Investigation into potential gas hydrate and gas zones off the South African coastline

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Gas and petroleum products are important to modern life and, as peak oil is reached, the search is on for alternative fuel sources. A natural gas hydrate, also known as a clathrate, is formed when a gas molecule (such as methane) is trapped in a lattice of ice. Once considered oilfield nuisances, they are now being considered as an alternative fuel source. I asked whether any indications of hydrates, and gas, were present off the South African coastline within Block 2. Two hundred and sixty (260) pre-processed seismic lines and eighteen (18) well reports were provided by the Petroleum Agency of South Africa (PASA) for review and study. Within these, evidence of gas was abundantly clear. The presence of gas, and thus a gas source, is a good indicator that - should the other formation conditions be present – hydrates could occur in this area within the Gas Hydrate Stability Zone (GHSZ). Unfortunately, no bottom simulating reflectors (BSRs) - the clearest indicator of gas hydrates - were found. These findings do not, however, confirm the absence of gas hydrates as where there is gas, there maybe hydrates. The field of hydrate research is still new in terms of technology and practical applications, and the means to extract and produce hydrates is still expensive. However, in the drive for more sources of power to supply a growing demand, the South African government has already drafted a plan to develop infrastructure for future gas market developments. When developed, this infrastructure could potentially make use of the gas found within Block 2 and its surrounds and, as the technology to detect and extract methane hydrates becomes more mature (and associated costs to extract and produce it drop), it may prove to be a valuable additional future resource as well.

Includes bibliographical references.