Deposits of naturally occurring methane hydrate have been identified in permafrost and deep oceanic environments with global reserves estimated to be twice the total amount of energy stored in fossil fuels. The fundamental behavior of methane hydrate in natural formations, while poorly understood, is of critical importance if the economic recovery of methane from hydrates is to be accomplished. In this study, computed X-ray tomography (CT) scanning is used to image an advancing dissociation front in a heterogeneous gas hydrate/sand sample at 0.1 MPa. The cylindrical methane hydrate and sand aggregate, 2.54 cm in diameter and 6.3 cm long, was contained in a PVC sample holder that was insulated on all but one end. At the uninsulated end, the dissociated gas was captured and the volume of gas monitored. The sample was initially imaged axially using X-ray CT scanning within the methane hydrate stability zone by keeping the sample temperature at 77??K. Subsequently, as the sample warmed through the methane hydrate dissociation point at 194??K and room pressure, gas was produced and the temperature at the bottom of the sample plug was monitored while CT images were acquired. The experiment showed that CT imaging can resolve the reduction in density (as seen by a reduction in beam attenuation) of the hydrate/sand aggregate due to the dissociation of methane hydrate. In addition, a comparison of CT images with gas flow and temperature measurements reveals that the CT scanner is able to resolve accurately and spatially the advancing dissociation front. Future experiments designed to better understand the thermodynamics of hydrate dissociation are planned to take advantage of the temporal and spatial resolution that the CT scanner provides.
Additional publication details
X-ray Computed Tomography Observation of Methane Hydrate Dissociation