In the 1970's, Russian scientists were the first to suggest that gas hydrates, a crystalline solid of water and natural gas, and a historical curiosity to physical chemists, should occur in abundance in the natural environment. 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. Recent field testing programs in the Arctic (Dallimore et al., 2008; Yamamoto and Dallimore, 2008) have indicated that natural gas can be produced from gas hydrate accumulations, particularly when housed in sand-rich sediments, with existing conventional oil and gas production technology (Collett et al., 2008) and preparations are now being made for the first marine field production tests (Masuda et al., 2009). Beyond a future energy resource, gas hydrates in some settings may represent a geohazard. Other studies also indicate that methane released to the atmosphere from destabilized gas hydrates may have contributed to global climate change in the past.
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Resource and hazard implications of gas hydrates in the Northern Gulf of Mexico: Results of the 2009 Joint Industry Project Leg II Drilling Expedition