AIST Stories No2

22From AIST to the Innovative WorldWill Japan become an energy resource-rich country?In March 2013, a marine production test for methane hydrate was conducted for the first time in the world in the area of the Eastern Nankai Trough offshore from Japan’s Atsumi Peninsula and Shima Peninsula. The depressurization method*1 developed by AIST was employed and production of 120,000 m3 of natural gas was verified over a six-day period. This indicates the potential for future commercial production. National broadcaster NHK as well as major newspapers and trade publications reported the findings of the test, which also came under the global spotlight. Amid fears of petroleum resources being exhausted, there are great expectations for methane hydrate as a new natural gas resource.Methane hydrate exists in large quantities in sea areas adjacent to Japan: reserves located in the Eastern Nankai Trough region are estimated to be equivalent to 11 years of natural gas consumption in Japan. This is of major significance for Japan, which is heavily reliant on imports of energy resources. If methane hydrate can be utilized as an energy resource, such a resource could be securely guaranteed for the long term; on this account, not only would it result in lower natural gas prices and improvement in the trade balance, but Japan’s diplomatic stance could also change. Producing gas from solid methane hydrate“However, it is not easy to produce natural gas from methane hydrate. As opposed to conventional natural gas, which exists in gaseous form in the earth, methane hydrate does not gush forth even if a well is drilled. There are many issues that remain to be resolved in terms of how efficiently it can be produced from the seabed, thereby enabling commercial production,” says Research Center Director Hideo Narita.Currently, production technologies are being developed by various countries as national projects. Japan initiated its Methane Hydrates R&D Program under the auspices of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 2001. As a ▲Indications of dense concentrations in sea areas adjacent to Japan.Source: Research Consortium for Methane Hydrate Resources in JapanA new energy resource drawing attention“Fiery ice” laying under the seabedThe promise of methane hydrateDevelopment given impetus through world-first offshore production test!Methane Hydrate Research CenterMap of methane hydrate distribution around JapanVast quantities of methane hydrate are known to exist in sea area surrounding Japan; it is hoped that this substance will be a new energy source for resource-poor Japan. If progress is made in resource development and methane hydrate can be utilized as energy, then the energy situation for Japan will change dramatically. It would also likely lead to increased energy security.BSR (based on detailed surveys, concentrated bands exist in some sea areas) approx. 5000 km2BSR (features suggesting concentrated bands recognized in some sea areas) approx. 61,000 km2BSR (no features suggesting concentrated bands) approx. 20,000 km2BSR (survey data lacking) approx. 36,000 km2BSR area: Approx. 122,000 km2AIST in present day living! Our life and society will change in this way!Latest BSR (Bottom Simulating-Reflector) distribution (2009)