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

3.5.2. Key Questions and Related R&D Goals

The 1982 Methane Hydrates Workshop participants outlined specific questions that needed answers, suggested goals for an R&D program, and outlined the status of existing hydrate R&D activity. The key questions were determined to be:

    1. How does one detect naturally occurring hydrates?
    2. What is the in situ concentration?
    3. What is the overall quantity of the resource?
    4. What will happen when attempts are made to produce gas from hydrates?
    5. What techniques can be used to produce gas from hydrates?
The first steps in answering these basic questions were seen to be the characterization of hydrates in nature and the determination of how they dissociate within sediments.

The first recommendation was that laboratory research focus on measuring properties of hydrates that would lead to a better understanding of the properties of naturally occurring hydrate zones within the earth, leading to the development of specialized detection techniques (well logging, seismic interpretation).

The key properties requiring characterization were: density, thermal conductivity, compressibility, sound velocity, elastic wave velocity, and porosity.

Another recommendation was that laboratory research be undertaken to simulate the in situ conditions of hydrate-bearing sediments and also the behavior of the hydrates when pressure is reduced or thermal fluids are injected. Specifically, the goals were to:
  • Determine the effects on decomposition of altering system heat capacity, thermal conductivity and interfacial phenomena such as heat transfer and mass transfer,
  • Determine the effects of the media itself (sand, silt, composition, etc.) as an inhibitor to dissociation,
  • Undertake permeability studies on hydrate cores before and after decomposition,
  • Observe phase behavior with the injection of solvents, inhibitors and solvent/inhibitor combinations,
  • Determine phase behavior inside a core and how this may or may not differ from the behavior of pure hydrate, and
  • Determine how methanol injection effects hydrate equilibrium conditions.
Much of this work was recognized to be breaking new ground.

While a significant amount of previous work had been conducted on pure component phase equilibrium measurements, very little had been done related to heat transfer, thermal conductivity and heat capacity measurements of methane hydrates.

Some attempts had been made to develop simple hydrates in porous media systems, but work on simulated cores was only in the initial stages. Accordingly, the objectives set out were to be achieved by:
  • Developing simulated methane hydrate cores in the laboratory to closely approximate naturally occurring systems,
  • Developing techniques to simulate methane hydrates under in situ pressure and temperature conditions (most work to date had been on non-methane systems), and
  • Obtaining cores of actual hydrate under in situ conditions.

The question of how to determine the presence of hydrates prior to drilling at offshore locations was seen to require an improvement in seismic-based methods of identification.

The approach was to be through new, improved high resolution seismic, both reflection and refraction methods, with the sources and the detectors on the sea floor. The potential need for laboratory studies to provide velocity and sonic information to aid in interpretation was also identified.

The question of how to determine the presence of hydrates during drilling operations at offshore locations was also recognized as important. The approaches to upgrading existing methods for detection were defined as: pre-bit push probes that could be used to measure mechanical, chemical and temperature properties of the sediment, and the application of new (at the time) logging techniques such as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), carbon-oxygen, or chloride logs.

The need for the development of a pressure core barrel that would allow for the maintenance of a core at close to in situ temperature was seen as a necessary prerequisite to being able to provide a complete physical, chemical and geological description of a hydrate core.

The question of how to determine the presence of hydrates prior to drilling at onshore locations was seen to require confirmation of the efficacy of both seismic and electrical logging tools.

The recommended approach was to establish a cooperative relationship with industry on the Alaska North Slope and establish the Kuparuk Field as a location for collecting and preserving cores, logs and seismic data. Improvements in methods of gathering and interpreting the data were to be supported by the laboratory tests.

Ultimately, a field test laboratory at Kuparuk was seen as being necessary to develop and validate new coring and logging tools that would permit the collection of data to support the mapping of the extent of the onshore Arctic hydrate resource.

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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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