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About the Project
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) funding for a project to drill, sample, and analyze deposits of frozen methane under the Gulf of Mexico that hold enormous potential to increase the world’s energy supply.
The agreement includes roughly $54.2 million in DOE funding and $26.7 million from industry and research partners.
The grant is allowing researchers to advance scientific understanding of methane hydrate, a substance found in abundance beneath the ocean floor. In addition to UTIG, the study includes researchers from The Ohio State University, Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Estimates vary on the amount of energy that could be produced from methane hydrate worldwide, but the potential is huge.
In the Gulf of Mexico, where the team will be sampling, there is estimated to be about 7,000 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of methane in sand-dominated reservoirs located near the seafloor. For comparison, the United States used about 26 tcf of natural gas in 2013. So, methane hydrates have the potential to contribute to long-term energy security within the United States and abroad.
Data gathered during the six-year project will help scientists to more accurately estimate the occurrence and distribution of marine hydrates and lay the groundwork for future production efforts.