DOE/NETL Methane Hydrate Projects
Controls On Methane Expulsion During Melting Of Natural Gas Hydrate Systems Last Reviewed 12/24/2013


The project goal is to predict, given characteristic climate-induced temperature change, the conditions under which gas will be expelled from existing accumulations of gas hydrate into the shallow ocean or directly to the atmosphere. When those conditions are met, the fraction of the gas accumulation that escapes and the rate of escape shall be quantified. The predictions shall be applicable in Arctic regions and in gas hydrate systems at the updip limit of the stability zone on continental margins. The behavior shall be explored in response to both longer term changes in sea level (e.g., twenty-thousand years) and shorter term due to atmospheric warming by anthropogenic forcing (decadal time scale).

University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 73713-7726

The central hypothesis proposed is that hydrate melting (dissociation) due to climate change generates free gas that can, under certain conditions, propagate through the gas hydrate stability zone and vent at the seafloor. Gas venting through the regional hydrate stability zone is accomplished by alteration of the regional equilibrium conditions (creation of three-phase conditions) by increased salinity and heat due to hydrate formation. This research will explore the controls on whether methane reaches the seafloor (or atmosphere) as the original hydrate deposit dissociates and determine the magnitude of these fluxes. Previous efforts to simulate hydrate formation and disassociation have shown that coupling all physical processes is critical to understanding the macro-scale process of hydrate melting.

Equilibrium thermodynamics will be coupled with conservation of mass (for methane, water, salt) and energy (accounting for the latent heat of formation of hydrate) with multiphase transport models in geologically heterogeneous sediments to simulate macro-scale behavior. Based on previous efforts, these models will illustrate important behaviors that have important first-order controls on how degassing occurs during warming. This project includes laboratory experiments explicitly designed to (in)validate the models, which will illustrate how much confidence is warranted in the model predictions, greatly increasing their impact. Thus the technology to be developed in this project could provide an essential component of the portfolio of technologies and knowledge needed to understand the impact of climate change on hydrate degassing.


  • Developed a fully coupled 1-D dynamic hydrate model that addresses laboratory and geological-scale problems. Researchers have applied this model to study oceanic examples of ocean warming and develop laboratory experiments. They have successfully simulated the formation and dissociation of hydrate and measured resistivity and density under three-phase conditions.
  • Formed and dissociated hydrate in saline pore water at a range of temperature conditions in the laboratory. Mixed fine sand with pore water of seawater salinity at a 55 percent water saturation and 36 percent porosity. Gas flows into or out of the sample and pressure is held constant at 1,000 pounds per square inch. Temperature is reduced in a stepwise fashion to 0.5°C and then increased. Hydrate forms on 8/28 (when pink line starts to rise significantly), which is illustrated by an increase in density. The measured hydrate saturation is slightly less than the model prediction. The hydrate dissociates immediately with an increase in temperature. This was interpreted such that at each temperature increment enough hydrate forms or dissociates to keep the system close to equilibrium with each phase present. With greater cooling, more hydrate forms and salinity is elevated; thus, the three-phase condition occurs at a lower temperature.
  • Documented four hydrate deposits that have elevated salinities and are at three-phase equilibrium over a broad depth range. By combining Archie’s equation with core-derived salinity data, researchers found that well NGHP Site 01-10A (Krishna-Godavari Basin, offshore India) was estimated to have high hydrate saturations (black line ‘SH’, Fig. 1) and high in-situ salinity (red dots and grey line, Fig. 1). They also estimated the salinity necessary for three-phase equilibrium across the hydrate stability zone (dashed line, Fig. 1). These results suggest that, in this location, hydrate formation has increased salinity to the point where all three phases can be present throughout the hydrate stability zone.

Figure 1. Estimated hydrate saturation and in-situ salinity in Well NGHP Site 01-10A (Krishna-Godavari Basin, offshore India)

Current Status (December 2013)
Researchers will apply the fully coupled 1-D dynamic hydrate model to (1) arctic examples of climate-induced warming to understand when and how gas is venting to the atmosphere and (2) laboratory scale problems to design laboratory experiments and better understand results. They will also study the formation of methane hydrate in a much larger laboratory apparatus (1m vs. 0.1 m length) to study the effect of warming induced by thermal perturbation from above and below.

Project Start: October 1, 2012
Project End: September 30, 2015

Project Cost Information:
DOE Contribution: $1,170,806
Performer Contribution: $311,000

Contact Information:
NETL – John Terneus ( or 304-285-4254)
University of Texas at Austin – Peter Flemings ( or 512-475-9520)

Additional Information

Quarterly Research Performance Progress Report [PDF-271KB] - Period ending 12-31-2012

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