DOE's Unconventional Gas Research Programs 1976-1995
SOURCE: U.S. Department of the Interior, Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region

3.5.4. Major Contracted Gas Hydrates Projects

Listed below are the key projects undertaken during the 1983-1992 time frame.

The primary Project Manager for the Methane Hydrate program during this time period was the late Rodney D. Malone. Also acting as a Project Manager for portions of the work was William Lawson.

Geochemical and Geologic Factors Effecting the Formulation of Gas Hydrate
Performer: U.S. Geological Survey (Menlo Park, CA)
Key Investigators: Keith Kvenvolden, G.E. Claypool
Time Period: Oct. 1983 Sept. 1987
Objectives: The broad objectives of this project were to:

  • Evaluate geochemical and geological conditions at sites where high methane concentrations and gas hydrates are found,
  • Determine factors controlling generation and accumulation of methane in gas hydrates,
  • Make regional and worldwide syntheses of marine gas hydrate occurrences, and
  • Develop predictive models for gas hydrate occurrence in oceanic sediment. The approach was to:
  • Review geophysical evidence for marine gas hydrate occurrence,
  • Participate in oceanographic and deep sea drilling expeditions to collect samples of suspected marine gas hydrates,
  • Characterize known sedimentary occurrences of gas hydrates or high methane contents by a standard suite of geochemical analyses,
  • Perform controlled decomposition experiments on naturally occurring or artificially synthesized gas hydrates,
  • Review and synthesize the geological and geochemical factors associated with marine gas hydrate occurrence,
  • Develop a kinetic model of microbial methanogenesis with geological factors as input parameters which predicts the amount and isotopic composition of methane formed, and
  • Use the model in conjunction with marine geology to predict sites favorable for, and the potential worldwide extent of, marine gas hydrates.
Geologic Interrelations Relative to Gas Hydrates within the North Slope of Alaska
Performer: U.S. Geological Survey (Menlo Park, CA)
Key Investigators: Tim Collett, Kenneth Bird, Keith Kvenvolden, Myung Lee, L.A. Beyer, A.H. Lachenbruch, L.B. Magoon
Time Period: Oct. 1983 Sept. 1990
Objectives: There were two parts to this project: Phase I (Task 6) and Phase II (Task 18). Task 6 dealt with the evaluation of existing data in an attempt to delineate gas hydrate occurrences in northern Alaska and to evaluate the physical properties controlling gas hydrate distribution. Task 18 activities were a continuation of Phase I, except that the major emphasis was to obtain new data through an active field study program. The field research included temperature and borehole gravity surveys, formation water sampling and analysis, and geologic/geochemical sampling and analysis of wells and outcrops. Task 6 objectives were:
  • Define and evaluate possible gas hydrate reservoirs,
  • Evaluate geologic/geochemical controls on gas hydrate occurrences,
  • Develop a model for terrestrial gas hydrate formation,
  • Conduct a gas hydrate resource estimate, and
  • Select a coring site to study gas hydrate. Task 18 objectives were:
  • Collect and analyze geologic/geochemical samples relative to gas hydrates,
  • Conduct precision temperature surveys to determine: 1) equilibrium formation temperatures; 2) limits of the gas hydrate stability and permafrost regions; 3) geothermal gradients and heat flow; and 4) possible in situ thermal indications of gas hydrate occurrences,
  • Conduct borehole gravity surveys to detect gas hydrate, determine reservoir porosity and provides density measurements to better understand thermal properties,
  • Characterize formation water chemistry, and
  • Model the seismic character of in situ gas hydrates.
Measurement of In Situ Hydrate Dissociation Properties
Performer: Colorado School of Mines (Golden, CO)
Key Investigators: Dendy Sloan, M.S. Selim, Roger Reuff
Time Period: Sept. 1983 Jan. 1986
Objectives: The broad goals of this project were: (1) to measure the dissociation rate of natural gas hydrates, and (2) to formulate a rigorous mathematical model which fits the measured dissociation rate and which includes the properties measured. Specific objectives included:
  • Evaluation of the hydrates recovered from the Glomar Challenger drill ship during an expedition to the Mid-America Trench,
  • Measurement of the heat capacity and heat of dissociation of the hydrates, using a modified differential scanning calorimitry (DSC) technique,
  • Construction of an electrobalance apparatus to measure the dissociation rates of hydrates, including pressure, temperature and mass change with time, and
  • Formulation of a rigorous mathematical model for hydrate dissociation, which would incorporate the properties measured and match the rates measured.
Handbook of Gas Hydrate Properties and Occurrence
Performer: Lewin and Associates, Inc. (Washington, D.C.)
Key Investigators: Vello Kuuskraa, Edgar Hammershaimb
Time Period: 1983
Objectives: The objective of this project was to compile a handbook providing data on the resource potential of naturally occurring hydrates, the properties that were needed to evaluate their recovery, and their production potential. This included a review of published resource estimates and a listing of known and inferred occurrences, a compilation of physical and thermodynamic properties, and an explanation of their relevance, and an estimate of the net energy balance for recovering hydrates.

Evaluation of the Geological Relationships to Gas Hydrate Formation and Stability
Performer: Geoexplorers International, Inc. (Denver, CO)
Key Investigators: Jan Krason, Patrick Finley, Marek Ciesnik
Time Period: Oct. 1984 Sept. 1989
Objectives: The project investigated the relationship of geological environments on gas hydrate formation and stability by basin analysis of gas hydrate sites. Basin analyses were performed on 21 offshore locations with direct or indirect evidence of gas hydrates. Sediment composition, provenance and depositional history were documented and structural development of each sedimentary basin determined using drilling results and seismic reflection profiles. The potential for generation of biogenic methane and conventional thermogenic hydrocarbons was assessed using geochemical data and thermal modeling. All available seismic data, both published and unpublished, were examined for evidence of hydrates. BSRs and other seismic anomalies were mapped. Conditional assessments of gas resources were derived and quantities of gas contained in both gas hydrate and possibly trapped beneath the gas hydrate stability zone were estimated.

Gas Hydrates Thermomechanics
Performer: University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
Key Investigators: R.C. Corlett
Time Period: June 1984 Sept. 1987
Objectives: The objectives of this project were to: (1) to determine whether stress anisotropy significantly alters the decomposition pressure at exposed faces of gas hydrates specimens or the rate of decomposition at such faces, and (2) to quantify these effects for some specified anisotropic stress states for ideal and geologically realistic specimens.

Thermal Measurements on Structure I and Structure II Pure Clathrate Hydrates and on Natural Gas Samples
Performer: National Bureau of Standards (Boulder, CO)
Key Investigators: Jane E. Callanan
Time Period: July 1985 June 1986
Objectives: The objectives of this project were to determine the heat transfer and thermal conductivity values of both synthetic and natural gas hydrates through laboratory experiments and measurements. A secondary objective was to develop a model that permitted the stability of hydrates to be determined for various conditions of temperature, pressure and concentration.

Ground Movements Associated with Gas Hydrate Production in Geologic Media
Performer: West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV)
Key Investigators: Hema J. Siriwardane
Time Period: Sept. 1987 June 1989
Objectives: The primary objective of this research work was to evaluate the influence of hydrate production on ground movements near the wellbore and at the surface, using computer simulations of what would be expected in a hydrate reservoir during the production stage.

Ground Movements Associated with Gas Hydrate Production
Performer: West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV)
Key Investigators: Hema J. Siriwardane, Bora Kutuk
Time Period: 1991 1992
Objectives: The primary objective of this research was to evaluate the influence of hydrate production on ground subsidence at the surface, using computer simulations of what would be expected in a hydrate reservoir during the production stage. This project built on the results of an earlier project focused on the same problem, by the same performer.

Development of Alaskan Gas Hydrate Resources
Performer: University of Alaska
Key Investigators: Ghanahyam D. Sharma, Vidyadhar A. Kamath, S.P Godbole, S.L Patil
Time Period: Oct. 1986 Sept. 1990
Objectives: The objectives were to:
  • Gather data and information relevant to gas hydrates on the Alaskan North Slope, including geothermal gradient data, remote sensing data, permafrost depth and thickness data, seismic data, and oil and gas well locations,
  • Review gas hydrate literature to compile information related to gas hydrate equilibrium data and predictive models, gas hydrate recovery models, and geologic occurrence of hydrates,
  • Develop contacts within the petroleum industry in the State of Alaska to obtain access to logs, cores and water samples,
  • Study the implications of dissociation of in situ gas hydrate deposits relative to drilling safety and subsidence,
  • Conduct experimental and theoretical modeling work related to techniques for recovery of gas from hydrates (depressurization, hot water, brine, methanol, glycol and steam injection), including measurement of permeability changes during formation and dissociation of hydrates in porous media, and to
  • Perform an experimental study of hydrate formation in the presence of Alaskan North Slope crudes to understand
Seismic Interpretation of Gas Hydrates in the Blake Ridge Area
Performer: U.S. Geological Survey (Reston, VA)
Key Investigators: Thomas Ahlbrandt, William Dillon
Time Period: Feb 1990 Feb. 1991
Objectives: The objective of this project was to determine the amount of methane that is bound in gas hydrates in marine sediments, to understand the distribution of gas hydrates and to relate the amounts and distribution of hydrate to geological settings and geological/geochemical processes.

An Experimental Study of Hydrate Formation Rates
Performer: University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)
Key Investigators: Gerald D. Holder
Time Period: 1985 1986
Objectives: The objective of this project was to measure the rate of hydrate formation above and below the ice point, and to determine at what rate hydrates in the earth can be expected to form and dissociate as the temperature in a zone containing gas and ice (or gas and water) changes, or as a zone containing water is contacted with methane.

Gas Hydrate Research in the Gulf of Mexico
Performer: Columbia Gas System Service Corporation
Key Investigators: R. Bennett
Time Period: 1987 1990
Objectives: This project was designed to examine existing seismic and geochemical data from the edge of the continental shelf and from the continental slope in the Gulf of Mexico for evidence of hydrates. There were two Phases: I and II. During Phase I, low and medium energy seismic data was examined for signatures that might establish a signature of hydrate zones per se, or an upper limit of an impervious gas hydrate cap. The data was also examined for permeable pathways in economic gas production areas which could be followed into deeper water where established signatures of gas hydrates could be identified on high energy seismic sections.

Geochemical data, which were generated concurrently on some of the low and medium energy seismic surveys, also were examined for information which might support any theories or concepts based on the geophysical data. The geochemical data included hydrocarbon analyses of water samples taken 30 feet above the sea floor and High energy seismic sections shot on the continental slope were reviewed to identify any Bottom Simulating Reflectors (BSRs) that might be present, and permeable pathways were noted so that they could be related to permeable pathways recorded by low and medium energy seismic surveys.

Areas where sediments were too shallow to be in the hydrate zone but could possibly be charged with gas from a hydrate source, or where hydrates might exist in a metastable form, were also examined.

The purpose of Phase II was to make an inexpensive low and medium energy seismic survey in a known gas hydrate area to identify the top of a hydrate zone or characterize signatures that might indicate the upper limit of an impervious hydrate cap. Seismic data was collected at two areas in Garden Banks and three areas in Green Canyon.

Geological and Geochemical Implications of Gas Hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico
Performer: Texas A&M University (College Station, TX)
Key Investigators: J.M. Brooks, W.R. Bryant
Time Period: 1984 1985
Objectives: The objectives of this project included:
  • Identification of hydrate sites in deep water Gulf of Mexico sediments,
  • Collection of physical samples of hydrates from deepwater locations in the Gulf of Mexico for use in laboratory analysis,
  • Assessment of thermogenic versus biogenic nature of gas from hydrate locations in the Gulf of Mexico,
  • Collection of shallow seismic data over identified hydrate sites and assessment of the relationship of seismic anomalies and subsurface structure,
  • Evaluation of historical seismic records for evidence of potential hydrate-containing sediments in the northern Gulf of Mexico, and
  • Chemical and isotopic characterization of hydrate core material.
Geology, Reservoir Engineering and Methane Hydrate Potential of the Walakpa Gas Field, North Slope, Alaska
Performer: North Slope Borough (Barrow, AK)
Key Investigators: Richard K. Glenn, William W. Allen
Time Period: 1991 1992
Objectives: The objective of this study was to evaluate the methane hydrate potential of the Walakpa gas field, a shallow gas field located near Barrow, Alaska. Understanding the reservoir potential and predicting the production characteristics of the Walakpa Field was to be accomplished by an analysis of the reservoir geology, production test data and field-scale geothermal studies.

The Sensitivity of Seismic Responses to Gas Hydrates
Performer: New England Research, Inc. (White River Junction, VT)
Key Investigators: John E. Foley, Daniel R. Burns
Time Period: 1991 1992
Objectives: The objective of this project was to employ seismic modeling to improve understanding of the sensitivity of seismic amplitudes to the presence of gas hydrates in marine sediments.

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Cover Page

Executive Summary

1. Background

2. GRI Research into Unconventional Gas Resources

3. Structure of the Enhanced Gas Recovery Program (EGR)

  • 3.1. Eastern Gas Shales Program (1976-1992)

  • 3.1.1. Key Questions and Related R&D Goals
  • 3.1.2. Program Design and Overview of Major Projects
  • 3.1.3. Key Eastern Gas Shales Projects
  • 3.1.4. Highlights of Important Results
  • 3.1.5. Subsequent Developments in DOE and Other Research Related to Eastern Gas Shales

  • 3.2. Western Gas Sands Program (1978-1992)

  • 3.2.1. Key Questions and Related R&D Goals
  • 3.2.2. Program Design and Overview of Major Projects
  • 3.2.3. Key Western Gas Sands Projects
  • 3.2.4. Highlights of Important Results
  • 3.2.5. Subsequent Developments in DOE Research Related to Tight Gas Sands

  • 3.3. Methane Recovery from Coalbeds Program (1978-1982)

  • 3.3.1. Key Questions Related to Coal Seam Methane
  • 3.3.2. MRCP Program Design and Overview
  • 3.3.3. Key Methane Recovery from Coalbeds Projects
  • 3.3.4. Highlights of Important Results
  • 3.3.5. Subsequent Research Related to Methane Recovery from Coalbeds

  • 3.4. Deep Source Gas Project (1982-1992)

  • 3.4.1. Key Deep Source Gas Projects
  • 3.4.2. Highlights of Important Results

  • 3.5. Methane Hydrates Program (1982-1992)

  • 3.5.1. Methane Hydrates Workshop (March 1982)
  • 3.5.2. Key Questions and Related R&D Goals
  • 3.5.3. Program Design
  • 3.5.4. Major Contracted Gas Hydrates Projects
  • 3.5.5. Methane Hydrate Research Efforts of METC's In-House Organization
  • 3.5.6. Highlights of Important Results
  • 3.5.7. Subsequent Developments in Methane Hydrate Research

  • 3.6. Secondary Gas Recovery (1987-1995)

  • 3.6.1. Key Objectives and Program Design
  • 3.6.2. Major Projects
  • 3.6.3. Major Results

    4. Elements of Spreadsheet Bibliographies (by Program)

    Appendix A: Details of Major 1970-1980 Unconventional Gas Resource Assessments

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