U.S. explores gas potential in ice

May 3, 2012 at 9:09 AM
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WASHINGTON, May 3 (UPI) -- The U.S. Energy Department said it teamed with U.S. and Japanese companies to extract natural gas from arctic ice structures in the North Slope of Alaska.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced ConocoPhillips and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. worked on a small-scale research project to extract natural gas from methane hydrates, ice structures found under permafrost.

"While this is just the beginning, this research could potentially yield significant new supplies of natural gas," Chu said in a statement.

Scientists working on the North Slope 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.

Chu said the Energy Department made $6.5 million in funding available to investigate the potential for natural gas from methane hydrate formations. Another $5 million was requested for the next fiscal year.

The Energy Department said it would take several years before the technology finds its way into commercial natural gas production.

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