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The government plans to start trial drilling in 2012 to extract frozen methane hydrate buried under the seabed to test if the natural gas is a viable next-generation fuel.

The trial will take place in an ocean trench called the Nankai Trough about 50 km off the coast of Honshu, according to a document distributed Tuesday at a Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry panel meeting. The government will extend its 16-year methane-hydrate project by two years to find out if the fuel is commercially viable.

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