The Japanese government has revealed that its Japan Oil, Gas, and Metals National Corp. has dispatched a mining ship that will begin the world’s first offshore test to excavate methane hydrate from the seabed. As a potential new energy source, the search for methane hydrate will take place in the eastern Nankai Trough, roughly 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) off Aichi Prefecture‘s Atsumi Peninsula, in central Japan.
The oil, gas, and metal company’s deep-sea drilling ship Chikyu set sail last week for an offshore well that drilled last year. Measuring 1,000 meters (0.6 miles) deep, the well reaches a 300 meter (980 feet) layer of methane hydrate under the seabed, where the testing is to take place. Also known as “burning ice,” there has been much attention on methane hydrate as a new plentiful natural fuel resource.
The next step will involve inserting a large pipe down into the well in order to separate methane hydrate into methane gas and water. If everything goes smoothly, and there are no delays in scheduling, the extraction will begin in March seeing the removal of as much as 10,000 cubic meters of gas per day over a two-week period. Estimates say that Japan’s coastal waters hold nearly 100 times the amount of natural gas that the country uses per year, and the government’s Industry Ministry plans to eventually survey the Sea of Japan for methane hydrate.