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Meetings

USGS Gas Hydrates Project Hosts Japanese Colleagues to Advance Collaboration on Nankai Trough Hydrate-Bearing Pressure Cores



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The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Gas Hydrates Project hosted Japanese colleagues in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in summer 2014, to further their ongoing collaborative study of gas hydrates in the Nankai Trough, offshore Japan. The eastern Nankai Trough has been the focus of an extensive multiyear program, supported by Japan’s Research Consortium for Methane Hydrate Resources (MH21), to explore the potential for using methane from gas hydrates as an energy resource. In March 2013, the MH21 program accomplished the first-ever production of methane from deepwater gas hydrate deposits, and a second production test in the eastern Nankai Trough could occur as early as 2015.

Map of Japan, showing collection site for the gas hydrate-bearing pressure cores
Above: Map of Japan, showing collection site (red dot) for the gas hydrate-bearing pressure cores being studied collaboratively by Japanese and U.S. researchers. At the same site, Japan’s Research Consortium for Methane Hydrate Resources (MH21), achieved the first-ever production of methane from deepwater gas hydrate deposits in March 2013. White curve shows trench where the Pacific plate subducts beneath Japan and the Philippine Sea plate. Black curve indicates the Nankai Trough, where the Philippine Sea plate subducts beneath Japan. [larger version]

In support of the MH21 program, researchers from the USGS and the Particulate Media Research Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech; J. Carlos Santamarina, director) partnered with Japanese colleagues in January 2013 for several weeks’ worth of joint analyses of cores containing hydrate-bearing sediment recovered from the deepwater production site (see “Groundbreaking Gas Hydrate Research,” Sound Waves, March/April 2013).

On June 30 and July 1, 2014, USGS and Japanese collaborators met at the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center (WHCMSC). William Waite of the USGS Gas Hydrates Project welcomed Jiro Nagao and Yoshihiro Konno from Japan’s Advanced Industrial Science and Technology laboratory (AIST) and Tetsuya Fujii from the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) to discuss their hydrate-bearing core analyses.

The USGS Gas Hydrates Project hosts group from Japan
Above: The USGS Gas Hydrates Project, represented by William Waite (USGS, far left), hosted (left to right) Jiro Nagao (Advanced Industrial Science and Technology [AIST]), Tetsuya Fujii (Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation [JOGMEC]), and Yoshihiro Konno (AIST) at the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center in summer 2014. USGS photograph by Colleen Clark. [larger version]

Gas hydrate, often referred to as “methane hydrate” or just “hydrate,” is a frozen form of methane and water that occurs naturally in sediments beneath waters deeper than about 500 meters (1,600 feet) and where temperatures are relatively low. Gas hydrate breaks down (“dissociates”) when pressure is decreased and (or) temperature is increased. The March 2013 production test in the Nankai Trough took advantage of this property by lowering bottom pressure in the production well to cause dissociation and release methane. (Learn more about the production test in “Japan Completes First Offshore Methane Hydrate Production Test—Methane Successfully Produced From Deepwater Hydrate Layers,” PDF, 10.1 MB.)

Water and gas released by gas hydrate dissociation destroy the properties of the original sediment. To preserve these properties for study, scientists use specialized coring techniques that prevent hydrate dissociation by maintaining pressure on the hydrate-bearing sediments close to their original pressure (“pressure coring”). Pressure coring has been conducted in marine gas hydrate provinces for nearly two decades, but the instrumentation has advanced in recent years to permit recovery of longer cores and sediments rich in sand and (or) containing high saturations of gas hydrate.

Researchers insert a sensor into a pressure core specimen
Above: (Left to right) Efthymios Papadopoulos (Georgia Tech), Yoshihiro Konno (AIST), and William Winters (USGS) insert a sensor into a pressure core specimen in January 2013 at the AIST facility in Sapporo, Japan. (Read more about this work in “Groundbreaking Gas Hydrate Research,” Sound Waves, March/April 2013.) USGS photograph by William Waite. [larger version]

Another important advance in the past decade has been the development of tools to acquire oriented X-rays of hydrate-bearing cores and analyze the sediments’ seismic, electrical, strength, and other properties while the sediments are still held at their in situ pressure. The USGS Gas Hydrates Project currently operates one such tool in support of U.S. and international pressure coring programs: the Instrumented Pressure Testing Chamber (IPTC), built at Georgia Tech in 2005. With these tools, it is now possible to measure most of the in situ geomechanical properties necessary to, among other things, guide drilling and production strategies for extracting methane from gas hydrate as an energy resource.

The summer 2014 meeting in Woods Hole focused on finalizing data sets obtained on eight pressure cores recovered at the MH21 Nankai Trough deepwater production site. Analyses of data sets from AIST, JOGMEC, the USGS, and Georgia Tech, as well as from colleagues at Geotek, Inc. and the University of Calgary, will be the basis of a thematic issue of the journal Marine and Petroleum Geology to be published in spring 2015, with Koji Yamamoto (JOGMEC) and Carolyn Ruppel (USGS Gas Hydrates Project) as guest editors.


Related Sound Waves Stories
Seismic-Imaging Research Cruise Investigates Deepwater Gas Hydrate Deposits in the Gulf of Mexico
July / August 2013
Groundbreaking Gas Hydrate Research
March/April 2013
USGS Scientists Discover Gas Hydrate in Southern California During Cruise to Study Offshore Landslides, Earthquake Hazards, and Pollution
November 2003
Gas-Hydrate Research Wells Completed in the Canadian Arctic
April 2002
Gas-Hydrate Inventory on New Web Site
February 2001

Related Websites
Research Consortium for Methane Hydrate Resources in Japan
MH21
Particulate Media Research Laboratory
Georgia Tech
USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
USGS
Advanced Industrial Science and Technology
AIST
Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation
JOGMEC
Japan Completes First Offshore Methane Hydrate Production Test (PDF, 10.1 MB.)
Methane Hydrate Newsletter

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in this issue:

Spotlight on Sandy
USGS Coastal Change Hazards Portal

New Tide Gage/Weather Station Near Mashpee, Massachusetts

Oceanographic Gear Retrieved from Offshore of Fire Island, New York

Research
Coral Reefs Along West-Central Guam—Historical Impacts

Geologic Evidence of Past Tsunamis in California

Outreach
USGS Helps Celebrate the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Public Lecture on Deep-Sea Corals Takes Audience “Into the Abyss”

Meetings
USGS Gas Hydrates Project Hosts Japanese Colleagues

Use-Case Training for the Woods Hole, Massachusetts, Research Community

Spring 2014 Monterey Bay Marine GIS User Group Meeting

Publications
July / August Publications

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