Japan and the United States agreed Thursday to launch joint research into the development of methane hydrate, an energy source also known as burning ice.

Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. signed a memorandum of understanding in Tokyo with the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the U.S. Energy Department.

In a five-year program in northern Alaska starting in 2015, they will conduct joint research into mining technology that may lead to commercial production of the next-generation energy source.

The document was signed by JOGMEC President Hirobumi Kawano and Christopher Smith, principal deputy assistant secretary for fossil energy at the U.S. department.

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yoichi Miyazawa and U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy were also present.