The island nation has become the first country to extract natural gas from methane hydrates frozen underneath the sea.
New technology could lead to the gas being commercially extracted in the coming years – as the technology improves and it costs less to extract.
Although frozen gas is currently very expensive compared to other methods of extraction, it might be able to compete with other sources of energy on a financial level in the future.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said that a flaming pipe 50 miles off the coast of central Japan in the Pacific Ocean, was burning gas extracted from methane hydrates.
The principle is similar to that used to extract gas from shale. New technology is making more from sparsely distributed reserves of gas locked inside air pockets in shale, and can do the same for frozen gas – gas that has been frozen into a solid due to the extreme pressure.
The process works by reducing the pressure in the underground layers up to 1300m below the seabed, and then dissolving it into gas and water, collecting the gas as it is released.
In countries where natural resources are scarce, this could represent a new way to energy security, as countries like Japan seek to make the most of what they have.
director of the oil and gas division at Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources, Ryo Minami said: “Ten years ago, everybody knew there was shale gas in the ground, but to extract it was too costly. Yet now it’s commercialised”.