TOKYO -- The Japanese government will start testing technology to extract natural gas from a next-generation natural resource called methane hydrate as early as the autumn of 2016, seeking to establish a method for stable production.
The monthlong trial off the coasts of Aichi and Mie prefectures will follow a March 2013 test that resulted in the world's first successful extraction of methane hydrate from a seafloor.
The area is believed to hold enough methane hydrate reserves to fill a decade's worth of Japan's natural gas needs. The aim is to begin commercial production as early as fiscal 2023.
Methane hydrate, an icelike mass often dubbed fire ice, releases methane gas when it disintegrates. And when burned, methane gas releases only half as much carbon dioxide as coal and oil.
The 2013 effort extracted methane hydrate through a depressurization method -- in the form of methane gas and water -- from a seafloor for the first time in the world. That test, also off Aichi and Mie, produced a total of 120,000 cu. meters of methane gas. But it was cut short from the originally planned two weeks to six days due to sand contamination and other problems.
In the new test, a gas extraction well will be fortified with resin to prevent sand from mixing with the deposits. Researchers will also fine-tune the depressurization pace and prepare a spare well.