The Energy Department said 14 research projects in 11 states would examine the use of methane hydrates as a potential source of energy with the support of $5.6 million in funding.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said similar investments in the 1970s and '80s helped develop technology that has made the United States among the world leaders in natural gas production.
The funding would help researchers examine ways to produce gas hydrates safely in a deep-water setting.
ConocoPhillips and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. in May worked on a small-scale research project to extract natural gas from methane hydrates, ice structures that form under permafrost and deep underwater.
Scientists working on the North Slope of Alaska had injected a mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen into ice formations and found the mixture worked to promote the release of natural gas. The Energy Department said the CO2 method was the first field trial of its kind.