Micromechanical measurements of the effect of surfactants on cyclopentane hydrate shell properties
Investigating the effect of surfactants on clathrate hydrate growth and morphology, especially particle shell strength and cohesion force, is critical to advancing new strategies to mitigate hydrate plug formation. In this study, dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid and polysorbate 80 surfactants were included during the growth of cyclopentane hydrates at several concentrations above and below the critical micelle concentration. A novel micromechanical method was applied to determine the force required to puncture the hydrate shell using a glass cantilever (with and without surfactants), with annealing times ranging from immediately after the hydrate nucleated to 90 minutes after formation. It was shown that the puncture force was decreased by the addition of both surfactants up to a maximum of 79%. Over the entire range of annealing times (0–90 minutes), the thickness of the hydrate shell was also measured. However, there was no clear change in shell thickness with the addition of surfactants. The growth rate of the hydrate shell was found to vary less than 15% with the addition of surfactants. The cohesive force between two hydrate particles was measured for each surfactant and found to be reduced by 28% to 78%. Interfacial tension measurements were also performed. Based on these results, microscopic changes to the hydrate shell morphology (due to the presence of surfactants) were proposed to cause the decrease in the force required to break the hydrate shell, since no macroscopic morphology changes were observed. Understanding the hydrate shell strength can be critical to reducing the capillary bridge interaction between hydrate particles or controlling the release of unconverted water from the interior of the hydrate particle, which can cause rapid hydrate conversion.