Japan to Begin Exploring for Methane Hydrate Next Year

Beginning next year the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will begin an appraisal drilling project for methane hydrate in an effort to reduce the country's dependence on imports.

The economy ministry, through state-owned Japan National Oil Corp., will spend Y4.5 billion on the exploration project over three months, a government official said Monday. The project will include using seven floating rigs.

For energy-poor Japan, methane hydrate, located 200 meters to 600 meters below the seabed offshore Japan, is a highly prioritized energy source the country wants to develop. METI has set up a consortium, led by the JNOC, with several other research institutes, to push ahead with the methane hydrate project. The consortium is named the Research Consortium For Methane Hydrate Resources in Japan, and is also known as the MH21 Research Consortium.

The ministry hopes the three-month project will promote technical development of economical drilling methods for the production of methane hydrate, and pave the way for the country's utilization of the fuel as a long-term stable energy supply. METI estimates methane hydrate reserves offshore around Japan total 7.4 trillion cubic meters, which is equivalent to the country's overall natural gas consumption for 100 years, the government official added.