US, Japan look for ‘fire in the ice’

By Geoff Hiscock 11 April 2012
The Japanese ship Chikyu was part of a drilling programme in the Nankai Trough, which contains methane gas hydrate. (PA) The Japanese ship Chikyu was part of a drilling programme in the Nankai Trough, which contains methane gas hydrate. (PA)

In the language of Alaska’s indigenous Inupiat people, ‘Ignik Sikumi’ means ‘fire in the ice’, an evocative description of the frozen substance known as methane gas hydrate that one day may offer energy salvation to resource-poor nations such as Japan.

Appropriately, Ignik Sikumi is also the name chosen for a ConocoPhillips test well at Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope, where Japanese and US researchers are exploring the potential of gas hydrate as an energy source.