The goal of this project is to develop the necessary knowledge base and quantitative predictive capability for modeling the geomechanical performance of hydrate-bearing sediments (HBS) in oceanic environments, in particular to determine the envelope of hydrate stability under conditions typical of those related to the construction and operation of offshore platforms.
Texas Engineering Experiment Station - College Station, TX
University of California Berkeley - Berkeley, CA
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) - Berkeley, CA
Schlumberger - Houston, TX
Gas hydrates exist in many configurations below the sea floor, including massive (thick solid zones), continuous layers, nodules, and as widely disseminated interstitial material. Each of these hydrate accumulations may affect the seafloor stability differently. The hydrates in any of these cases may be a part of the solid skeleton that supports overlying sediments, which in turn support the platforms and pipelines needed for producing conventional oil and gas resources, as well as natural gas from hydrates (when this becomes economically and technically possible).
Accordingly, the potential instability of HBS is a subject of critical importance, and past researchers have described the conditions under which hydrate dissociation in HBS produces an enhanced fluidized layer at the base of the gas-hydrate zone. Submarine slope failure can follow, giving rise to debris flows, slumps, slides, and collapse depressions such as described by Dillon, et al. (1998). Failure would be accompanied by the release of methane gas, but a portion of the methane is likely to be oxidized unless the gas release is catastrophic.
As a result of this potential for submarine sediment dislocation, the placement of wells and seafloor-grounded platforms associated with oil and gas production is strongly influenced by the presence of gas hydrate on the sea floor or within the sediment lithology. The primary concern is that warm fluids rising in a wellbore from deeper reservoirs may cause gas hydrate in the neighborhood of a well or pipeline to dissociate, reducing the stability of the supporting sediments and placing significant investments at risk. Such concerns would only increase if the hydrate accumulations are themselves the target of development operations. Locating platforms at sites dictated by the need to avoid hydrates—rather than optimize production operations, as is the current practice—increases the cost of production and impedes the commercial development of such deposits.
Currently, there is a lack of understanding of the mechanical and thermal properties of sediments containing gas hydrates, especially in marine deposits. Improving our ability to model the behavior of such sediments will improve the industry’s ability to make decisions related to the siting of production platforms, wells, and pipelines required to develop commercial hydrate deposits.
This effort has the potential to have a significant impact on and provide substantial benefits to the offshore energy recovery industry, both in terms of current conventional oil and gas production operations and in the case of future production from hydrates. By establishing the principles of the geomechanical behavior of HBS and developing numerical codes to evaluate this behavior under a variety of conditions, the knowledge gained from this study will be instrumental in predicting and analyzing the stability of hydrate-bearing media in the ocean subsurface. This capability will provide valuable input for the selection of appropriate sites for offshore platform installation, as well as for the design and operation of production platforms.
Under Phase 1 Researchers:
Under Phase 2 Researchers:
All work to be performed under this specific project (through Phase 2) is complete and the results of that work are provided in the Final Report accessible from the "Additional Information" section below.
The achievements of the project are outlined in the Accomplishments section above. This project has been ended at the completion of project Phase 2 and the project will not progress into the originally planned Phase 3. Laboratory and modeling work currently being conducted under field work proposal ESD05-036, as a part of this project, will be continued but will be carried out under field work proposals ESD05-048 and G308 with LBNL.
NT42664, $452,426; ESD05-036, $240,000
In addition to the information provided here, a full listing of project related publications and presentations as well as a listing of funded students can be found in the Methane Hydrate Program Bibliography [PDF].
Final Project Report [PDF-8.76MB] - July 2008
Topical Report [PDF-94KB] - Approach to Forming Hydrate Bearing Samples in Fine Grained Material
Offshore Technologies Conference paper [PDF-2.42MB] - May, 2007 - Numerical Studies of Geomechanical Stability of Hydrate-Bearing Sediments
Phase 1 Topical Report [PDF-5.72MB] - December, 2006
Phase 1 Status Presentation [PDF-1.84MB] Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory - January 19, 2007
Phase 1 Status Presentation [PDF-2.88MB] Schlumberger - January 19, 2007
Phase 1 Status Presentation [PDF-2.18MB] Texas A&M University - January 19, 2007
Phase 1 Status Presentation [PDF-2.28MB] University of California Berkeley - January 19, 2007
Technology Status Assessment [PDF-141KB]
Holditch, S., T. Patzek, G. Moridis, and R. Plumb, 2005, Geomechanical Performance of Hydrate-Bearing Sediments in Offshore Environments, U.S. DOE-NETL Semi-Annual Report, October 1, 2005 through March 31, 2006, DE-FC26-05NT42664 CFDA Number: 81.089 (Fossil Energy Research and Development), July, available online [PDF-375KB] and Appendix [PDF-200KB] .
Holtzman, R., D. Silin, T. Patzek, 2006, The Strength of Hydrate-Bearing Sediments: A Grain-Scale Approach, AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA, December 15.