UC San Diego was awarded more than $500,000 Friday for a three-year project to develop and deploy an electromagnetic system in an effort to access more natural gas for energy use.
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The grant from the U.S. Department of Energy is part of a program to unlock methane hydrates - ice-lattice structures found in permafrost both onshore and offshore along the continental shelf - that contain extractable natural gas.
Testing earlier this year on the North Slope of Alaska showed that the gas can be removed safely, according to the agency.
"The Energy Department's long term investments in shale gas research during the 70s and 80s helped pave the way for today's boom in domestic natural gas production that is strengthening U.S. energy security while creating thousands of American jobs," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
He said research might yield significant new supplies of natural gas and expand the U.S. energy supply, but just how much gas is available still needs to be studied.
Before gas hydrates become commercially viable, their role in the environment needs to be studied, and it has to be determined if they can be extracted in an environmentally responsible way, Chu said.
The system developed by UCSD will determine the extent of permafrost on the shelf of the Beaufort Sea off the northern part of Alaska.
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