Basic Policy and Research System for Phase 2

Approach for Phase 2

In Phase 1, as a result of the detailed investigation of the model sea area of the eastern Nankai Trough, MH21 has located the methane hydrate concentrated zones with a high saturation of methane hydrate deposited in pore spaces of sand layers in alternation of sand and mud, and figured out the amounts of original methane gas in place in the methane hydrate-bearing layers in that sea area. Furthermore, MH21 has confirmed through laboratory experiments and simulation that the depressurization method works well as the optimal production method for the methane hydrate-bearing layers in the eastern Nankai Trough, and also verified the validity of the method through onshore gas hydrate production tests. These results indicate the potential of methane gas in methane hydrate-bearing layers off the coast of Japan to become energy resources.

In Phase 2, recognizing the technical issues identified at the end of Phase 1, MH21 will evaluate the potential of methane gas in methane hydrate-bearing layers as an energy resource with higher reliability through research and development efforts including offshore production tests off the coast of Japan while extracting technical issues required to be addressed required for development of technologies to enable commercial development of the methane hydrate-bearing layers. Additionally, production tests may be implemented in a scale closer to cases of commercial production, depending on circumstances, via joint efforts of the public and private sectors in Phase 3, the final phase of the “Japan’s Methane Hydrate R&D Program” developed by the METI while technologies for commercialization will be developed through presentation of measures for tackling technical issues and evaluation of cost-effectiveness.

Note that, in Phase 2, given that the project scale is huge compared to Phase 1 as exemplified by the implementation of offshore production tests, a greater number of practical challenges will be involved. Therefore, MH21 will build an implementation system via cooperation with the industry, academic and administrative entities such as the previous one, and aim to further deepen ties with companies developing oil and gas. In addition, MH21 will promote a range of publicity activities aimed at the general public so that the project will proceed with support of the people.

Goals of Phase 2

Phase 2 are aimed at accomplishing the following five goals.

  1. Verification of the production method through implementation of offshore production tests and extraction of technical challenges for commercial production
  2. Recommendation of economical and efficient recovery methods
  3. Evaluation of methane hydrate distribution off the coast of Japan
  4. Recommendation of environmental assessment methods through offshore production tests
  5. Recommendation of the potential for safe and economical development options for methane hydrate-bearing layers off the coast of Japan

Research Themes for Phase 2

In order to accomplish the goals of Phase 2, MH21 set out the following research areas and work on the research and development themes. For details, see “Goals and Research Themes for each group”

Research concerning Field Development Technology

  • Implementation of offshore production tests
  • Characterization of methane hydrate resource field
  • Investigation of the offshore development system
  • Analysis of the second onshore gas hydrate production test and implementation of long-term tests

Research concerning Production Method Development

  • Development of technology for advanced production method
  • Development of evaluation technology for productivity and production behaviors
  • Development of evaluation technology for sedimentary characteristics

Research concerning Resources Assessment

  • Evaluation of methane hydrate resources off the coast of Japan
  • Investigation of the methane hydrate system

Research concerning Environmental Impact Assessment

  • Environmental risk analysis and investigation of countermeasures
  • Development of environmental measurement technology
  • Environmental impact assessment in offshore production tests
  • Comprehensive environmental assessment in methane hydrate development

Assessment of Economic Potential

Other Challenges

  • Promotion of international cooperation

Period of Phase 2

The period for implementing Phase 2 extends for seven years from FY 2009 through FY 2015 as the METI’s policy.

Out of the period, the first half of Phase 2 (from FY 2009 to FY 2011) is for preparation for offshore production tests and implementation of onshore gas hydrate production tests through international cooperation. The outcomes of these tests are subject to project evaluation by the METI scheduled in FY 2011 (at the mid-term of Phase 2).

In the latter half of Phase 2 (from FY 2012 to FY 2015) is for offshore production tests (two instances) and the outcome of these tests are subject to project evaluation by the METI scheduled in FY 2015 (at the end of Phase 2).

Research Structure for Phase 2

For implementing Phase 2 of the project, two parties, Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation(JOGMEC) and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology(AIST) will form a new consortium named Research Consortium for Methane Hydrate Resources in Japan (MH21 Research Consortium) under the initiative of the project leader, Dr. Yoshihiro Masuda, Associate Professor of University of Tokyo to conduct the researches. Note that this consortium is named after the previous one for Phase 1, considering the existing recognition.

Under the MH21 Research Consortium, four groups are set up, besides the steering committee functioning as a decision-making organ, for promoting research and development (namely, Group of Administrative Coordination, Research Group for Field Development Technology, Research Group for Production Method and Modeling, and Research Group for Resources Assessment). As for research concerning environmental impact, the entire organization of the MH21 Research Consortium will be engaged in it under the control of the Group of Administrative Coordination as the importance of that area is to increase in Phase 2 in which offshore production tests are expected. Furthermore, a structure will be created for seeking advice of external informed individuals as research and development proceed.

The planning, operation, publicity and other affairs within the MH21 Research Consortium are entrusted with the Group of Administrative Coordination. Additionally, the Group of Administrative Coordination will be in charge of studies concerning environmental impact as well as supervision of economic potential evaluation. Moreover, in order to encourage open exchanges of opinions among engineers, technical meetings are to be held within the MH21 Research Consortium.