.4 tcf of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas resources in gas hydrates on the Alaskan North Slope, reported the US Geological Survey on Oct. 18.

The US Department of the Interior agency said scientists recently completed the first assessment of an area extending from the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) on the west through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) on the east, and from the Brooks Range on the south, to the state-federal offshore boundary 3 miles into the Arctic Ocean off the northern coast.

The 55,894 sq miles consists mostly of federal, state, and Alaskan native lands, USGS noted in a new report. "Approximately 35 years ago, Russian scientists made what was then a bold assertion that gas hydrates, long a curiosity of physical scientists, should occur in nature. Since then, the USGS and others have built a strong foundation supporting the conclusion that gas hydrates are a global phenomenon containing potentially huge volumes of gas in terrestrial Polar regions and the deepwater portions of most continental margins," it said.

It explained that gas hydrates are naturally occurring, ice-like solids in which water molecules trap gas molecules in a cage-like structure known as a clathrate. Although many gases form hydrates in nature, methane hydrate is the most common by far, it added.

The report said that when USGS conducted the first systematic assessment of US in-place natural gas hydrate resources in 1995, the study suggested that the amount of gas there greatly exceeds the volume of known conventional gas resources. Recognizing gas hydrates' importance as a potential energy resource, USGS and the US Bureau of Land Management agreed in 2002 to assess the volume of hydrates that could be produced in northern Alaska, it said.

A producible resource "For the first time, the USGS has assessed gas hydrates—a traditionally unconventional source with no confirmed production history—as a producible resource occurring in discrete hydrocarbon traps and structures," it pointed out.

The assessment's primary purpose was to conduct a geology-based analysis of gas hydrates' occurrence within northern Alaska to determine the role gas hydrates may play in the US energy future, according to USGS.

The project included three concurrent phases. The first focused on the Eileen gas hydrate occurrences overlying the Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk River, and Milne Point oilfields. The second set out to identify and characterize potential gas hydrate accumulations within ANWR and NPR-A and on state-managed land between the Colville and Canning rivers. The third involved a systematic, geology-based appraisal of the volume of gas that technically can be produced from gas hydrates on the North Slope.

The report said the Northern Alaska Gas Hydrate Total Petroleum System includes Cretaceous and Tertiary reservoir rocks, which have been divided into three assessment units, from oldest to youngest: the Nanushuk formation, the Tulavak-Schrader Bluff-Prince Creek formations, and the Sagavanirktok formation. Only gas hydrates lying below permafrost were assessed. Free gas potentially trapped below the gas hydrate stability zone was not assessed.

"Also, as part of the gas hydrate petroleum system assessment, geochemical analysis of known gas hydrate occurrences revealed a link between gas hydrate accumulations and more deeply buried conventional oil and gas occurrences in which methane migration from depth has charged the reservoir rocks in the gas hydrate stability zone," the report continued.

Standard methods Researchers used standard geology-based USGS methods originally developed to assess conventional oil and gas resources, it said. In order to use this approach, scientists analyzed three-dimensional seismic data acquired by the oil and gas industry to document that North Slope gas hydrates occupy limited, discrete volumes of rock bounded by faults and downdip water contacts.

"For the most part, it appears that the seismically-imaged gas hydrate accumulations were once conventionally trapped free-gas accumulations that were converted to gas hydrates at the onset of cold arctic conditions at the beginning of the Pleistocene Epoch," USGS said.

While the evaluation assumed that the assessed hydrocarbon resources can be produced by existing conventional technology, the report added that the production potential of northern Alaska's known and seismically inferred gas hydrate accumulations has not been adequately field-tested, although it has been the focus of a research effort led by the US Department of Energy.

"Although verified by only limited field testing, numerical production models of gas hydrate-bearing reservoirs at the Milne Point and Prudhoe Bay oilfields suggest that gas can be produced from gas hydrates with existing technology. Among the various techniques…depressurization appears to be the most promising method," it said.

Of the 85.4 tcf, which represents a mean estimate, the USGS report said that about 20.6 tcf, or 24%, is in the Sagavanirktok formation; 28 tcf, or 33%, is in the Tulavak-Schrader Bluff-Prince Creek formations, and 36.9 tcf, or 43%, is in the Nanushuk formation.

"Given that relatively few wells have penetrated the expected gas hydrate accumulations in these three assessment units, there is significant geologic uncertainty, which is reflected in the range of estimates," it said. The new mean estimate is lower than the 590 tcf reported in the 1995 assessment because it deals only with technically recoverable amounts instead of total in-place gas hydrates, it pointed out.

TOPICS: News/Current Events; US: Alaska
KEYWORDS: energy; gashydrates; naturalgas; northslope

1 posted on 10/23/2008 11:46:44 AM PDT by thackney
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This is approximately 40% of the current US proved Natural Gas Reserves (not counting unexplored areas like ANWR or Eastern Gulf of Mexico)

2 posted on 10/23/2008 11:52:21 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

Can’t touch that. Whaddaya bet?

3 posted on 10/23/2008 11:53:39 AM PDT by Past Your Eyes (You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.)
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To: thackney

“Domestic drilling is off the table.” — Sen. Harry Reid

4 posted on 10/23/2008 11:55:45 AM PDT by pabianice (Inexplicable and infuriating.)
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To: thackney

Yet we will be freezing this winter because we cannot afford to heat our homes and yet this resource will remain untapped if the Democrats have their way.

5 posted on 10/23/2008 11:59:11 AM PDT by The Great RJ ("Mir we bleiwen wat mir sin" or "We want to remain what we are." ..Luxembourg motto)
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To: thackney

So, if this could be tapped, how long of a supply would this 84.5 tcf last?

The naysayers are saying that all the ANWAR and off shore and Bakken fields only represents 2-3 years supply and is not economically feasible to develop. I am not up to date on this any more but I think they are full of it.

6 posted on 10/23/2008 12:03:22 PM PDT by Concho
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To: Past Your Eyes
Actual, a portion of this is covered by existing oil fields already in production.

It is important to also note that this quantity only represents technically recoverable gas-hydrate resources—that is, resources that can be discovered, developed, and produced using current technology.

This is based not on theoretical projections but actual field testing, although more testing should be done.

The 1995 USGS assessment also estimated that the permafrost-associated gas hydrates on the Alaska North Slope may contain as much as 590 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of in-place gas.

Assessment of Gas Hydrate Resources on the North Slope, Alaska, 2008

7 posted on 10/23/2008 12:09:40 PM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

If the gas hydrates can be harvested from where they are situated, by dredging them up and hauling them to a processing plant, much like a mineral resource, there is vast potential for an almost endless supply of cheap energy.

Methane Hydrate is a stable, semi-solid substance that, so long as the temperature is kept at or below 38º F, may be handled and transported in that form. When the temperature warms to 42º F, the substance undergoes a phase change, collapsing into a volume of water about equal to the volume of the original Methane Hydrate, and 164 volumes of methane.

This is much easier, in some ways, than transporting the methane as a compressed gas, or cooling the methane to liquid, about -258º F. When contained in a sealed volume, and warmed, the methane is released, and may be sent out right into natural gas distribution lines with little other processing.

There is a whole new technology out there to be developed. Is the petroleum-natural gas industry going to be given encouragement to proceed with this exploitation of a plentiful and self-regenerating resource?

And we do not even have to go to polar regions to recover Methane Hydrate. In deep-ocean drilling, before the drill bits actually contact the ocean floor, many places, they have to pass through beds of Methane Hydrate that overlay the ocean bottom, sometimes several hundred feet thick. We are going right past this rich resource, when with technology that may be simpler to apply, we could be harvesting the Methane Hydrate directly.

8 posted on 10/23/2008 12:15:40 PM PDT by alloysteel (For me, the election is over. I voted early for Sarah.)
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To: alloysteel

Methane hydrates releasing gas are what cause the plane crashes and sinking ships inthe Bermuda Triangle, some say. Seems plausible to me.

Hell of a fuel source, too. Greenies will never let us tap this potential.

9 posted on 10/23/2008 12:24:55 PM PDT by Travis T. OJustice (Change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy.)
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To: Concho
Note, the Bakken field has been in production for several years. It just is not a formation that is easy or cheap to drill and it does not produce gushers. But it has produced a few millionaires.

ANWR is expected to contain more oil than in any other area of similar size left unexplored in the world. To say it isn't worth going after says we shouldn't bother anywhere. It contains more oil than the remaining combined proved reserves in Texas, California, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Wyoming.

Crude Oil Proved Reserves, Reserves Changes, and Production

Also such statements exclude all other areas. We don't shut everything else off and only produce ANWR. ANWR just becomes one of many areas we should be producing.

All that said, to answer your question 84.5 tcf represents 3.7 years of our total natural gas consumption or 18.4 year of imports.

Natural Gas Consumption by End Use

U.S. Natural Gas Imports by Country

It also represents about $900 trillion or $6.3 Quadrillion if we figure out how to get all of it out of the ground. I don't keep my money under my mattress and I don't like leaving our resources underground. I would rather see that value helping our economy instead of being sent to foreign nations.

10 posted on 10/23/2008 12:29:44 PM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: alloysteel
This is much easier, in some ways, than transporting the methane as a compressed gas

I don't agree that refrigerated trucks and trains are an easier and more importantly cheaper method of transportation than a 2,500 psi Natural Gas Pipeline.

11 posted on 10/23/2008 12:36:28 PM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

Interesting- thanks for posting.

12 posted on 10/23/2008 12:45:19 PM PDT by Red Boots
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To: thackney

Just found this, thanks.

On the History Channel show, Ice Road Truckers, the truckers hauled to a location where gas hydrate drilling was underway. Successful well according to the show.

13 posted on 11/30/2008 8:55:57 AM PST by SouthTexas (Remember, it took a Jimmy Carter to bring us a Ronald Reagan!)
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To: thackney

That $900T number can’t be right.

14 posted on 11/30/2008 9:16:17 AM PST by patton (Bugger the dragon, who goes home with the princess?)
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To: thackney

I get $648 billion @ $7.67 / MMBtu

15 posted on 11/30/2008 9:25:45 AM PST by patton (Bugger the dragon, who goes home with the princess?)
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To: patton

Thanks for the correction, too much time passed for me to figure out what I did wrong.

16 posted on 12/01/2008 5:37:57 AM PST by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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