UT researchers stand on the helipad of the Q4000.

UT Transforms Oil Rig for Groundbreaking Research on Methane Hydrate

  • Jun 18, 2024

Professor Peter Flemings in the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin recently completed a scientific research expedition on an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, retrieving methane hydrate samples that could represent an untapped natural gas resource.

Flemings and his team of UT students converted the oil rig known as Q4000 into a scientific drilling vessel located at Walker Ridge, one of many major methane hydrate reservoirs around the globe. 

One of the largest accumulations of carbon on the planet, methane hydrate is a compressed form of gas trapped inside a cage of water and ice. Scientists have speculated that these reservoirs may present an undiscovered source of energy potentially useful to countries across the globe lacking in oil or natural gas. 

“There are big questions about how methane hydrate may shape the energy landscape, with undersea reservoirs potentially holding an untapped supply of natural gas, particularly for energy-poor countries.”

 According to the study, the solid hydrate is incredibly energy-dense, with each unit of methane hydrate holding 165 times the energy of an equivalent volume of gas above the surface, indicating what a valuable resource it could be if harnessed. 

Flemings and his UT team joined four other universities and the company Geotech Coring to answer the questions on this month-long expedition, which was made possible by a $100 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, one of the largest ever awarded to a university. Flemings acknowledged UT Austin’s commitment to supporting globally relevant scientific research.

“One of the amazing things about The University of Texas is that if you say you want to do something really big, they will help you find a way to make it happen,” Flemings says. “There’s no bigger example I can think of than this.” 

UT Austin will continue to spearhead this research at the Jackson School, aiming to make strides in the role of methane hydrate in the world’s energy landscape. 

Learn more from the original article at the alumni website Alcalde.