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Open Access Publications from the University of California

On the importance of phase saturation heterogeneity in the analysis of laboratory studies of hydrate dissociation


Methane hydrates (MHs) have been considered as the future source of energy because of its vast resource volume and high energy density. Energy recovery from MH-bearing sediments has attracted intensifying research activities. Fundamentally, heat transfer, fluid flow through porous media, and the kinetics of hydrate reaction are the three key processes controlling the behavior of MH dissociation and the associated fluid production. Earlier studies have suggested that heterogeneous spatial distribution of SH is inevitable in MH-bearing samples synthesized in laboratory. In this paper, we extend our study to analyze numerically the simulation results from the two realizations of the samples (homogeneous and heterogeneous) to identify differences in the fluid production and to determine if they are sufficiently different. Additionally, we conduct a sensitivity analysis and a statistical analysis on the key transport and kinetic rate parameters that could affect hydrate dissociation and fluid production in the context of a heterogeneous hydrate-bearing sample, in an effort to provide insights that could lead to improved designs for laboratory experiments and (possibly) field applications. Our results suggest that the approximation of an artificial hydrate-bearing core with heterogeneous phase saturations by an assumption of uniform phase saturation distributions results in practically similar fluid production profile except for the very early stage with maximum 20.0% deviation in the water production. From the sensitivity and statistical analysis, we determine that gas production depends strongly on the kinetic rate constant, Kd0 and the composite thermal conductivity of the hydrate-bearing sediments, λθ; while, water production is very sensitive to Kd0 and the absolute permeability of the sandy medium, k. Understanding the effect of phase heterogeneity and the relative importance of key parameters on the production behavior of hydrate-bearing sediments could provide basis for novel production technologies that lead to enhanced gas production and energy efficiency in the energy recovery process.

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