Drilling for gas hydrates

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BP Exploration (Alaska) and partners have successfully drilled a research well on Alaska’s North Slope to collect samples and gather knowledge about gas hydrate. Gas hydrate has been identified as a potential long-term unconventional gas energy resource.

The stratigraphic test well enabled BP and the US Department of Energy to gather core, log, reservoir performance and fluid data from an ice pad location at Milne Point. The drilling began on February 3. Field teams began pulling hydrate core samples on February 10. Extensive well logging and wireline formation testing was completed between February 14-18.

This test well is part of the ongoing research partnership between BP and the Department of Energy, which began in 2002.

Known deposits of methane hydrate in Alaska and other parts of the world are enormous. However, the challenge is finding the technology to unlock the energy, to separate the natural gas from the solid gas-water-ice "clathrate" in which it occurs.

The DOE has identified gas hydrate as a research target and funded the estimated $4.6m cost of drilling the Milne test well. BP contributed seismic data, staffing and program oversight. The on-site coring and data team included scientists from the US Geological Survey, DOE, Oregon State University and an observer from India's hydrate program.

Drilling crews and research team members collected about 430 feet of core samples. The cylindrical core segments, about three inches in diameter, were initially subsampled and analysed on site due to the time-and temperature-dependent data requirements. They will be shipped to Anchorage for temporary storage before being distributed to gas hydrate researchers around the country. Subsequent data collection and analysis will continue for several months. A report of findings will be released thereafter.