Gas Hydrates Project Overview
Project personnel lead and participate in major field programs, conduct laboratory analyses, build numerical models, process logging and seismic data sets, and maintain databases to advance understanding of natural gas hydrate systems. Expertise includes reservoir geology, geophysics, biogeochemistry and organic chemistry, geotechnical engineering, downhole logging, and scanning electron microscopy.
Gas Hydrates Primer
Gas hydrate is an ice like substance formed when methane or some other gases combine with water at appropriate pressure and temperature conditions. Gas hydrates sequester large amounts of methane and are widespread in marine sediments and sediments of permafrost areas. This primer addresses some of the basics of methane hydrates.
Natural gas production from methane hydrates may someday prove viable. The USGS Gas Hydrate Project takes part in US and international programs to investigate the potential of deepwater marine and permafrost gas hydrates as an energy resource. Long-term production tests are the next step in this research.
Breakdown of gas hydrates due to short- or long-term climate change may release methane to the ocean-atmosphere system. Methane that reaches the atmosphere can in turn exacerbate climate warming. Studies of methane hydrate dynamics and methane release on the continental shelf and upper slope in the US Arctic and Atlantic margin are tracking these processes.
The failure of submarine slopes has long been linked spatially to the occurrence of hydrate- or gas-charged sediments and temporally to climate perturbations that destabilize gas hydrate zones. Submarine slides on the US Beaufort Sea margin and at Cape Fear and Storegga have been studied to examine these links.
Building on the legacy of the GHASTLI high-pressure hydrate apparatus, the laboratory program focuses on understanding natural mechanisms for hydrate formation in sediments, measuring the physical properties of recovered pressure cores using the IPTC, conducting occasional single crystal experiments, and imaging natural hydrates with scanning electron microscopy.
Database of Worldwide Gas Hydrates
The USGS Gas Hydrates Project has long maintained informal databases of global gas hydrate occurrences. In 2011, an effort was initiated to formalize the database activity. Our goal is to develop a database with full, traceable referencing to published reports, as well as information about the location, depth, and type of gas hydrate occurrence.
Widespread methane seepage from the seafloor on the northern US Atlantic margin. Nature Geoscience
Current perspectives on gas hydrate resources. Energy and Environmental Science
Methane hydrate-bearing seeps as a source of aged dissolved organic carbon to the oceans. Nature Geoscience
Methane Hydrates and Contemporary Climate Change. Nature Education Knowledge
Inter-laboratory comparison of wave velocity measurements in a sand under hydrate-bearing and other set condition. 7th International Conference on Gas Hydrates, Edinburgh, Scotland
New United Nations Report on Gas Hydrates Draws Heavily from USGS Expertise. USGS Newsroom (March 2015)
Why We Should Be Paying More Attention to Methane. Read more and listen to the interview at NPR News.
Arctic Methane Bubbles Not As Foreboding As Once Feared. Read more at NPR News.
Unlocking the Potential of ‘Flammable Ice’. Read the full article in the New York Times
Seismic-Imaging Research Cruise Investigates Deepwater Gas Hydrate Deposits in the Gulf of Mexico. Read more in Sound Waves
Technical Announcement: New Insight on Gas Hydrates in Gulf of Mexico. USGS Newsroom (May 2013)
It Looks Like Ice, Burns Cleaner Than Coal & May Be Our Next Best Bet. Can methane hydrate solve our fossil fuel problems? Now This News (April 2013)
Could Tapping Undersea Methane Lead To A New Gas Boom? NPR News (March 2013)
Top Story on usgs.gov: Groundbreaking Gas Hydrate Research (February 2013)
An Arctic Climate Catastrophe? PRI's The World (November 2012)
USGS Gas Hydrates Lab. Video of burning gas hydrate (May 2012)
Methane Hydrates: Fire and Ice. Living on Earth (March 2012)