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Potential freshening impacts on fines migration and pore-throat clogging during gas hydrate production: 2-D micromodel study with Diatomaceous UBGH2 sediments

March 31, 2020

The methane gas hydrate stored in natural sediments is considered a potential gas resource. Countries such as China, India, Japan, and Korea are interested in commercializing this resource, and offshore field pilot tests for gas production have been conducted using depressurization methods to destabilize gas hydrate and facilitate the migration of methane to the production well. However, fine-grained sediments (fines), which are present even in coarse-grained, gas hydrate-bearing sediments, can be resuspended in the production fluid, subsequently clogging pore throats in the formation and reducing the overall production efficiency. We conducted laboratory tests to evaluate the suspension and clogging potential of fines collected from the Ulleung Basin, East Sea, Korea during the 2010 Ulleung Basin Gas Hydrate Expedition 2 (UBGH2). Experimental results reveal that diatoms are prevalent in the sediment and largely control the suspension and clogging behavior. Fluid flow experiments in 2D micromodels show clogging occurs even when injecting the minimum sediment concentration (0.1wt% in the fluid) through micromodels with pore-throat widths at the high end of the anticipated range for UBGH2 gas hydrate-bearing sands (100µm). Mobile gas/fluid interfaces forming during gas hydrate dissociation accentuate clogging by concentrating and mobilizing fines. Sedimentation tests show pore-water freshening during dissociation is not anticipated to change the potential for diatoms to become entrained in the pore water flow, even for the observed gas hydrate saturations of ~80%. Muscovite and illite are also significant components of the tested sediment, however, and pore-water freshening increases their potential for resuspension and clogging. Overall, the resuspension and clogging potential of these fine sediments should increase as gas hydrate dissociation progresses in the thin, gas hydrate-bearing sands investigated in the Ulleung Basin.