A method of prospecting for methane has been devised. The impetus for this method lies in the abundance of CH4 and the growing shortages of other fuels. The method is intended especially to enable identification of subpermafrost locations where significant amounts of methane are trapped in the form of methane gas hydrate (CH4·6H2O). It has been estimated by the U.S. Geological Survey that the total CH4 resource in CH4·6H2O exceeds the energy content of all other fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas from non-hydrate sources). Also, CH4·6H2O is among the cleanest-burning fuels, and CH4 is the most efficient fuel because the carbon in CH4 is in its most reduced state. The method involves looking for a proxy for methane gas hydrate, by means of the combination of a thermal-analysis submethod and a field submethod that does not involve drilling. The absence of drilling makes this method easier and less expensive, in comparison with prior methods of prospecting for oil and natural gas.

The proposed method would include thermoprospecting in combination with one more of the other non-drilling measurement techniques, which could include magneto-telluric sounding and/or a subsurface-electrical-resistivity technique. The method would exploit the fact that the electrical conductivity in the underlying thawed region is greater than that in the overlying permafrost.

This work was done by N. Duxbury of Caltech and V. Romanovsky of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.