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Gas hydrates are crystalline compounds that can form when water or ice and suitably sized molecules are brought together under favourable conditions, usually at low temperatures and elevated pressures.
Gas hydrates could form in numerous hydrocarbon production and processing operations, causing serious operational and safety concerns. In the natural environment, suitable conditions for methane hydrate formation can be found in some marine and deep lake sediments, and in the subsurface of arctic permafrost regions. Current estimates suggest that the energy held in this form is twice that of total fossil fuels, a vast untouched natural gas reserve.
The Centre for Gas Hydrate Research at Heriot-Watt University addresses various aspects of flow assurance and gas hydrate research, including: avoiding gas hydrate, wax and asphaltene problems in petroleum production and transportation, design and testing of low dosage hydrate inhibitors and the natural occurrence of hydrates in marine sediments. Further areas of interest include positive aspects of gas hydrate technology, such as their application in processing and transportation of hydrocarbon fluids, role of hydrates as neutron moderators, CO2 capture and sequestration, and the potential of natural gas hydrates as a source of energy.