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Japan to Begin Test Production for Frozen Gas Locked in Seabed

Japan, which has almost no natural energy resources of its own, will begin the world’s first offshore drilling operation this week to extract frozen natural gas locked under the seabed.

Japan Oil, Gas & Metals National Corp., known as JOGMEC, and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology will begin test production for methane hydrate as soon as today in the Nankai Trough about 50 kilometers (31 miles) off the coast of the country’s main island of Honshu, the trade and industry ministry said in a statement.

Deposits of methane hydrate, known as “burnable ice,” could provide Japan with a “next-generation source of clean energy” and may be large enough to supply the country’s natural gas needs for about 100 years, according to JOGMEC. The government plans to develop technology to enable commercial use of methane hydrate by fiscal 2018, according to the agency.

The two-week trial will use a depressurization method in which icy gas crystals are returned to gaseous form inside a drilled hole, the trade and industry ministry said in the statement. Japan and Canada used the same technology to successfully extract gas from methane hydrate stored in permafrost found in northern Canada in a joint project running from 2007 to 2008, according to the statement.

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