In 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), in partnership with the Consortium for Ocean Leadership (COL), initiated a new field-focused methane hydrate research planning effort that would inform, and potentially lead to, future off shore drilling field expeditions. The primary objective of this project was to conduct planning that would help define and enable future scientific ocean drilling efforts to characterize methane hydrate deposits along the U.S. continental margin. To this end, COL and the USGS led an effort to identify the range of scientific questions and unknowns that need to be addressed within hydrate science and worked with the methane hydrate research community to solicit input and develop a comprehensive Marine Methane Hydrate Field Research Plan
To implement and help guide this effort, COL assembled a Methane Hydrate Project Science Team that was led by the USGS and consisted of representatives from academia, industry, and government who steered this effort from start to completion. Two of the major elements of this science planning effort designed to provide the foundation for the Marine Methane Hydrate Field Research Plan was (1) the authoring of a Historical Methane Hydrate Project Review Report, and (2) the hosting of a Methane Hydrate Community Workshop.
The Historical Methane Hydrate Project Review Report was posted on the Consortium for Ocean Leadership website in the Spring of 2013 and was used as a guide to develop the agenda for the Methane Hydrate Community Workshop and provide the foundation for the Marine Methane Hydrate Field Research Plan.
The Methane Hydrate Community Workshop was convened in Washington, D.C., on June 4–6, 2013, with the goal of obtaining input from a broad section of the hydrate scientific community. The workshop focused on identifying and assessing specific scientific challenges that must be addressed to advance our understanding of methane hydrates and how these challenges could be resolved with the support of scientific drilling. One of the key workshop goals was the consideration and the potential proposal of scientific drilling expeditions that would address a particular methane hydrate science challenge or a range of challenges. The results of the workshop were captured in the Methane Hydrate Community Workshop Report and posted on the Consortium for Ocean Leadership project website.
The Marine Methane Hydrate Field Research Plan begins with a summary of our present understanding of the geologic controls on the occurrence of methane hydrates in nature and an evaluation of the potential role of methane hydrates as an energy resource, as a geohazard, and as a contributor to global climate change. The main body of the Plan describes the most important scientific and technical challenges facing hydrate researchers today. This section is followed by details of scientific drilling programs that address the outstanding challenges. The Plan also outlines educational and public outreach opportunities for supporting the growing public interest in methane hydrates. The Plan concludes with specific project planning recommendations to advance our understanding of methane hydrates in nature.