In January of this year (2020), a major scientific study (‘the Minshull report’) announced that gas hydrate reservoirs were found in many offshore areas across Europe. The European Commission is now considering a policy view to commercialize the development and extraction of methane gas from European offshore areas. Affirmation from the European Commission that offshore methane hydrates are too useful and too valuable to forego development could initiate a global response to adopt offshore methane hydrates as a new source of natural gas for heating, for electrical power supplies, and for potential new revenues.
The upside? The potential rewards from offshore methane hydrates are multi-fold. Coastal states are surrounded in methane hydrate resources that if responsibly developed could enable vast amounts of methane (natural gas) to be produced for decades or centuries beyond the timelines of conventional natural gas assets. There are also massive volumes of fresh water trapped in hydrates that could aid in fighting droughts and desertification.
The downside? There are novel foreseeable risks that might result from those commercial methane hydrate activities. The climate change risks and geo-physical hazards from offshore methane hydrates are quite distinct from both conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons. There are new challenges to achieving safety and sustainability.
In review, this paper both welcomes the discovery and confirmation of offshore methane hydrates in European waters and also raises concerns that more research is required on the optimal policy strategies for the known and foreseeable risks to best enable safe and sustainable policy choices.
- Methane Hydrates
- Gas hydrates
- Energy policy
- European Commission
- Methane hydrate