Four developments in the last 10 years have both broadened and deepened interest in developing hydrates as a source of methane gas.
1. Much more is known about hydrate and their disposition because of the sudden rush of marine geological and geophysical research on continental slopes, where most of the oceanic hydrate appears to exist in significant concentrations. The greatest progress in gas-hydrate knowledge in the past five years has probably come from the results of the Ocean Drilling Project (ODP); especially from Leg 164, which took place in November/December, 1995, and is the only ODP major ocean drilling program (other than the drilling being carried out by the Japanese in their waters) devoted solely to the study and open dissemination of information relating to gas hydrate. The region of the Blake Ridge, where four holes were drilled, is considered to have very high concentrations of gas hydrate and to be a potential source of methane, especially where the hydrate concentrations occur in relatively shallow seafloor depths (Max and Dillon, 1998; 1999).
2. Even the most conservative estimates of oceanic hydrate volumes now acknowledge that the potential resource is very large, on the scale of double the volume of the energy content of all known hydrocarbons on Earth combined (Kvenvolden, 1993; this volume).
3. Government agencies (India, Japan, and the U.S. foremost) have developed hydrate research programs to recover methane from oceanic hydrates (Preface).
4. Much of the deep water drilling and gas and oil-handling technology that is required for hydrate recovery has been developed in industry's pursuit of conventional deep water liquid hydrocarbons during the past ten years. Industry is now drilling safely and recovering conventional hydrocarbons in water depths in which gas hydrate concentrations are known to exist (Max, 1999; Max and
Dillon, 2000). The technological base required to explore and develop hydrate has largely been paid for.
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