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Gas hydrate petroleum systems: What constitutes the “seal”?

March 2, 2020

The gas hydrate petroleum system (GHPS) approach, which has been used to characterize gas hydrates in nature, utilizes three distinct components: a methane source, a methane migration pathway, and a reservoir that not only contains gas hydrate, but also acts as a seal to prevent methane loss. Unlike GHPS, a traditional petroleum system (PS) approach further distinguishes between the reservoir, a unit with generally coarser sediment grains, and a separate overlying seal unit with generally finer sediment grains. Adopting this traditional PS distinction in the GHPS approach facilitates assessments of reservoir growth and production potential. The significance of the seal for the formation of a gas hydrate reservoir as well as for the efficiency in methane extraction from the reservoir as an energy resource is evident in the findings from recent offshore field expeditions, such as India’s second National Gas Hydrate Program expedition (NGHP-02). In regards to gas hydrate-bearing reservoir formation, the NGHP-02 gas chemistry data indicate a primarily microbial methane source. Fine-grained seal sediment in contact with coarser-grained reservoir sediment can facilitate that microbial methane production. Logging-while-drilling and sediment core data also indicate that the overlying fine-grained seal sediment is less permeable than the underlying, highly gas hydrate-saturated reservoir sediment. The overlying seal’s capacity to act as a low-permeability boundary is important not only for preventing methane migration out of the reservoir over time, but for also preventing water invasion into the reservoir during methane extraction from the reservoir. Ultimately, the presence of an overlying, fine-grained, low-permeability “Seal”? influences how gas hydrate initially forms in a coarse-grained reservoir and dictates how efficiently methane can be extracted as an energy resource from the gas hydrate reservoir via depressurization.