Japan methane drilling is inevitable- too much investment
Reuters, 8/3/2011, “Japan: Japan Drilling Company to drill methane hydrate wells offshore Japan”, http://www.energy-pedia.com/news/japan/japan-drilling-company-to-drill-methane-hydrate-wells-offshore-japan, 6/28/2014, BD
Japan Drilling Company (JDC) has signed a contract to drill wells in deep waters off the coast of western Japan as part of a methane hydrate test production programme. Japan Petroleum Exploration (Japex) awarded the 1 billion yen ($13 million) contract to JDC, in which Japex has a 30.75 percent stake.¶ Since 2001, resource-poor Japan has invested several hundred million dollars in developing technology to tap methane hydrate, believed to be plentiful under the seabed near the country, and it hopes to complete development of technology for commercial production by 2018/19. JDC said it will drill three monitor wells and one test well from mid-January to the end of February next year.¶ Japan's trade ministry is leading efforts to tap methane hydrates off the coasts of the Wakayama and Mie prefectures, where there are estimated deposits of 40 trillion cubic feet of gas, equivalent to 12 years of Japan's natural gas demand.¶ Methane hydrate, a frozen gas known as 'flammable ice', is formed from a mixture of methane and water at specific pressure and conditions.
Japan is already starting to commercialize hydrates
Shaunacy Ferro (writer for Popular Science), 3/12/2013, “Japan Has Won The Race To Extract Gas From Offshore Methane Ice”, http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2013-03/japan-won-race-extract-gas-burning-ice, 6/28/2014, BD
Japanese officials report they've produced natural gas from underwater methane hydrate, a frozen mix of water and methane known as "burning ice." Previous experiments have successfully extracted gas from on-shore deposits, but this is the first time we've been able to do it with deep sea reserves.¶ Methane hydrates are made of gas molecules of methane that are trapped in a lattice of water ice. When the ice melts, because of change in temperature or pressure, the gas is released and can ignite to create that fiery ice effect.¶ The U.S., South Korea and China have also been working to harness the substance as fuel for years. It's one of the world's greatest untapped energy resources, found within the permafrost near the Earth's poles and under much of the sea floor.¶ Finding alternative fuel sources is especially vital for Japan, a country has to import huge amounts of energy, especially after the Fukushima disaster curtailed the Japanese nuclear program.¶ A team of Japanese drillers started extracting gas from methane hydrate deposits about 1,000 feet below the seabed off the central coast of Japan on Tuesday, according to The New York Times. They separated the ice and the methane by lowering the pressure in the reserve.¶ (If you can read Japanese, you can see the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's statement here.)¶ Trial extraction will continue for about two weeks to determine how much gas can be produced. The drilling technology will hopefully be commercially available in five years.
Japan won’t quit- new deposits
Kuniaki Nishio (writer for The Asahi Shinbum), 6/20/2014, “Signs found of new methane hydrate deposits in Sea of Japan”, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/business/AJ201406200048, 6/28/2014, BD
The industry ministry says it has found more promising signs of methane hydrate deposits in the Sea of Japan.¶ It will begin test drilling in two areas from June 24 to collect sediment samples to see if methane hydrate reserves do indeed exist there.¶ Known as "burning ice," methane hydrate is a natural fuel that lies beneath the seafloor in the form of crystals made of methane and water molecules.¶ "Gas chimney structures" on the seafloor are signs that methane hydrate is present.¶ Survey teams found examples of the structures off Akita and Yamagata prefectures in an area over 400 meters in diameter and also around Shimane Prefecture's Oki Islands in an area some 750 meters in diameter.¶ Similar geographical features were discovered last year off Joetsu, Niigata Prefecture, and Ishikawa Prefecture's Noto Peninsula.¶ Analysis of the terrains has led the industry ministry to conclude that the areas off Akita and Yamagata prefectures, as well as Joetsu, are the most promising for methane hydrate deposits. The test drilling operations are planned in these two locations, the first to be done in the Sea of Japan.¶ In March 2013, the world's first successful test drilling of methane hydrate was conducted off Aichi Prefecture in deposits discovered along the country’s Pacific coast. The government anticipates that deposits will be mined on a commercial basis there around 2023 at the earliest.¶ Some experts believe that reservoirs of methane hydrate equivalent to 100 years’ worth of natural gas consumption in Japan exist around the country.
Japan will drill- too many investments
Danielle Demetriou (writer for the Telegraph), 2/18/2014, “Is 'burning ice' the solution to Japan's energy crisis?”, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/10646210/Japan-methane-hydrate.html, 6/28/2014, BD
A Japanese company is planning to extract methane hydrate from the seabed with the goal of creating a new domestic energy source for resources-poor Japan.¶ Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding Co. (MES) hopes to become a pioneer in the field of extracting methane hydrate, also known as “burning ice”, a compound believed to exist in abundance beneath seas around Japan.¶ The company, which has previously developed offshore oilfields, has set up a new department devoted to tapping into the nation’s underwater energy extraction potential.¶ It has also designed an underwater robot capable of diving to depths of nearly 23,000 ft to assist the test-mining of mineral ores, with manufacturing discussions reportedly underway with an undisclosed North European company.¶ Although a timescale has not yet been made public in relation to when they will start the extraction process, Masatoshi Inui, a spokesman at MES, told the Telegraph: “It’s true that the company plans to explore and extract seabed resources, including methane hydrate and rare metals.¶ “We have set up the Ocean Business Promotion Department which plans to create a marine resources development field as a medium to long term core revenue business.”¶ Methane hydrate is fast emerging as a major potential energy source of the future, with vast quantities of gas trapped in ice crystals buried deep beneath oceans and the Arctic permafrost.¶ A growing number of countries, including the US, Canada and China, are starting to explore the possibility of tapping into methane hydrate production as a natural gas source.¶ However, resources-poor Japan is particularly ambitious in this field, a situation that is perhaps unsurprising in the light of the energy crisis triggered by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.¶ It was almost three years ago exactly that the Fukushima nuclear crisis unfolded, resulting in the closure of the nation’s nuclear power plants, a widespread anti-nuclear backlash and a costly national bill for expensive imports of liquefied natural gas.¶ Japan last year became the first country to extract natural gas from frozen methane hydrate beneath the seabed, an operation in which MES was involved having assisted in the creation of a deep-sea drilling vessel.¶ With studies estimating that as much as 39 trillion cubic ft of methane hydrate may exist in Japan’s offshore deposits, the government hopes to tap into such resources with production technologies in place by 2018.¶ However, the biggest obstacles to date have related to the expense of the extraction procedure, a challenge which MES is aiming to overcome with its creation of low-cost technologies.¶ Emphasising the potential of methane hydrate as a future energy source, Shinichiro Takiguchi, a senior energy policy expert at the Japan Research Institute in Tokyo, told the Telegraph: “Its potential from the seas around Japan is said to amount to 100 years of natural gas usage in Japan.”¶ He added: “The biggest challenges have related to cost. There are two approaches for extraction. There is the surface layer extraction method used by Mitsui. The other approach is close to shale gas extraction methods and is used by traditional oil exploration companies.¶ “Historically, the government has supported the latter method, but this is said to be costly. The Mitsui way is relatively simple and cost-effective in extracting methane hydrate. Support for the Mitsui method may be a better option in terms of using Japan’s resources.”
Japan has already successfully exploited methane hydrates. Also it’s inevitable for other countries in the squo.
Reuters 13 "Japan Achieves First Gas Extraction from Offshore Methane Hydrate." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 12 Mar. 2013. Web. 27 June 2014. .
TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese energy explorer said on Tuesday it extracted gas from offshore methane hydrate deposits for the first time in the world, as part of an attempt to achieve commercial production within six years. Since 2001, Japan, which imports nearly all of its energy needs, has invested several hundred million dollars in developing technology to tap methane hydrate reserves off its coast that are estimated to be equal to about 11 years of gas consumption. State-run Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp (JOGMEC) said the gas was tapped from deposits of methane hydrate, a frozen gas known as "flammable ice", near Japan's central coast. Japan is the world's top importer of liquefied natural gas and the lure of domestic gas resources has become greater since the Fukushima nuclear crisis two years ago triggered a shake-up of the country's energy sector. Japan's trade ministry said the production tests will continue for about two weeks, followed by analysis on how much gas was produced. Methane is a major component of natural gas and governments including Canada, the United States, Norway and China are also looking at exploiting hydrate deposits as an alternative source of energy. Japan used depressurization to turn methane hydrate to methane gas, a process thought by the government to be more effective than using the hot water circulation method the country had tested successfully in 2002. In 2008, JOGMEC successfully demonstrated for the first time a nearly six-day continuous period of production of methane gas from hydrate reserves held deep in permafrost in Canada, using the depressurization method. Methane hydrate, is formed from a mixture of methane and water under certain pressure and conditions. A Japanese study has estimated the existence of at least 40 trillion cubic feet (1.1 trillion cubic meters) of methane hydrates in the eastern Nankai Trough off the country's Pacific coast, about 11 years of Japanese gas consumption. Japan's LNG imports hit a record 87.3 million metric tons last year after Japan shut down most of its nuclear power plants following the Fukushima nuclear disaster two years ago.
Extracting gas from methane is not viable
Knight 13 (Caroline Knight – “Extracting natural gas from methane hydrate”, Excelian, 4/26/2013)
In order to extract the gas, specialised equipment must be used to drill into and depressurise the hydrate deposits in order to separate the methane from the ice. The gas is then collected and piped to the surface. Clathrates are more stable at a higher temperature than LNG (-20o C vs. -162o C) and there has been discussion around converting natural gas into clathrates rather than liquidation, saving on refrigeration and energy costs. However, conversion factors currently mean this is an economically unviable option. Extraction is an issue; in the majority of sites, deposits are likely to be too dispersed for economic extraction. Despite their abundance, most hydrates are located either in colder environments or deep underwater; where it is currently too difficult and too expensive to drill5. Other problems facing commercial exploitation are detection of viable reserves and development of the technology for extracting methane gas from the hydrate deposits. Methane is a greenhouse gas, and discharge of large amounts of methane into the atmosphere would contribute to extreme climate change6. Explorers must find a way to avoid releasing large quantities of methane from hydrates into the air and the ocean. Methane traps heat so effectively it is about 10 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas7. Burning the natural gas on extraction would produce a massive amount of CO2; researchers have considered the possibility of pumping the CO2 back into the undersea lattices after methane extraction to create a carbon neutral process. This was trialled by Conoco-Phillips in the North Slope of Alaska in 2012 and has been proven technically possible but currently not a viable option8
Kenji 13 (Ishikawa Kenji - Journalist, writer, and editor. Born in 1958. Earned a degree from the Tokyo University of Science, “Will Methane Hydrates Become a Domestic Energy Resource?”, Nippon, 5/10/2013)
Ishii Yoshinori, University of Tokyo professor emeritus and the former director of the National Institute for Environmental Studies, has opposed this string of development programs. In the early 1990s, Japan began research and development of methane hydrates in earnest, with Ishii chairing a key research committee. This gave his later criticisms particular weight. Two decades ago, the thinking was that geothermal heating resulted in free methane below the hydrated layers, and that this gas could be easily extracted. Ishii later concluded that the existence of gas was unlikely, making extraction cost prohibitive, and that methane hydrates are fundamentally not a viable resource. Until recently, a large number of researchers also believed similarly that extraction of methane gas was not economically feasible. However, not only has the pace of technological innovation exceeded expectations, successful production from previously cost prohibitive reserves, such as shale gas and oil, oil sands, and deep marine gas and oil, has placed methane hydrates in a more favorable light. Additionally, due to the 16-fold increase in crude oil price from 1999 to 2008, traditional wisdom regarding cost effectiveness is no longer applicable, and there certainly is potential in methane hydrates, even if production costs remain relatively high. However, major technical hurdles remain. For example, while the recent marine trials successfully produced methane gas from hydrate, an unexpectedly large volume of sediment flow forced an early end to operations, and separation of methane was only confirmed to have occurred in a 20-meter radius around the drill pipe. Even if these technical issues are overcome, commercial production will only be possible if market price is competitive to that of shale gas and other competing reservoirs.
The timeline and cost of methane hydrate extraction are prohibitive
Lefebvre 13 (Ben Lefebvre – staff writer for WSJ, “Scientists Envision Fracking in Arctic and on Ocean Floor”, The Wall Street Journal, 7/28/2013)
Commercial production of methane hydrate is expected to take at least a decade—if it comes at all. Different technologies to harvest the gas are being tested, but so far no single approach has been perfected, and it remains prohibitively expensive. But booming energy demand in Asia, which is spurring gigantic projects to liquefy natural gas in Australia, Canada and Africa, is also giving momentum to efforts to mine the frozen clumps of methane hydrate mixed deep in seafloor sediment. The biggest concern is that the sediment that contains methane hydrate is inherently unstable, meaning a drilling accident could set off a landslide that sends massive amounts of methane—a potent greenhouse gas—bubbling up through the ocean and into the atmosphere. Oil and gas companies establishing deep-water drilling rigs normally look at avoiding methane-hydrate clusters, said Richard Charter, senior member of environmental group the Ocean Foundation, who has long studied methane hydrates. Nevertheless, the government of Japan—where natural gas costs are currently $16 per million British thermal units, four times the level in the U.S.—has vowed to bring methane hydrate into the mainstream by 2023 after a successful drilling test in March. In the government-sponsored test off of the southern coast of Japan's main island, Honshu, a drilling rig bored nearly 2,000 feet below the seafloor. Special equipment reduced the pressure around the methane hydrate crystals, dissolving them into gas and water, and then pumped about 4.2 million cubic feet of gas to the surface. While not a huge haul, it was enough to convince Japanese researchers that more natural gas could be harvested. Not all observers think that the costs can come down enough to make methane hydrate viable. But plenty of countries, particularly in Asia, are planning to try. China plans to host an international conference on methane hydrate in 2014. India is contemplating a push to develop the vast quantities of methane hydrate discovered off its coast in the Indian Ocean in 2006, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, a part of the U.S. Department of Interior that conducts scientific research. In the U.S., scientists explored the northern Gulf of Mexico in May to map some of the 6.7 quadrillion cubic feet of methane-hydrate clusters believed to be underwater there. The Consortium for Ocean Leadership, a nonprofit group of researchers, is now trying to convince the Department of Energy to lend it a research drilling ship to do more tests. "There are a huge amount of people internationally working in this area," said Carolyn Ruppel, head of the gas hydrates project at the USGS. "A lot of national governments have gotten into the game." The most optimal places to harvest methane hydrate are near where the continental shelf transitions to the deep ocean, areas difficult to access from sea level. Would-be producers also have to be careful when harvesting fragile clusters of methane hydrate to ensure nearby crystals don't prematurely break and send greenhouse gases bubbling to the surface. The cost of developing this new source of energy remains high, with estimates ranging from $30 to $60 per million British thermal units. In the U.S., natural gas currently trades for less than $4 per million BTUs, as the rise of fracking produced a gas glut. But countries like Japan, Korea, India, and Taiwan import gas "at a high price and thus may find it economical to produce their own resources," said George Hirasaki, a professor at Rice University in Houston who has done research on methane hydrates. Last year, ConocoPhillips worked with the DOE on a test run producing natural gas from methane hydrate in Alaska's North Slope, home to about 85 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable methane hydrate, according to DOE statistics. The company spent 13 days injecting carbon dioxide and nitrogen into methane-hydrate clusters in the permafrost. The chemical cocktail fractures the permafrost, allowing the gas to escape through the newly made fractures for collection. ConocoPhillips was able "to safely extract a steady flow of natural gas," a spokeswoman said. ConocoPhillips declined to say how much it has invested in methane-hydrate production. The Houston-based company said that "at present, the technology does not exist to produce natural gas economically from hydrates."
Prices Never High Enough
Hydrates not viable unless gas prices triple
Ruppel 11 (Carolyn Ruppel – US Geological Survey researcher – PhD from MIT in Solid Earth geophysics, “Methane Hydrates and the Future of Natural Gas”, Gas Hydrates Project, 2011)
If there is no underlying free gas that can be produced during the life of the well, then the gas price would have to reach $12 Canadian (2005 dollars) per Mcf for production from hydrates to become viable. To assess the production characteristics and economics of marine gas hydrates, Walsh et al. (2009) used the TOUGH+HYDRATE reservoir simulation (Moridis et al., 2008b) results published by Moridis and Reagan (2007) and Que$tor for cost analyses in comparing production from gas hydrates to that from a conventional gas reservoir. The costs estimates include a pipeline, production facility, and subsea development for both conventional and gas hydrate production and the extra costs (e.g., additional wells, artificial lift to manage water production) associated with gas production from hydrate. At the 50% confidence level, the additional cost associated with production from deepwater gas hydrates vs. conventional gas deposits is $3.50 to $4.00 (U.S. dollars) per Mcf. The economic evaluations discussed above incorporate some of the prospective costs associated with pipelines. It is important to note that transportation issues probably pose an even greater economic challenge for gas hydrates than for many conventional gas reservoirs or for some other forms of unconventional gas. The primary reason is geographic: Many conventional and unconventional (e.g., shale, coalbed) deposits are closer to production and distribution infrastructure than the deepwater marine and permafrost areas. Where resource-grade gas hydrates are concentrated. This is one factor motivating researchers to maintain that initial commercial scale production of gas from hydrate will probably occur on the Alaskan North Slope near existing infrastructure that can immediately exploit the gas to run on-site operations.
Methane is cleaner than other fossil fuels
Santiago Arango (writer for CBC News), 5/7/2013, “Canada drops out of race to tap methane hydrates”, http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/canada-drops-out-of-race-to-tap-methane-hydrates-1.1358966, 6/28/2014, BD
Canada is abandoning a 15-year program that was researching ways to tap a potentially revolutionary energy source, just as Japan is starting to use the results to exploit the new fossil-fuel frontier: methane hydrates.¶ Methane hydrates are crystals full of methane gas found both offshore and under the permafrost. Low temperatures and high pressure cause methane and water to crystallize into ice-like deposits.¶ They represent an unexploited source of energy estimated to be larger than all the world's known coal, oil and gas reserves combined.¶ 300px-hydrates-seafloor¶ Offshore hydrates can be formed in large white clusters, but it is more common to find them mixed in sand on the ocean floor. (Courtesy Scientific Party, RV Atlantis/Alvin Expedition)¶ Methane is considered to be cleaner than other fossil fuels, and if methane is used instead of oil and coal, significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions could be achieved.¶ Producing gas from hydrates could also avoid the water pollution issues connected with the extraction of shale gas through "fracking" techniques. The environmental impact of methane production has yet to be completely assessed, but researchers say they expect the issues would be comparable to those of offshore conventional natural gas production.¶ Canada and Japan have been partners in the quest to extract methane from hydrates. Since 2000, Natural Resources Canada has invested more than $16 million in the venture. Japan spent around $60 million between 2002 and 2008 to finance production tests in the Canadian Arctic.¶ On March 18 this year the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. reached a milestone, successfully completing a test to produce methane gas from offshore hydrate formations for the first time, using extraction techniques pioneered in Canada.¶ Despite the success, Canadian federal funding from Natural Resources Canada for research into exploiting methane hydrates was cut as of March 31 — just a couple of weeks after the offshore production tests in Japan. The ministry told CBC News the decision was made in 2012.
Methane Hydrates resolve need for LNG- solves the case
Gomez 14 Gomez, Michelle. "DW Monday: Could Methane Hydrates Challenge LNG in Japan?" Douglas Westwood. Douglas Westwood, 17 Feb. 14. Web. 27 June 2014. .
While shale gas has been transforming the energy industry, another natural gas source lies unexploited. Methane hydrates, is the ‘dark horse’ of future energy. Commonly known as “burnable ice’, methane hydrates are a potential major natural gas resource. They are most stable at low temperatures and high pressure hence found below deep waters and in the arctic. Methane hydrates could, in theory, revolutionize the energy industry, potentially providing significant upside to natural gas production. However, to date, there haven’t been any commercial-scale developments. There has been talk about development in the Gulf of Mexico and in Columbia, but most interesting is the possibility for commercialization offshore Japan and how this may impact the country’s existing and growing energy trade deficit. Japan is the largest LNG buyer, importing 70mtpa of LNG in 2012, that’s twice the levels of the second largest LNG importer (South Korea). Should methane hydrates become a commercially viable energy source, Japanese LNG imports could be impacted and possibly the wider LNG industry. Whether methane hydrate projects off Japan can be commercialized at a competitive price is unknown and there are significant technical issues to overcome, not least that the most viable accumulations are located in difficult environments, posing technical and environmental challenges. Indeed, Canada is abandoning its own 15-year $10 million program. With natural gas prices at four times US levels, Japan has a greater incentive and has been drilling in its Nankai Trough since 1999. In March 2003, they produced 120,000 cubic metres of methane gas from a depth of 1,000m. It is reported that if test drilling continues to yield positive results and if technical issues can be resolved, commercial production could begin during as early as 2018. But one constant of the energy industry is that most projects take much longer than planned.
No risk of increasing warming from methane hydrate dissociation – extraction doesn’t increase warming
Ruppel 11 (Carolyn Ruppel – US Geological Survey researcher – PhD from MIT in Solid Earth geophysics, “Methane Hydrates and Contemporary Climate Change”, Nature, 2011)
Catastrophic, widespread dissociation of methane gas hydrates will not be triggered by continued climate warming at contemporary rates (0.2ºC per decade; IPCC 2007) over timescales of a few hundred years. Most of Earth's gas hydrates occur at low saturations and in sediments at such great depths below the seafloor or onshore permafrost that they will barely be affected by warming over even 103 yr. Even when CH4 is liberated from gas hydrates, oxidative and physical processes may greatly reduce the amount that reaches the atmosphere as CH4. The CO2 produced by oxidation of CH4 released from dissociating gas hydrates will likely have a greater impact on the Earth system (e.g., on ocean chemistry and atmospheric CO2 concentrations; Archer et al. 2009) than will the CH4 that remains after passing through various sinks. Contemporary and future gas hydrate degradation will occur primarily on the circum-Arctic Ocean continental shelves (Sector 2; Macdonald 1990, Lachenbruch et al. 1994, Maslin 2010), where subsea permafrost thawing and methane hydrate dissociation have been triggered by warming and inundation since Late Pleistocene time, and at the feather edge of the GHSZ on upper continental slopes (Sector 3), where the zone's full thickness can dissociate rapidly due to modest warming of intermediate waters. More CH4 may be sequestered in upper continental slope gas hydrates than in those associated with subsea permafrost; however, CH4 that reaches the seafloor from dissociating Arctic Ocean shelf gas hydrates is much more likely to enter the atmosphere rapidly and as CH4, not CO2. Proof is still lacking that gas hydrate dissociation currently contributes to seepage from upper continental slopes or to elevated seawater CH4 concentrations on circum-Arctic Ocean shelves. An even greater challenge for the future is determining the contribution of global gas hydrate dissociation to contemporary and future atmospheric CH4 concentrations.