India-Led Joint Expedition Finds Large Gas Hydrate Deposit in Bay of Bengal

India-Led Joint Expedition Finds Large Gas Hydrate Deposit in Bay of Bengal
India, with support from U.S. Geological Survey and Japanese government agencies and companies, discovers large amounts of natural gas hydrate in the Bay of Bengal.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported Monday that it has assisted India in discovering a large, highly enriched accumulations of natural gas hydrate in the Bay of Bengal -- the first of its kind in the Indian Ocean that has the potential to be producible -- with Japan's Chikyu deepwater drilling vessel during the Indian National Gas Hydrate Program Expedition 02 (INGHPR-02).

According to USGS, the find is the result of the most comprehensive gas hydrate field venture in the world to date, with participation of scientists from India, Japan and the U.S. The expedition conducted ocean drilling, conventional sediment coring, pressure coring, downhole logging and analytical activities to assess the geologic occurrence, regional context and characteristics of gas hydrate deposits in offshore India.

"Advances like the Bay of Bengal discovery will help unlock the global energy resource potential of gas hydrates as well help define the technology needed to safely produce them ... The USGS is proud to have played a key role on this project in collaboration with our international partner, the Indian Government," USGS Energy Resources Program coordinator Walter Guidroz said in a press release.

The international team of scientists that participated in INGHPR-02 was led by India's state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd. (ONGC), acting on behalf of India's Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. Other scientists in the INGHPR-02 team were from the USGS, Japan Drilling Co. and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMESTEC). The USGS also worked closely with Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) on the analysis of pressure core samples collected from sand reservoirs with high gas hydrate concentrations.

INGHPR-02 is the second joint exploration for gas hydrate potential in the Indian Ocean after the first, also a partnership between scientists from India and the United States, discovered gas hydrate accumulations, albeit in in formations that are currently unlikely to be producible.

The USGS noted that while it is possible to produce natural gas from gas hydrates, there are significant technical challenges, depending on the location and type of formation. Previous studies revealed that gas hydrate at high concentrations in sand reservoirs is the type of occurrence that can be most easily produced with existing technologies.

INGHPR-02 therefore focused the exploration and discovery of highly concentrated gas hydrate occurrences in sand reservoirs. The USGS noted that the gas hydrate discovered during the expedition are located in coarse-grained sand-rich depositional systems in the Krishna-Godavari Basin and is made up of a sand-rich, gas-hydrate-bearing fan and channel-levee gas hydrate prospects. The research team will now proceed to production testing in these sand reservoirs to determine if natural gas production is practical and economic.

"The results from this expedition mark a critical step forward to understanding the energy resource potential of gas hydrates ... The discovery of what we believe to be several of the largest and most concentrated gas hydrate accumulations yet found in the world will yield the geologic and engineering data needed to better understand the geologic controls on the occurrence of gas hydrate in nature and to assess the technologies needed to safely produce gas hydrates," USGS Senior Scientist Tim Collett said in the press release.

There has been rising interest in the search for natural gas hydrates, which are a naturally occurring, ice-like combination of natural gas and water found in the world’s oceans and polar regions, as it could potentially be an alternative energy source given that the amount of gas within the world’s gas hydrate accumulations is estimated to exceed the volume of all known conventional gas resources.

Energy deficit Japan has an ongoing methane hydrate project which seeks to tap the alternative fuel found under the sea floor off the country's southeast coast. Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is now progressing plans for a second round of production testing for methane hydrates off the coast of Aichi and Mie prefectures, which is believed to hold sufficient reserves to provide the country with a decade's supply of natural gas, in 2017. If the production test is successful, Japan plans to commence commercial methane hydrate production in 2013.

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