This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

April 27, 2005

DOE and Oil Companies Search for Methane Hydrates in the Gulf

While DOE continues to develop energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, the hunt is also on for new sources of conventional fossil fuels such as natural gas. Literally, the hunt is on: In mid-April, DOE launched a semi-submersible drilling vessel in the Gulf of Mexico to seek out deep-water deposits of methane hydrate, an ice-like compound thought to exist in large quantities on deep ocean floors. Since the hydrates decompose readily to water and methane, the primary component of natural gas, these methane hydrate deposits are thought to hold potential as an immense energy source. In the near-term, however, the hydrates also pose a hazard to oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico. The current 35-day expedition will study and characterize methane hydrates at two deep-water sites on the Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf. A pair of wells, each 1,000 feet deep, will be drilled at each location, both of which are about 4,300 feet under the water. ChevronTexaco is leading the expedition in partnership with six other energy companies and DOE. See DOE's National Methane Hydrate R&D Program Web site.