BP teamed with government agencies to drill an exploratory well this month that could help unlock a fabulous new supply of North Slope natural gas.
The well probed a layer of material just beneath the permafrost, called gas hydrate. The hydrate is a solid, crystalline form of gas, usually methane, mixed in sandstone and water. A combination of cold and pressure keeps the gas as a solid.
Hydrates exist in many locations around the world, including under seabeds. On the North Slope, government geologists estimate there are 450 trillion cubic feet of gas hydrate. That's a staggering volume -- more than 12 times the amount of conventional gas known to exist within Prudhoe Bay and other North Slope oil fields.