TOKYO, March 12 A Japanese energy explorer said
on Tuesday it extracted gas from offshore methane hydrate
deposits for the first time in the world, as part of an attempt
to achieve commercial production within six years.
Since 2001, Japan, which imports nearly all of its energy
needs, has invested several hundred million dollars in
developing technology to tap methane hydrate reserves off its
coast that are estimated to be equal to about 11 years of gas
State-run Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp (JOGMEC)
said the gas was tapped from deposits of methane hydrate, a
frozen gas known as "flammable ice", near Japan's central coast.
Japan is the world's top importer of liquefied natural gas
and the lure of domestic gas resources has become greater since
the Fukushima nuclear crisis two years ago triggered a shake-up
of the country's energy sector.
Japan's trade ministry said the production tests will
continue for about two weeks, followed by analysis on how much
gas was produced.
Methane is a major component of natural gas and governments
including Canada, the United States, Norway and China are also
looking at exploiting hydrate deposits as an alternative source
Japan used depressurisation to turn methane hydrate to
methane gas, a process thought by the government to be more
effective than using the hot water circulation method the
country had tested successfully in 2002.
In 2008, JOGMEC successfully demonstrated for the first time
a nearly six-day continuous period of production of methane gas
from hydrate reserves held deep in permafrost in Canada, using
the depressurisation method.
Methane hydrate, is formed from a mixture of methane and
water under certain pressure and conditions.
A Japanese study has estimated the existence of at least 40
trillion cubic feet (1.1 trillion cubic metres) of methane
hydrates in the eastern Nankai Trough off the country's Pacific
coast, about 11 years of Japanese gas consumption.
Japan's LNG imports hit a record 87.3 million tonnes last
year after Japan shut down most of its nuclear power plants
following the Fukushima nuclear disaster two years ago.
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and