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Natural Gas Hydrates in Permafrost and Marine Settings: Resources, Properties, and Environmental Issues
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The objective of the Department of Energy (DOE)-U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Interagency Agreement (IA) is to provide world-class expertise and research in support of the goals of the 2005 Energy Act for National Methane Hydrates Research and Development (R&D); the DOE-led U.S. interagency roadmap for gas hydrates research; and elements of the USGS mission related to energy resources, global climate, and geohazards. This project extends USGS support to the DOE Methane Hydrate R&D program previously conducted under DE-AI26-05NT42496, DE-FE0002911, and DE-FE0023495


U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) - Reston, VA 20192


The USGS IA involves laboratory research and international field studies in which DOE/NETL has a significant interest. Geological and geophysical support for these efforts is critical to their success, and the USGS is uniquely qualified to provide this support. 

This IA is currently divided into six separate tasks. The primary objective of several tasks is to evaluate the production potential of the known gas hydrate accumulations on the North Slope of Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). 

To serve energy resource goals of the Methane Hydrates R&D program on the U.S. Atlantic margin, the USGS will evaluate the need to conduct additional seismic evaluation of upper slope, gas hydrates in the northern Atlantic Margin, and collaborate with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and other partners on determining potential sites for a future gas hydrates research drilling program. 

To develop a better understanding of gas hydrates, the USGS is conducting laboratory research to measure the properties of sediments containing synthetic hydrates using a range of experimental methods. The USGS also actively supports cooperative projects between the U.S. and international partners.


In the Arctic, the USGS has been involved for decades in geological and geophysical investigations that are helping scientists understand the full extent of the hydrate resource and the role of hydrates in high-latitude climate change. USGS research on marine hydrates is making important advances in our understanding of the occurrence and potential hazard of encountering subsurface gas hydrates during drilling in the northern Gulf of Mexico. This information will provide industry with better tools and data as oil and gas development moves into areas where gas hydrates could present potential hazards. USGS scientists are developing new tools and techniques in the laboratory to better understand the hydrate-bearing sediments. USGS and DOE scientists and engineers, along with industry, will work together to gain a better understanding of the nature and distribution of marine gas hydrates to develop this valuable resource.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)
  •  On-the-ground participation in Alaska North Slope (ANS) drilling, logging, and coring of the programs GeoData Well.
  • Lead sampling and analytical work conducted in the field on the ANS during pressure coring operations and further processing and preparing core in Salt Lake City (SLC).
  • Lead analyses conducted on geochemistry and biology samples obtained during the pressure coring operation and SLC effort.
  • Coordinated disbursement of gas hydrate, sediment, and pressure core samples from SLC to various labs in the U.S. and Japan.
  • Completed design and construction of pressure core permeability chamber capable of high (~25 MPa) effective stresses.
  • Completed measurements of rise velocities of free gas bubbles, and from bubbles with gas hydrate shells.
  • Completed measurement of gas transfer rates in methane gas hydrate-bearing sands exposed to gaseous nitrogen and CO2 (in collaboration with UT).
  • Initiated modifications to USGS pressure core handling and analysis systems to handle larger diameter core to be acquired during the Alaska hydrate test.
  • Completed acquisition and shipment of geochemical and microbiological sampling materials (for drill cuttings, flowed gases, and pore waters) to the Alaska North Slope.
  • Acquired and completed Department of Transportation testing and certification of 10 pressure core storage and transfer chambers for future use under Alaska hydrate project. 
  • Completed various measurements and analyses of GoM hydrate cores:
    • index properties (e.g., grain size, density, specific surface, and liquid/plastic limits) in preparation for consolidation and permeability studies
    • microbial DNA and RNA assessment of microbial communities and functionality in the seal and reservoir sediment
    • permeability anisotropy and mechanical property testing measurements (in collaboration with Georgia Tech) to constrain the permeability, compressibility, and strength at and above the in situ effective stress
    • sediment permeability anisotropy measurements
    • high-effective stress strength and compressibility measurements of reservoir and interbed sediment
    • measurements of the lithology differences between the reservoir and fine-grained interbed sediment
  • Completed analysis/release of MATRIX Seismic Data for the Mid-Atlantic margin.
  • Analyzed USGS legacy seismic data for New England Margin determining that collection of new data from the area was likely not required.

For recent accomplishments from the prior iteration of the IA please see the project summary for DE-FE0023495 .

Current Status

USGS researchers are now working on specialized analysis of a subset of ANS pressure cores transported back to USGS-Woods Hole and initiating laboratory testing of hydrate bearing sediment samples to better understand system behavior in preparation for planned ANS production testing. During Production testing on the ANS, USGS will coordinate the collection of gas and fluid samples and will lead efforts to perform geochemical, microbiological, and biogeochemical analyses on those samples.   In addition, the team expects to  finalize results of analyses on Gulf of Mexico hydrate cores from 2017 and continue planning and preparing for their lead role in the next GoM hydrate coring expedition and the post expedition shore based core processing planned for early summer 2023. 

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Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL – Richard Baker (
USGS – Carolyn Ruppel (

Additional Information