Who studies gas hydrates?

Currently, groups of scientists in the U.S., Canada, Norway, Great Britain and Japan are working to try to understand gas hydrates and the role it plays in the global climate and the future of fuels.

The USGS Gas Hydrates Project focuses on the study of natural gas hydrates in deepwater marine systems and permafrost areas. The primary goals are:

  • Evaluate methane hydrates as a potential energy source
  • Investigate the interaction between methane hydrate destabilization and climate change at short and long time scales, particularly in the Arctic
  • Study the spatial and temporal connections between submarine slope failures and gas hydrate dynamics

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Where are gas hydrates found?

Gas hydrates are found in sub-oceanic sediments in the polar regions (shallow water) and in continental slope sediments (deep water), where pressure and temperature conditions combine to make them stable. Image shows a map of the world with locations of gas hydrates marked Map showing locations where gas hydrate has been recovered, where gas hydrate...

How are gas hydrates studied?

Gas hydrates can be studied in the laboratory, where a machine is used to create the proper pressure and temperature conditions for hydrate formation, or it can be studied in situ using seismic data collected aboard ships and geophysical models. Learn more: USGS Gas Hydrates Lab

What are gas hydrates?

Gas hydrates are a crystalline solid formed of water and gas. It looks and acts much like ice, but it contains huge amounts of methane; it is known to occur on every continent; and it exists in huge quantities in marine sediments in a layer several hundred meters thick directly below the sea floor and in association with permafrost in the Arctic...
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Date published: September 10, 2019

USGS Estimates 53.8 Trillion Cubic Feet of Natural Gas Hydrate Resources in the Alaska North Slope

Access to 3D seismic mapping, along with a greater understanding of gas hydrate reservoir properties, yields estimates that are more precise.

Date published: April 26, 2019

Test Well Confirms Two Gas Hydrate Reservoirs in Alaska North Slope

In the far north of Alaska, near the giant Prudhoe Bay oil field, an international research consortium has been studying the potential of an altogether different energy source.  In late December of 2018, drilling operations confirmed the existence of two high-quality reservoirs that were fully saturated with a potential alternative fuel source: gas hydrate.

Date published: February 27, 2019

The interaction of climate change and methane hydrates is one of the Reviews of Geophysics' top rated articles!

According to Reviews of Geophysics this work received some of the highest count of citations amongst articles published between January 2017 and December 2018.

Date published: September 20, 2018

Seismic Research Cruise Provides New Data on U.S. Atlantic Margin Gas Hydrates

Data acquired by the U.S. Geological Survey on the U.S. Atlantic Margin in August 2018 reveal new information about the distribution of gas hydrates in the sector stretching from the upper continental slope to deep water areas offshore New Jersey to North Carolina.

Date published: March 8, 2018

Modern Perspective on Gas Hydrates

After lying hidden in sediments for thousands of years, delicate frozen gas structures are in the spotlight for both scientific research and the national interest. These structures, known as gas hydrate, are being investigated by scientists the world over for their possible contributions to the global energy mix, as well as their potential interaction with the environment.

Date published: October 18, 2017

EarthWord–Gas Hydrate

No, this EarthWord isn’t how natural gas quenches its thirst-it just sounds like it...

Date published: October 16, 2017

When Ice Yields Fire

When can ice yield fire? That’s the burning question at the heart of one of USGS’s longest-running research programs to date: the exploration of gas hydrates.

Date published: January 4, 2017

Exploring Gas Hydrates as a Future Energy Source

In the past decade, the development of the Barnett, Eagle Ford, Marcellus, and other shales has dominated the national consciousness regarding natural gas. But in Alaska, another form of natural gas has been the focus of research for decades—methane hydrate.

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Image shows two researchers analyzing gas hydrate cores
July 20, 2016

Scientists Analyzing Sediment Cores from Gas Hydrate Research

USGS Scientists Dr. William Waite (Right) and Dr. Pamela Swarzenski making measurements on sediment cores recovered from Indian Ocean during the National Gas Hydrate Program Expedition 02.

Image shows two scientists in hard hats collecting a research core aboard a drill rig
December 31, 2015

Collecting a Gas Hydrate Research Core from the Indian Ocean

Scientists aboard the D/S Chikyu prepare to collect a research core drilled from marine sediments in the Indian Ocean. This research is part of the 2015 Indian National Gas Hydrate Program Expedition 02 (NGHP-02), which is a follow-up to the 2006 NGHP-01. 

NGHP-02 identified several large deposits of potentially producible gas hydrates in the Indian

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video thumbnail: USGS Gas Hydrates Lab
April 30, 2012

USGS Gas Hydrates Lab

Gas hydrates are a significant potential energy source occurring in ocean-floor sediments at water depths greater than 500 meters and beneath Arctic permafrost. The USGS operates a gas hydrates laboratory on its Menlo Park campus. This video features USGS geophysicists Laura Stern and Steve Kirby who relate details on how they study and create gas hydrates in their super-

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Image shows a drill rig on a snowy landscape
December 31, 2007

Gas Hydrate Drill Rig at the Mt. Elbert Test Site in Alaska

A drill rig at the Mount Elbert test site in Alaska's North Slope, just west of Prudhoe Bay. USGS joined BP Exploration (Alaska) and the U.S. Department of Energy to drill a test well to study natural gas production from gas hydrate deposits. Read more about the Mt. Elbert project 

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Image shows a drill rig on a snowy landscape with the sun on the horizon
December 31, 2002

Gas Hydrate Drill Rig at the Mallik Test Site in Canada

A drill rig at the Mallik test site in Canada's Mckenzie Delta.  USGS joined the Geological Survey of Canada, JAPEX, and the Japanese National Oil Company to drill test wells for natural gas production from gas hydrate deposits. Read more about the Mallik project 

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Image: Gas Hydrates Research Project in Japan

Gas Hydrates Research Project in Japan

Scientists from AIST, JOGMEC, Georgia Tech, and the USGS prepare to analyze pressure cores as part of a multi-year gas hydrates research project in Japan. Left to right: Efthymios Papadopoulos (Georgia Tech), Yoshihiro Konno (AIST), and William Winters (USGS).

Image: 2013 Gas Hydrate Expedition in Gulf of Mexico

2013 Gas Hydrate Expedition in Gulf of Mexico

USGS technicians Jenny White and Tom O'Brien prepare lead weight to be added for proper ballasting of the seismic streamer on the fantail of the research vessel Pelican during a cruise to explore gas hydrates in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico from April to May, 2013.

Image: Gas Hydrates Research Project in Japan

Gas Hydrates Research Project in Japan

Scientists from AIST, JOGMEC, Georgia Tech, and the USGS prepare to analyze pressure cores as part of a multi-year gas hydrates research project in Japan. Front to back: Efthymios Papadopoulos (Georgia Tech), William Waite (USGS), and Yoshihiro Konno (AIST) analyze data from sensors inserted into hydrate-bearing pressure cores.

Image: 2013 Gas Hydrate Expedition in Gulf of Mexico

2013 Gas Hydrate Expedition in Gulf of Mexico

USGS co-chief scientist Seth Haines and technician Tom O’Brien work on data acquisition and analysis in the laboratory of the research vessel Pelican during a cruise to explore gas hydrates in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico from April to May, 2013.