The pilot experiment will explore the possibility of ‘mining’ from gas hydrates: cages of water ice that hold molecules of methane. Such hydrates exist under the sea floor and in sandstone deep beneath the Arctic tundra, holding potentially vast reserves of natural gas. But getting the gas out is tricky and expensive.
The test is to be run by the US Department of Energy (DOE), in conjunction with ConocoPhillips, an oil company based in Houston, Texas, and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation. The researchers will pump CO2 down a well in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, into a hydrate deposit. If all goes as planned, the CO2 molecules will exchange with the methane in the hydrates, leaving the water crystals intact and freeing the methane to flow up the well.