TOKYO, April 10 Japan's trade ministry said on
Monday it has begun preparations for a second production test to
extract methane gas from methane hydrate deposits offshore
Japan's central coast.
The test is the first since Japan achieved the world's first
extraction of gas in 2013 from offshore deposits of methane
hydrate, a frozen gas known as "flammable ice".
Japan, which imports nearly all of its energy sources, has
been aiming to launch private sector commercial production of
methane hydrates by between 2023 to 2027, but the goal will
still be a challenge as many obstacles remain to be solved,
officials at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)
Japan's government has budgeted around 20 billion yen ($180
million) for offshore production experiments, said Yuki
Sadamitsu, Director of the Oil and Gas Division at the trade
ministry's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.
Japan is the world's top importer of liquefied natural gas
(LNG) and the need for domestic gas resources has become greater
since the Fukushima nuclear crisis two years ago shut down most
of its nuclear power generation and sharply raised fossil fuel
imports such as LNG and coal.
METI said the production tests will be carried out by two
wells and will continue for a combined four to five weeks. The
first production well in 2013 ended abruptly in less than a week
due to problems with sand flowing into the well.
Methane hydrate is formed from a mixture of methane and
water under certain pressure and conditions. Governments
including India, Canada, the United States and China are also
looking at exploiting hydrate deposits as an alternative source
of energy, Sadamitsu said.
In 2008, Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp (JOGMEC)
successfully demonstrated a nearly six-day continuous period of
onshore production of methane gas from hydrate reserves held
deep in the permafrost in Canada.
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, equal to about 11 years of Japanese gas consumption.
($1 = 111.4300 yen)
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Christian