American Association of Petroleum Geologists

AAPG - an International Organization

September 12-16, 2004 • Vancouver, Canada

Gas Hydrates:
Energy Resource Potential and Associated Geologic Hazards

Review Abstracts

This conference was convened in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, September 12-16, 2001.

What is a Hedberg Research Conference?

The AAPG Research Committee will from time-to-time select a topic for critical examination. They will invite scientists from various disciplines, including geology, geophysics, geochemistry, reservoir engineering, and others to discuss state-of-the-art concepts, methodologies, case histories, and future directions of the particular research topic. These conferences are held in informal settings with a maximum of about 100 attendees. The Hedberg Research Conference series is considered one of the most respected research forums in the world, and usually deals with critical emerging energy resource issues, with the goal of advancing our collective understanding of the issue being considered.

The focus of the Hedberg Research Conference recently convened in Vancouver was to assess the energy resource potential of gas hydrates and further characterize the geologic hazards associated with the occurrence of gas hydrates in nature. In a more specific sense, the primary objectives of the Hedberg Research Conference on gas hydrates was to critically examine the geologic parameters that control the occurrence and stability of gas hydrates, assess the volume of natural gas stored within known gas hydrate accumulations, assess exploration methods for identifying gas hydrate prospects, identify the technologies needed to economically produce gas from hydrate, assess possible marine slope stability hazards that can be attributed to the occurrence of gas hydrate, and analyze the effects of gas hydrate on drilling safety. Because of overwhelming interest, the AAPG was forced to expand the conference registration to 122 participants, yet there was still a long waiting list. But in keeping with the spirit of open communication and the exchange of ideas through both formal and informal group discussions, it was important to limit the number of conference participants.

The conference participants were from more than 13 countries exhibiting the multi-national interest in gas hydrates. The 75 U.S. participants included 29 from government agencies, 26 from academia, and 20 from industry. The 47 participants from outside the U.S. were similarly diverse. The conference featured 43 oral presentations, 46 poster presentations, three formal discussion sessions, a banquet key note address by Marlan Downey titled Boulders in the Path, Problems on the Way Towards The Gas Hydrate Rainbow, and the conference concluded with a panel discussion on geology and energy resource potential of gas hydrates.

Through the discussion and panel sessions in the Vancouver conference, various participants expressed a general sense that real progress is being made in addressing some of the key issues surrounding the formation, occurrence, and stability of gas hydrates in nature. The concept of “gas hydrate petroleum systems” as they compare to conventional oil and gas petroleum systems is gaining acceptance. In fact, the use of complex numerical modeling is allowing the components of gas hydrate petroleum systems (i.e., source, migration, trap, and timing) to be individually assessed and quantified. However, there is a growing appreciation that some of the processes leading to the formation of gas hydrates in marine versus permafrost environments may differ. For marine gas hydrate exploration, several groups expressed the growing need for the development of geophysical methods that would allow for the direct detection and evaluation of gas hydrate accumulations; the era of assessing marine gas hydrates through the mapping of bottom simulating seismic reflectors (BSRs) alone is drawing to a close.

As reviewed during the conference, several recent studies report that the estimates of the volume of gas trapped in the global gas hydrate accumulations was significantly less than some of the more widely cited estimates. However, by comparison to conventional natural gas accumulations, gas hydrates are still believed to be a much greater POTENTIAL resource of natural gas than conventional accumulations. However, it was noted that none of the existing assessments have predicted how much gas could actually be produced from the world’s gas hydrate accumulations. It was concluded that much more work is needed to go beyond the existing in-place gas hydrate volumetric estimates. However, researchers involved in gas hydrate related climate change studies still expressed the need for accurate global estimates of the amount of gas trapped within gas hydrates. At the same time, industry representatives expressed the importance of relatively small, well defined, gas hydrate accumulations in the 1 to 5 trillion cubic feet (TCF) range that can be drilled, tested, and possibly produced. But Marlan Downey challenged the audience to “think bigger” and view gas hydrate production as a potential paradigm shift of global importance.

Numerous presenters reported on the results of the Mallik 2002 Gas Hydrate Production Research Well Program. It appears that the Mallik 2002 gas hydrate production testing and modeling effort has for the first time allowed the rational assessment of the production response of a gas hydrate accumulation. Project-supported gas-hydrate computer production simulations, including those performed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Japan Oil Engineering Company, have shown that under certain geologic conditions gas can be produced from gas hydrates at very high rates, exceeding several million cubic feet of gas per day. The conference participants further concluded that a key goal of industry should be to document that commercial rates of gas production from hydrates are possible. The Mallik test came close to assessing this issue, but was not designed for commercial gas production rates. But it is important to note that two independent studies of the deliverability of gas from gas hydrates on the North Slope of Alaska and the Canadian Arctic came up with similar economics, and a gas delivery cost of about $4.00 to $5.00 (USD) per thousand cubic feet of gas. Several participants noted that gas hydrate production may require government supports, much like the early days of coalbed methane production in the U.S. But probably the most significant conclusion coming from the discussions in Vancouver was the strong statement that we need more dedicated and expanded field production test to assess the ultimate resource potential of natural gas hydrates.

Some of the liveliest discussions during the conference dealt with the hazards aspects of gas hydrate, especially slope stability issues (both natural and human induced). One of the major conclusions of these discussions was the acknowledgment that more effort is needed to document case histories of actual gas hydrate induced drilling and completion problems. On the issue of shallow water flow, there still seems to be a great deal of uncertainty about the role of gas hydrates with respect to the observed shallow water flow problems in the Gulf of Mexico.

The conference was a great success, financial sponsorship from the Gulf of Mexico JIP, Schlumberger, and especially the U.S. Department of Energy was greatly appreciated. The Energy Minerals Division of the AAPG was also identified as a co-sponsor of this Hedberg Conference in recognition of EMDs long history of support for gas hydrate research and development issues. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Geologists and the Geological Survey of Canada also contributed to the organization of this conference.

Tim Collett of the USGS and Art Johnson of Hydrate Energy International organized the Hedberg Research Conference in Vancouver.

Gas Hydrate Book Proposal

As a continuation of the Hedberg Research Conference in Vancouver, the conveners of the conference are soliciting contributors to a special publication on gas hydrates. The planned publication will follow the goals of the Hedberg conference; however, the contents of this special publication will be expanded to include all aspects of gas hydrates in nature including supportive laboratory studies and related climate change studies. The Hedberg Conference organizers are soliciting the submission of both long topical summaries and short focused research papers. Contributions can draw directly from the Hedberg Conference presentations or can be on any other relevant topic. Submissions from non-conference participants are welcome. Additional co-editors will also be invited to help with this effort. This book will likely be published in the AAPG Memoir series. Depending on the number of submissions and the final format of the publication, the length of the submitted papers lengths should be in the range of 6,000-10,000 words; with possible additional room allotted for significant summary contributions. To avoid conflicts with other important conferences, the manuscript submission deadline for this book has been pushed back to August 1, 2005. If you would like to contribute to this effort, please contact either Tim Collett or Art Johnson.


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