Japan plans viable methane hydrate technology by 2018

Kyodo

Japan hopes to develop commercially viable technology for exploiting seabed methane hydrate, viewed as a next-generation energy source, by fiscal 2018, according to a draft new basic ocean policy plan made available Wednesday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government wants to formalize the plan next month, believing tapping marine resources should be a pillar of the country’s growth strategy, a government source said.

Methane hydrate, an icelike substance consisting of methane gas trapped in ice below the seabed, is believed to exist around Japan, with deposits estimated to be sufficient to cover domestic consumption of natural gas for about 100 years.

The draft plan would have the private sector start commercializing methane hydrate development between 2023 and 2029, and the government would also study the extent of rare earth reserves within around three years.

The government will help Japanese firms take part in large-scale projects in the marine industry, especially drilling for oil and natural gas, to ensure the ventures are internationally competitive.

With an eye to expanding resource development far from mainland Japan, the government will also create refueling and transport bases on the far eastern island of Minamitori and southern outcropping of Okinotori.

The plan also calls for the government to beef up information-gathering pertaining to remote islands, on the back of China’s recent incursions in waters near the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. China also claims the uninhabited islets.

Japan will also speed up technological development of renewable energy sources in the sea, pursuing research on the operation of one of the world’s largest floating wind generators, according to the draft plan. The equipment would be placed off Fukushima Prefecture.

The government is working on renewing the current first basic plan, which was drawn up in 2008, because the Basic Act on Ocean Policy requires a revision every five years.