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UK R&D to improve methane hydrate analysis

19th March 2013

New partnership between NOC and ISVR seeks to enhance methods and technologies to quantify methane hydrate deposits, a potentially rich source of natural gas

UK R&D to help measure methane hydrates
Under the partnership, researchers will conduct studies on how to enhance the measurement of natural methane in several types of ocean floor sediments, such as sand and mud

A UK research centre and university are partnering up to look for new ways to improve geophysical remote sensing of frozen solid methane hydrates in ocean floor sediments. A form of natural methane, methane hydrates could become a promising source of natural gas.

The collaboration involves the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and the University of Southampton’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR), both recipients of a USD 1.2m grant from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Under the partnership, researchers will conduct studies on how to enhance the measurement of natural methane in several types of ocean floor sediments, such as sand and mud. This will include the development of a new acoustic tube instrument able to assess methane hydrate deposits and carry out acoustic and electrical properties experiments.

“Currently, there are only very broad estimates of the amount of seafloor methane and hydrate,” said project leader Dr Angus Best from NOC. “Improvements to geophysical remote sensing methods, especially acoustic methods, offer a way to better assess this important store of greenhouse gas.”

In the form of methane hydrate, natural methane is a potentially important energy resource. A recent pilot project off the Japanese coast successfully extracted natural gas from frozen methane hydrate. Other countries are also joining in, searching for new ways to explore this energy resource.