Undersea Energy Harvesting from Benthic Gas Seeps and Hydrates
Navy SBIR 2019.1 - Topic N191-044
ONR - Ms. Lore-Anne Ponirakis - loreanne.ponirakis@navy.mil
Opens: January 8, 2019 - Closes: February 6, 2019 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: Undersea Energy Harvesting from Benthic Gas Seeps and Hydrates


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Battlespace, Ground/Sea Vehicles, Materials/Processes

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: Multiple program offices have interest in undersea energy harvesting.

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 3.5 of the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Determine the potential for seabed methane seeps and hydrates to enable operational endurance, maneuverability, efficiency, and resiliency for sustained operations supporting undersea systems.

DESCRIPTION: Prior research has focused on investigating benthic seep and hydrate characteristics (chemical makeup, flow, etc.), understanding associated biological lifeforms, and prediction of benthic seep and hydrate locations [Refs 5-11]. Lacking is any substantive research into the potential for these energy resources to serve as sources for seabed energy conversion/storage for operational use. The Navy is currently pursuing development of technology to convert energy from seafloor hydrothermal vents and is conducting research in the area of seafloor microbial fuel cells. There are also prior and ongoing efforts to harvest energy from tidal and wave energy, as well as Ocean Thermal to Electric Conversion. This SBIR topic, by contrast, seeks to develop technologies to harvest, store, and utilize methane and other gases from benthic gas seeps and hydrates for seabed electric power production. Continuous kilowatt-scale electrical output from a single device is of interest. The design should take into consideration potential fouling of the system, a desired system lifetime of 2 years (without maintenance), the depth ranges for seeps and hydrates, and ease/practicality of system deployment. Minimizing system and deployment costs is important. It is critical to understand the biological and geological environment near benthic seeps and hydrates such that compatible technologies are pursued and ultimately developed and fielded.

PHASE I: Develop energy conversion concepts that involve the capture, storage, processing, and conversion of benthic gas seeps to electrical power output. Develop a concept of operation that covers the deployment platform, deployment methodology, and approach to minimizing cost and risk. Perform modeling, simulation, and experimentation as necessary to demonstrate conceptual feasibility. Address scalability of the concept above and below the kilowatt level. Develop targets for system and deployment costs per kilowatt electrical output. Identify the relevant environmental considerations involved in deploying and operating such systems on the seabed. Ensure conceptual designs have minimal impact on the marine environment. Prepare a Phase II plan.

PHASE II: Develop a prototype kilowatt-scale benthic gas power system and deployment methodology. Demonstrate the ability to deploy the power system onto a benthic gas seep utilizing the intended platform from the Phase I concept of operation. Demonstrate the ability to produce kilowatt-scale electrical power from the system.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Further develop the Phase II design for a specific Navy undersea system application. Demonstrate the ability to autonomously locate a benthic seep/plume, and operationally deploy a complete benthic gas power system and undersea asset with minimal impact on the marine environment. Demonstrate the ability to power an undersea system over a significant period of time to validate the ability to fulfill a Naval mission.


1. “Undersea Warfare Science & Technology Objectives, 2016.” Undersea Warfare Chief Technology Office. http://www.navsea.navy.mil/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=Z0Z0mzYhhhw%3d&portalid=103

2. “Undersea Warfare Science & Technology Strategy, 2016.” Undersea Warfare Chief Technology Office. http://www.navsea.navy.mil/Portals/103/Documents/USWCTO/2016_USW_ST%20_Strategy_%20Distro_A.pdf?ver=2016-11-01-133933-867

3. "Department of Defense 2016 Operational Energy Strategy, 2016.” Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment. https://www.acq.osd.mil/eie/Downloads/OE/2016%20DoD%20Operational%20Energy%20Strategy%20WEBc.pdf

4. "Naval Research and Development Framework, 2017.” Office of Naval Research. https://www.onr.navy.mil/en/our-research/naval-research-framework

5. Brothers, D.S., Ruppel, C., Kluesner, J.W., ten Brink, U.S., Chaytor, J.D., Hill, J.C., Andrews, B.D., and Flores, C. “Seabed fluid expulsion along upper slope and outer shelf of the U.S. Atlantic continental margin”, Geophys. Res. Lett., doi: 10.1002/2013GL058048

6. Brothers, L.L., Van Dover, C.L., German, C.R., Kaiser, C.L., Yoerger, D.R., Ruppel, C.D., Lobecker, E., Skarke, A.D., and Wagner, J.K.S. “Evidence for extensive methane venting on the southeastern U.S. Atlantic margin.” Geology, G34217.1, 2013. doi:10.1130/G34217.1.

7. Skarke, A., Ruppel, C., Kodis, M., Brothers, D., and Lobecker, E. “Widespread methane leakage from the sea floor on the northern US Atlantic margin.” Nature Geoscience, 2014, doi: 10.1038/ngeo2232.

8. Johnson, H.P., Miller, U.K., Salmi, M.S., and Solomon, E.A. “Analysis of bubble plume distributions to evaluate methane hydrate decomposition on the continental slope.” Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 16, 3825–3839, 2015, doi: 10.1002/2015GC005955.

9. Andreassen, K., Nilssen, E.G., and Ødegaard, C.M. “Analysis of shallow gas and fluid migration within the Plio-Pleistocene sedimentary succession of the SW Barents Sea continental margin using 3D seismic data.” Geo Mar. Lett., 27, 2007, pp. 155-171. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00367-007-0071-5

10. Ryu, B.J., Kim, S.P, et al. “Mapping gas hydrate and fluid flow indicators and modeling gas hydrate stability zone (GHSZ) in the Ulleung Basin, East (Japan) Sea: potential linkage between the occurrence of mass failures and gas hydrate dissociation Mar.” Petrol. Geol., 80, 2017, pp. 171-191. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2016.12.001

11. Hsu, HH., Liu, CS., Morita, S. et al., “Seismic imaging of the Formosa Ridge cold seep site offshore of southwestern Taiwan.” Marine and Petroleum Geology, Volume 80, February 2017. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11001-017-9339-y

KEYWORDS: Methanogenesis; Benthic; Methane Seep; Methane Hydrate; Power; Energy; Energy Harvesting; Seabed; Sea Bed


Harold Coombe





Todd Holland





Linda Chrisey





Michael Vaccaro





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