海底資源開発 政府主導で戦略を構築せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 29, 2012)
Govt must establish strategy to develop seafloor resources
海底資源開発 政府主導で戦略を構築せよ(5月28日付・読売社説)

Abundant natural resources are sleeping under the seafloor in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

We think the government needs to play a leading role in devising measures to aggressively develop and effectively use them.

The government has started to review the Basic Plan on Ocean Policy, a set of guidelines for medium- and long-term ocean policies. It plans to formulate a new plan within the current fiscal year.

The commanding organ for the work is the Ocean Policy Headquarters, which consists of the prime minister and all other cabinet ministers. We hope the headquarters will strategically work on not only the problem of resources but also other topics, such as measures to assist remote islands and environmental protection.


High hopes for ‘ice that burns’

We have high expectations for the development of methane hydrate, dubbed “the ice that burns,” and other important resources. Methane hydrate, which contains abundant amounts of natural gas, is widely distributed under the seafloor.

With nuclear power facing an unclear future, it is important for the country to increase the amount of natural gas it can obtain in its own backyard, from the viewpoint of securing a variety of energy resources.

The government carried out drilling operations in the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Aichi and Mie prefectures in February and March. The existence of a methane hydrate layer was confirmed after digging 200 to 300 meters down from the seafloor 1,000 meters beneath the water’s surface.

It has been estimated this sea area alone has reserves of natural gas equal to more than 10 years worth of Japan’s annual imports of liquefied natural gas.

Following the drilling operations, the world’s first production test for extracting natural gas from methane hydrate in the seafloor will start in January next year. Taking into account the future production of natural gas from methane hydrate, Japan should also promote the development of the necessary equipment.

Meanwhile, seafloor hydrothermal deposits, which contain copper, zinc and rare minor metals, are also seen as a promising natural resource. The government has been conducting deep-sea research in two ocean areas: one in the sea around Okinawa and the other between the Izu Islands and the Ogasawara Islands.


Utilize continental shelf

Based on results of test drilling and investigations of methane hydrate and seafloor hydrothermal deposits, the government plans to make final judgments on whether to go ahead with commercial production of the resources in fiscal 2018. We expect a path to utilizing seafloor resources will open.

The fact that a seafloor area of about 310,000 square kilometers in the Pacific Ocean off Japan was newly recognized as part of the nation’s continental shelf is a positive factor for the nation’s ocean resource development. We believe active utilization of the continental shelf must be clearly positioned in the new basic plan.

To promote seafloor resource development in a stable manner, it is necessary to set certain rules.

Enforcement of the revised Mining Law in January enabled the government to take the lead in specifying candidate sites for extracting seafloor resources, such as oil and natural gas, and selecting developers.

The revised law also enables the government to control illegal exploration activities for resources, including those conducted by foreign vessels. Patrol operations by the Japan Coast Guard must of course be beefed up.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 28, 2012)
(2012年5月28日01時17分 読売新聞)

srachai について

early retired civil engineer migrated from Tokyo to Thailand
カテゴリー: 英字新聞 パーマリンク



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