Finding gas hydrates to be a controversial, polarizing subject, the SBC Energy Institute (SBC-EI) developed a fact-based report, presenting: the key concepts; the status of exploration and production technologies; the status of research, development and demonstration (R,D&D); and the environmental and safety challenges associated with the potential exploitation of this resource. In addition to leveraging the long involvement of Schlumberger in gas hydrates R,D&D, the SBC-EI performed a literature review and engaged experts in the gas-hydrate field. The SBC-EI also analyzed patents from 50 offices worldwide, using the Thomson Derwent World Patents Index, and conducted a survey of gas-hydrate stakeholders to present the state of R,D&D and a faithful picture of current thinking among academics and industry players involved in the field. Among various types of deposits, gas hydrates hosted in sand-dominated sediments both within permafrost and offshore stand out as the only resources that may be recovered in the near term. Contrary to common belief, these deposits can largely be identified using existing exploration technologies, with small adjustments. Stakeholders widely agree that depressurization is the best technology for producing gas hydrates from sand reservoirs, whereas interest in CO2-CH4-exchange production techniques have lost momentum. Nevertheless, gas-hydrate exploration and production raise significant technical challenges that, unresolved, could undermine the resource's commercial viability. R,D&D remains a vital part of assessing the potential and economic viability of gas hydrates, and of addressing environmental and safety concerns. It is unlikely that gas hydrates will become competitive in gas-rich areas. But there is a much stronger possibility of commercial development in energy-deficient regions such as Asia, where gas-hydrate projects could alleviate energy-security concerns and strenghten energy independence. This would have revolutionary consequences for the energy sector. However, before this is possible, long-duration production tests are required. Japan is leading the way in this area and is aiming to achieve commercial operation by the end of the decade. This paper provides a fact-based review of existing knowledge on gas hydrates as a potential energy source. It is supported by two innovative analyses: (i) a comprehensive survey of gas-hydrate experts; and (ii) an in-depth examination of worldwide patents of gas-hydrate technologies.

You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.