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Japan finds 40 trillion cubic feet of gas hydrate reserves

Japan's government said an offshore field in the Pacific Ocean holds an estimated 40 trillion cubic feet of frozen natural gas, equivalent to the country's gas demand for about 14 years.

The gas, in methane hydrate deposits, lies under the seabed of eastern Nankai Trough area, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) offshore, the trade ministry said in a statement today. Japan launched a 16-year project in 2001 to develop technologies to extract gas from the methane hydrate deposits lying under the seabed, to reduce its dependence on Saudi Arabia, Iran and Indonesia for oil and gas. Methane hydrate will help the country gain access to energy supply, the government said. The figure includes reserves of recoverable and unrecoverable gas in natural methane hydrate in the area, the statement said. State-run Japan Oil, Gas & Metals Corp. assessed the 5,000 square-kilometer area as part of the project to siphon gas from the hydrate, or gas crystals. Japan's natural gas consumption rose 3.3% to 81 billion cubic meters, or 2.9 trillion cubic feet, of natural gas in 2005, according to the trade ministry. The country, relying on imports from Indonesia, Qatar, and Australia, produced 3.1 billion cubic meters of gas that year, according to data compiled by the trade ministry. Japan Oil, Gas & Metals said on February 27 it will start test production of gas in Canada's permafrost area this month. In the test production with the Canadian government, the company plans to use a depressurizing method, where icy gas crystals are returned to gas form inside a drilled hole. Methane hydrate has to be depressurized or heated to be turned into gaseous form. Japan probably has several areas that have gas crystals under the ocean floor, such as the western part of the Nankai Trough and the areas near Sado Island in the Sea of Japan, according to the document distributed at the trade ministry's methane hydrate research committee meeting in Tokyo today. (Bloomberg)