Japan, like many other countries across the globe, is actively seeking ways to lessen its dependence on foreign oil. Unlike other countries that have turned to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, Japan hopes to focus on extracting methane gas from the frozen hydrates locked deep within the Earth's permafrost layer found in its offshore waters. Commonly known as methane hydrate and also referred to as "fire ice" or MH, the gas is difficult to extract because, well, it's often found locked below the Earth's crust some 30 kilometers offshore and 300 meters below the waterline.
Japan's trade ministry has requested more than a billion dollars to fund the controversial drilling, and for good reason. You see, surveys of the area suggest that Japan has enough frozen hydrates to provide the area with methane gas (natural gas) for more than 100 years at the current usage rate. Japan hopes to start sinking wells off its south-eastern coastline next spring. The wells will be used to assess the commercial viability of extracting gas from the frozen methane hydrates found below the ocean's floor. If successful, Japan aims to extract the gas on a commercial level beginning in 2018. There's a big risk involved, too. If the drilling is unsuccessful, some experts predict the attempt could destabilize the methane beds and trigger an environmental disaster of epic proportions. So, good luck! Hat tip to David!