Methane Hydrates Accelerated Research Initiative
The Naval Research Laboratory (N.R.L.) is conducting a broadly based research program to study the dissociation and creation of methane hydrates, an ice like material composed of methane gas locked in a cage formed by water. The program is called an Accelerated Research Initiative to denote the Laboratory's belief that the knowledge base and technology exist at a level where major strides can be made in our understanding the role of methane hydrates in the marine environment by focusing a significant effort on this subject over the next five years. Methane Hydrates are ubiquitous; current distribution maps show that they are found along most continental margins. Because investigations to resolve methane hydrates have not been done in all localities where they are likely to occur, the following distribution map should be considered an indication of the minimal worldwide distribution of methane hydrates.
Why are Methane Hydrates important? From a geotechnical perspective, there is evidence that methane hydrates are associated with seafloor instability. From a geoacoustics perspective, there are indications that methane hydrates can produce acoustic scattering and acoustic propagation anomalies that could adversely impact Navy acoustic systems. Both of these issues are discussed within the "Research Issues" link. Methane hydrates also represent a potential new source of energy, especially for countries that lack conventional hydrocarbon reserves. This issue is addressed in the "Background" link.
To increase our understanding of the role methane hydrates play in the marine environment, N.R.L. scientists have studied methane hydrates off the East Coast of the United States (Blake Ridge), on the Cascadia Margin (off Vancouver Island), in the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Nankai Trough off Japan. Results from this work and a description of unique instrumentation developed at N.R.L. that are being used to further our understanding of role methane hydrates play in the marine environment are discussed in the pages available through the links located in the frame on the left.
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Hydrates ARI contact