In the 1960s Russian scientists made what was then a bold assertion that gas hydrates should occur in abundance in nature. Since this early start, the scientific foundation has been built for the realization that gas hydrates are a global phenomenon, occurring in permafrost regions of the arctic and in deep water portions of most continental margins worldwide. In 1995, the U.S. Geological Survey made the first systematic assessment of the in-place natural gas hydrate resources of the United States. That study suggested that the amount of gas in the gas hydrate accumulations of northern Alaska probably exceeds the volume of known conventional gas resources on the North Slope. Researchers have long speculated that gas hydrates could eventually become a producible energy resource, yet technical and economic hurdles have historically made gas hydrate development a distant goal. This view began to change in recent years with the realization that this unconventional resource could be developed with existing conventional oil and gas production technology. One of the most significant developments was the completion of the BPXA-DOE-USGS Mount Elbert Gas Hydrate Stratigraphic Test Well on the Alaska North Slope, which along with the Mallik project in Canada, have for the first time allowed the rational assessment of gas hydrate production technology and concepts. Almost 40 years of gas hydrate research in northern Alaska has confirmed the occurrence of at least two large gas hydrate accumulations on the North Slope. We have also seen in Alaska the first ever assessment of how much gas could be technically recovered from gas hydrates. However, significant technical concerns need to be further resolved in order to assess the ultimate impact of gas hydrate energy resource development in northern Alaska. ?? 2009 Elsevier Ltd.