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Global Assessment of Methane Gas Hydrates
Project Number

The goal of this project is to develop a global assessment of methane gas hydrates that will facilitate informed decision-making regarding the potential development of gas hydrate resources between the scientific community and other stakeholders/decision makers. The Assessment will provide science-based information on the role of gas hydrates in natural climate change and the carbon cycle, their sensitivity to climate change, and the potential environmental and socio-economic impacts of hydrate production.


Stiftelsen GRID-Arendal, Arendal, Norway

Funding Institutions 
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
United States Department of Energy (USDOE)


Global reservoirs of methane gas have long been the topic of scientific discussion both as a natural force for climate change and a potential energy resource. Of particular interest are the volumes of methane locked away in formations containing frozen molecules known as clathrates or hydrates. The rapidly evolving scientific knowledge and technological development related to methane hydrates make these formations increasingly attractive for economic development. In addition, global demand for energy will continue to outpace supply for the foreseeable future, resulting in pressure to expand development activities that may have environmental and social impacts.

The intricate links between methane hydrates and their natural and anthropogenic contributions to climate change, their role in the carbon cycle (e.g., ocean chemistry), and the environmental and socio-economic impacts of extraction are key factors that must be considered when making decisions to promote sustainable development of this resource.

As policy makers, environmental organizations, and private sector interests seek to advance their respective agendas (which tend to be weighted toward applied research), a clear and imminent need has arisen for an authoritative source of accessible information on topics related to methane gas hydrates. The performer has extensive experience in providing environmental information, capacity building services, and innovative communication tools, methodologies, and products for information management and outreach.

This project will build on existing information to provide a multi-thematic overview of the key aspects of the current methane hydrate discussion for marine as well as for land-based arctic deposits. Content will be generated using a team-based approach. Teams will comprise relevant subject matter expert authors and consultants, with vetting of the planning, approach, and content conducted by expert work groups and steering committee(s) representing major global hydrate research groups and representatives from governments supporting gas hydrate research. The information collected will be made available through a dedicated hydrates web portal, an updateable electronic publication (e-book), and a limited print publication.


A global assessment of methane gas hydrates will provide science-based information that may be used by stakeholders and decision makers to evaluate the environmental and socio-economic impacts of hydrate development. A central, easily accessible repository of hydrate-related information will also be useful to researchers as they seek to determine critical hydrate research paths that may increase the efficiency and effectiveness of future research activities.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)
International Steering Committee at work
International Steering Committee at work

UNEP and Grid-Arendal completed their assessment of methane hydrates in December 2014. The assessment, entitled Frozen Heat: A Global Outlook on Methane Gas Hydrates is contained in two volumes and an Executive Summary. Links to the assessment are provided below under "Additional Information".

Researchers gave a presentation on the status of the project at the Arctic Frontiers meeting in Tromso, Norway in January 2012.

The content for volume one of the assessment (Methane Gas Hydrates in the Natural System) has been finalized and peer reviewed.

The peer reviewed executive summary has been is now finalized and is ready for inclusion into the assessment.

Steering Committee members met in July 2011 for a work session during the 7th ICGH conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. The main goal of the session was to agree to a roadmap for the final production of Book 1 and to scale down chapters and prioritize content in order to settle the maximum page limits as outlined early in the project.

The second meeting of the steering committee for the UNEP Global Outlook on Methane Gas Hydrates was held in Tokyo, Japan, on November 18–19, 2010. Committee members, including two researchers from NETL as well as leading researchers from Canada, Japan, Germany, Korea, India, and Norway, met to examine and assemble all material produced to date as a step toward producing the first draft of the content for the Assessment.

A thematic outline for the assessment was developed and the first drafts for most chapters in each of the assessment’s two volumes were completed. The first volume examines the settings and roles of methane hydrates in the natural system, including the history of hydrate science, with a basic definition of hydrates and an overview of their global distribution; a detailed review of the natural sources of methane, which expands on the role of hydrates in the global carbon cycle; the chemosynthetic ecosystems that are dependent on methane emissions and their sensitivities to fluctuations in the natural climate; and visual models depicting various scenarios of global warming and the associated impacts on hydrate reservoirs.

The focus changes In the second volume from natural systems to an examination of the human dimension and begins with an overview of the global energy resource challenges that have led to the possible development of hydrates as a resource. This volume details the different types of hydrate occurrences and the methods used to detect and define these occurrences; the technologies and challenges linked to the production of natural gas from hydrates; the various societal perspectives related to energy resource development in order to help shape policies for the potential future development of hydrates as a resource; and summarizes the main assessment points with respect to sound policy making.

The initial version of the project website is now available at [external site]. The site provides access to the project concept, partners, news and events.

Current Status

(March 2015) 
UNEP and Grid-Arendal completed their assessment of methane hydrates in December 2014. The assessment, entitled Frozen Heat: A Global Outlook on Methane Gas Hydrates is contained in two volumes and an Executive Summary. Volume one examines the settings and role methane hydrates in the natural system. Volume two changes focus from natural systems to the examination of the human dimensions of methane hydrates ranging from key technological aspects related to methane hydrates as a potential large scale source of natural gas, to the various societal and environmental issues surrounding their possible exploitation. Links to the assessment are provided below under "Additional Information".

Project Start
Project End
DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL – Skip Pratt ( or 304-285-4396) 
Stiftelsen GRID - Arendal - Dr. Yannick C. Beaudoin ( or 011-47-95-42-92-47)

Additional Information

Frozen Heat: A Global Outlook on Methane Hydrates

  • Volume 1—The role of gas hydrates in natural systems.
  • Volume 2—The potential impacts of gas hydrates as a possible new and global energy resource.
  • Executive Summary—A 32-page summary of the two-volume report.