Preparatory drilling for methane hydrate off Aichi coast set to start


Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. was to possibly start preparatory drilling for seabed methane hydrate Tuesday evening off Aichi Prefecture, its officials said.

A deep-sea drilling vessel from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology was preparing to start drilling in waters about 1,000 meters deep 70 to 80 km south of the Atsumi Peninsula near Nagoya, the officials said.

JOGMEC plans to launch methane hydrate production tests from January through March 2013, and if the corporation is successful it would be the world’s first seabed methane extraction.

Methane hydrate deposits at the drilling site off Aichi are estimated at around 1 trillion cu. meters, equivalent to more than 10 years of Japan’s natural gas consumption.

Methane hydrate, a sherbetlike substance consisting of methane gas trapped in ice below the seabed or permanently frozen ground, is viewed as a promising next-generation energy source.

The state-controlled JOGMEC, tasked with funding the development of oil, gas and metal resources, originally planned to launch the drilling by 9 a.m. Tuesday but postponed it following a delay in preparatory work.

The agency vessel Chikyu, the Japanese word for Earth, will drill about 260 meters below the seabed and create four wells.

One will be used for methane hydrate production tests, and the others will help monitor possible changes in the environment, including temperature.

The Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture-based agency said the Chikyu is capable of drilling into the sea floor at a depth of up to 7,000 meters.