Canadian Consulting Engineer

Natural Gas Hydrates in Canada’s Arctic show huge potential as energy source

March 8, 2004
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

A Canadian team of scientists is leading a project to drill for a form of natural gas that may represent more than...

A Canadian team of scientists is leading a project to drill for a form of natural gas that may represent more than twice the amount of energy found in all other remaining hydrocarbon sources.
Scott Dallimore of the Geological Survey of Canada presented the latest developments of a drilling project to investigate the potential of Gas Hydrates to Members of the House of Commons and press in Ottawa at a “Bacon & Eggheads” breakfast session on February 12.
Gas Hydrates are a solid form of natural gas found at cold temperature and high pressure beneath permafrost and on coastal seafloors. Worldwide they represent a huge reservoir of natural gas that may ultimately yield important sources of energy for the world — more energy collectively than natural gas, coal, oil and oil sands.
However, much scientific and engineering research needs to be done to make production feasible — hence the $30 million Mallik well drilling project that has been experimenting with production on an Arctic field in the Mackenzie Delta of the Northwest Territories. Begun in 1998, the project involves 150 scientists from seven countries, including Japan, Germany, India and the U.S. Canadian companies involved are BP Canada energy, Chevron Canada Resources and Burlington Resources.
Studies have revealed at least 10 discrete gas hydrate layers at the Mallik field. The layers are more than 110 metres thick and at 1,106 metres depth. The saturate values sometimes exceed 80% of the pore volume, making this one of the most concentrated gas hydrate reservoirs in the world.
In addition to exploring the practical use of natural gas hydrates as an energy source, scientists are interested in their greenhouse gas effects. There is mounting evidence that the hydrates have had a significant role in increasing the pace of past global climate change through the release of methane. Methane is 21 times more active than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, so international interest in the project is at an all-time high.
After drilling was completed in 2002, a wide ranging science and engineering research program has begun, with the objectives of (a) assessing the properties and production possibilities of gas hydrates, and (b) assessing their stability given current warming trends.
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