Expert Panel Concludes Canada is Well Positioned to be a Global Leader in Gas Hydrate Development



    OTTAWA, July 7 /CNW Telbec/ - As the search for new global energy
sources, continues and conventional natural gas supplies decline in North
America, a 13-member panel of experts appointed by the Council of Canadian
Academies has concluded that Canada is well positioned to be a global leader
in exploration, research and development, and eventual production of natural
gas from gas hydrate. However, given the need for further research to better
quantify the large Canadian gas hydrate resource and the economic,
environmental and technical uncertainties involved, commercial production is
not likely to take place within Canada for at least two decades.
    The multi-disciplinary panel, composed of experts in geophysics, geology,
chemistry, engineering, biology, economics, political science, safety and
social impacts, prepared its report in response to a question posed by Natural
Resources Canada: What are the challenges for an acceptable operational
extraction of gas hydrates in Canada?
    "Complex issues would need to be addressed if gas hydrate were to become
a part of our energy future," explained the Chair of the Panel, Dr. John
Grace, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Canada Research
Chair in Clean Energy Processes at the University of British Columbia. "The
panel has focused on identifying and assessing the science and technology
needs for the production of natural gas from gas hydrate in Canada, and
analyzing the potential jurisdictional, community impact, safety and
environmental issues."
    Canada has some of the world's most favourable conditions for the
occurrence of gas hydrate on its continental margins and under Arctic
permafrost. Canadian scientists and engineers have led fundamental pioneering
efforts in gas hydrate properties, exploration, modelling and extraction
testing. While long-term production experience is needed to better understand
the potential problems associated with producing gas from gas hydrate, these
issues are not expected to be technically insurmountable. The profitability of
gas production from gas hydrate will depend on further development of
efficient means to extract the gas component, as well as on many of the same
unpredictable market factors that will govern the future profitability of
conventional natural gas. Most of the environmental, safety, regulatory and
social considerations related to gas hydrate exploitation appear to be similar
to those associated with conventional gas production in frontier areas.
Although it is a concern that, once produced, gas from gas hydrate would lead
to the emission of carbon dioxide - a greenhouse gas - when used as fuel, gas
from gas hydrate would produce less CO2 per unit of energy than coal or oil.
    "We believe that this report will serve as a valuable comprehensive
resource for those interested in understanding the current state of knowledge
on gas hydrate in Canada, together with the opportunities and challenges
related to it's potential development," added Dr. Grace.

    What are Gas Hydrates?

    Natural gas hydrates form under conditions of high pressure and low
temperature when water combines with natural gas (largely methane) to form an
ice-like solid substance in regions of permafrost and in subseafloor sediments
on continental margins. Gas hydrates exist in abundance worldwide. Some
estimates suggest that the total amount of natural gas bound in hydrate form
may exceed all conventional gas resources, or even the amount of all
hydrocarbon energy - coal, oil and natural gas combined. Although scientists
have known about gas hydrates for almost 200 years, the oil and gas industry
only began to take an interest in the 1930s when gas hydrate formation in
pipelines was found to cause troublesome blockages. While a great deal of
exploration and research on gas hydrates is taking place worldwide, there is
to date no commercial production of natural gas from hydrate.

    Release of the Report in Focus

    The expert panel is presenting and releasing its summary document - the
Report in Focus, Energy from Gas Hydrates: Assessing the Opportunities &
Challenges in Canada ,- today at the International Conference on Gas Hydrates
in Vancouver, B.C. That document is also available for download on the
Council's website, www.scienceadvice.ca in English and French. The full report
is expected to be released to the public in mid-August.

    About the Council of Canadian Academies

    The primary mission of the Council of Canadian Academies is to provide
independent, expert assessments of the science that is relevant to matters of
significant public interest with the goal of informing public debate and
decision making. The Council, which became operational in 2006, is supported
by a founding grant from the Government of Canada but is independent from
government. Its reports are prepared by panels of experts appointed by the
Council having regard to broad inclusion of relevant expertise and balance
among viewpoints. Panelists serve voluntarily without fees or honoraria. They
serve in their personal capacities as expert authorities and not as
representatives of stakeholder interests. Public input to panel studies is
solicited via the Council's website, complemented by submissions that may be
specifically requested by the panel. All panel reports are thoroughly reviewed
by a group of peers selected by the Council. Expert panel reports are made
public in both official languages.
    The members of the Council of Canadian Academies are the RSC: The
Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada; the Canadian Academy of
Engineering; and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. To learn more about
the Council of Canadian Academies or to download Council reports, visit
www.scienceadvice.ca.




For further information:

For further information: If you wish to interview Professor John Grace
or other panel members during the conference in Vancouver on July 7th:
Christina Stachulak, Program Director, Council of Canadian Academies,
(613)866-3073, christina.stachulak@scienceadvice.ca; For any interviews from
July 8th - onward: Samantha Rae, Communications Manager, Council of Canadian
Academies, (613) 567-5000 x256, samantha.rae@scienceadvice.ca

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