Natural gas hydrate production
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The concept which led to the establishment of the research in natural gas hydrate production, was born by Dr. Robert Amin (currently Professor of Petroleum Engineering at Curtin University and Chair of the Woodside Research Foundation) and Alan Jackson of Woodside Energy. The intended research in this field is to establish the viability of utilizing a synthesised natural gas hydrate as a means to allow a cheaper form of transportation of natural gas from the wellhead to the customer in direct competition with liquefied natural gas (LNG). Natural gas exists in ice-like formations called hydrates found on or under sea-beds and under permafrost. Hydrates trap methane molecules inside a cage of frozen water, where the amount of hydrates trapped is dependent on surrounding formation pressure. The amount of natural gas trapped in hydrates is largely unknown, but it is very large. A number of scientists believe that hydrates contain more than twice as much energy as all the world's coal, oil, and natural gas combined, hence making it a viable option of fuel in the 21st century, in a world constantly seeking cleaner sources of energy. The feasibility of production of natural gas hydrates on offshore installations and onshore facilities makes this development a viable option. As such this technology requires detailed research and development in a laboratory environment coupled with a pilot plant construction for commercial operation. Current estimates for onshore based facilities for the production of hydrates show a cost reduction of approximately 25% compared with LNG plants of the same energy capacity.There are two major issues which require detailed research and development in order to progress this technology. First is the enhancement of the hydrates production by the use of other additives, and second, the continuous production at near atmospheric pressures. Other research related to transport methodology and re-gasification will be essential for the overall success of this technology, however, this work is outside the scope of this research.
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