Gas hydrates (GHs) are a vast energy resource with global distribution in the permafrost and in the oceans. Even if conservative estimates are considered and only a small fraction is recoverable, the sheer size of the resource is so large that it demands evaluation as a potential energy source. In this review paper, we discuss the distribution of natural GH accumulations, the status of the primary international research and development (R&D) programs, and the remaining science and technological challenges facing the commercialization of production. After a brief examination of GH accumulations that are well characterized and appear to be models for future development and gas production, we analyze the role of numerical simulation in the assessment of the hydrate-production potential, identify the data needs for reliable predictions, evaluate the status of knowledge with regard to these needs, discuss knowledge gaps and their impact, and reach the conclusion that the numerical-simulation capabilities are quite advanced and that the related gaps either are not significant or are being addressed. We review the current body of literature relevant to potential productivity from different types of GH deposits and determine that there are consistent indications of a large production potential at high rates across long periods from a wide variety of hydrate deposits. Finally, we identify (a) features, conditions, geology and techniques that are desirable in potential production targets; (b) methods to maximize production; and (c) some of the conditions and characteristics that render certain GH deposits undesirable for production.
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