IEA boss: methane hydrates may be the next energy boom.

FT: “Forget the shale gas revolution that has transformed North America’s energy landscape. The energy of the future could lie buried deep underneath the world’s oceans and the Arctic permafrost: giant reservoirs of gas trapped in ice crystals.”
“Sometimes called flammable ice, these methane hydrates also hold out the potential to alter trade flows and the geopolitics of energy. Countries such as Japan and India, which rely heavily on energy imports, could suddenly find themselves important energy suppliers. Late last year, China announced it had identified a big gas hydrate reserve in the northern part of the South China Sea.
It is very early days. Test drillings have so far taken place only in Canada and Japan, but the International Energy Agency, the western world’s energy watchdog, does not rule out the possibility of another energy revolution to rival that of the shale boom in North America.
Maria van der Hoeven, the IEA’s executive director, said in an interview last year: “There may be other surprises in store. For example, the methane hydrates off the coasts of Japan and Canada … This is still at a very early stage. But shale gas was in the same position 10 year ago. So we cannot rule out that new revolutions may take place through technological developments.”
….To extract the gas last March, the Japanese team used conventional methods. These involved first lowering a drill about 1,000m to the bottom of the Nankai Trough. They then had to drill another 300m into the rock, drain the water out of the hydrate layer to lower the pressure in the deposit and free the methane gas which was then pumped to the surface.
Nevertheless, more work needs to be done. Researchers in Japan hope to develop production technology that achieves controlled release of the methane from the ice into the production well, thereby minimising the risk of gas escaping into the atmosphere.
Japan has set itself the target of bringing methane hydrates into the mainstream by the early 2020s.”