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Goals and Research Themes for Environmental Impact Assessment Team


In order to provide scientific explanation concerning environmental impact from the development of methane hydrate that is a non-conventional resource and explore an offshore development system for minimizing the risks of environmental impacts, MH21 will carry out development activities concerning environmental impact assessment subsequent to Phase 1. Although the studies in environmental areas have been conducted by individual groups in the consortium so far, in Phase 2 and on, MH21 Research Consortium will conduct such study by gathering comprehensive and overall knowledge inside the consortium. Also, in order to provide comprehensive and neutral assessment on environmental impact of methane hydrate development, MH21 will construct a system for receiving consultations from external well-informed individuals and promote the research and development. At the same time, in order to show its accountabilities as the undertaker of the project, MH21 will publicize the obtained findings and knowledge in an active manner and promote to expedite the understanding toward the project.

Contents of the research and development

Based on the knowledge on conventional oil/natural gas resource development with considering the characteristics specific to methane hydrate development in deep-water shallow formation layers, MH21 will extract risks that may be imposed by methane hydrate offshore production tests and the offshore development system for commercialization, and conduct quantitative risk assessment through identifying the characteristics of such risks. Furthermore, based on results of the above studies, MH21 will develop a risk management plan including measures for reducing the impacts, countermeasures against risk manifestation, and so on.

MH21 Consortium will continue to study on developing measurement technology for environment for long-term and broad-area application in deep-water areas, including modifying the methane leakage sensor improved in Phase 1 into a unit capable of operation in the actual sea areas, in order to assess the environmental impact in offshore methane hydrate development. By combining devices to be developed and existing devices, MH21 will also proceed to develop a concept for measurement method for environment which is optimized for the environmental risks in relation to the offshore development system.

As a model case of assessing environmental impact accompanying development activities, MH21 will specifically assess the impacts imposed by offshore production tests. For that purpose, based on data obtained from the investigation of the seafloor environment and ecological system conducted during offshore production tests, MH21 will proceed to develop an environmental database, conduct preliminary environmental impact assessment, provide comprehensive evaluation of results of environmental monitoring during and after the tests, and publicize such results from time to time.

MH21 will continue to study long-term and overall impact on ocean and global environment by development of methane hydrate-bearing layers, including positive aspects, and continue information collection and evaluation for that purpose. In addition, MH21 will conduct a study to optimize assessment methods for the environmental impacts applicable to the offshore development system for commercial production of methane hydrate while considering economical feasibilities through comprehensive assessment of environmental impacts during offshore production tests.

Goals of Phase 2

Goal (FY 2011) Goal (FY 2015)
Research and Development concerning Environmental Impact Assessment
Analysis on environmental risks and examination of countermeasures against them
Complete the identification of the risks associated with offshore production tests. Understand the property of the risks associated with offshore production tests, and prepare a risk management plan for the possible risks. Based on two offshore production test results, complete the identification of commercial production risks, and propose countermeasures against the possible risks in commercial production.
Development of measurement technology for environment
Identify the necessary monitoring sensors, and plan for developing them. Establish the monitoring concept for offshore production tests, and prepare an optimal system accommodating the risks and the operation. Identify the necessary sensors for commercial production, and propose a concept for the optimal monitoring system accommodating the risks in commercial production.
Assessment of environmental impacts in offshore production tests
Conduct a preliminary assessment of the methane gas leakage, sediment deformation, etc. Based on the investigation of the seafloor environment and ecological system, estimate the environmental impacts and establish corresponding countermeasures by using a model. Prepare the environmental impact assessment procedure for offshore production tests, and conduct an internal assessment. Based on the evaluation of offshore production test results, evaluate the validity of the estimation method, and optimize the assessment method of environmental impacts for the offshore development system.
Comprehensive assessment of environment and optimization of assessment methods in methane hydrate development
Collect the latest information on the research related to methane hydrate, and study the environmental impact assessment. Based on the result of offshore production tests and the past achievements, propose an assessment procedure for the environmental impacts in the commercial production.