Japan's New Natural Gas Development Makes World Headlines

For the first time, methane gas has been produced from undersea methane hydrate off the country’s coastline by Tokyo-based Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation.

News media around the world picked up the story March 12 after Tokyo-based Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) announced it had successfully produced methane gas from undersea methane hydrate. The company's announcement said it will start analyzing the data as its flow test continues, and it asked that, for safety reasons, no one come within 1 nautical mile of the deep sea drilling ship, the Chikyu, that is flaring gas produced by the test off the Atsumi Peninsula.

Seismic surveys and exploratory wells completed in FY2001 through 2008 confirmed the methane hydrate deposits, and work then began to develop a technology to extract the natural gas. Japan is the first country to achieve this; production should begin by FY2019, Asahi Shimbun Staff Writer Mari Fujisaki reported March 12.

Her report says the test has produced gas from a deposit 330 meters beneath the seabed at a depth of 1,000 meters. It says deposits around Japan are estimated to hold enough methane hydrate to produce as much natural gas as Japan consumes in a century. Development of the gas is considered crucial because all but two of the country's nuclear power plants remain shuttered following the Fukushima Daiichi plant's meltdowns two years ago, following a major earthquake and tsunami that crippled its power supply.

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