Japan on 12 March 2013 announced that it had extracted the natural gas from frozen methane hydrate successfully off the central coast. With this, Japan became the first country to do so in the world. A Japan official from Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry announced that this was the first offshore experiment of producing natural gas from methane hydrate in the world.
Methane Hydrate, also known as clathrates are a kind of frozen confinements of molecules of water and methane. The gas field where the natural gas was extracted from methane hydrate is situated 50 km away from the main island of Japan in Nankai Trough.
Also, apart from Japan, certain other countries such as China, US and Canada have been searching for the ways to exploit the methane hydrate deposits. Certain pilot experiments were conducted in the past few years, which depicted that it was possible to extract methane from deposits by making use of the methane hydrate which was found under the land ice.
Offshore deposits have a huge source of methane but they also raise environmental concerns because underwater geology which encompasses them is unstable at various places.
Now, the survey of gas field is being conducted by Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC).
How was the natural gas from methane hydrate extracted?
The engineers made use of the depressurisation method which converts the methane hydrate into the methane gas. The production tests will continue till the end of March 2013.
The government officials of Japan announced that now their aim was establishment of methane hydrate production technologies for the purpose of practical use by 2018.
How will this extraction benefit Japan?
According to the Japanese study, it was estimated that around 1.1tn cubic metres of methane hydrate existed in the offshore deposits. This is equal to the gas consumption of Japan in more than 10 years.
According to the researchers, this extraction can prove to be very beneficial because it could facilitate as an alternative source of energy for Japan. It is important to note that Japan as of now imports all the energy needs.
Japan has limited natural resources. After the nuclear disaster of Fukushima plant in 2011, cost of importing the fuel has also increased. The extraction of natural gas from methane hydrate will therefore help Japan in reducing the pressure on natural resources as well as bringing down the cost of import of fuel.