Microstructural characteristics of natural gas hydrates hosted in various sand sediments
Natural gas hydrates have aroused worldwide interest due to their energy potential and possible impact on climate. The occurrence of natural gas hydrates hosted in the pores of sediments governs the seismic exploration, resource assessment, stability of deposits, and gas production from natural gas hydrate reserves. In order to investigate the microstructure of natural gas hydrates occurring in pores, natural gas hydrate-bearing sediments were visualized using microfocus X-ray computed tomography (CT). Various types of sands with different grain sizes and wettability were used to study the effect of porous materials on the occurrence of natural gas hydrates. Spatial distributions of methane gas, natural gas hydrates, water, and sands were directly identified. This work indicates that natural gas hydrates tend to reside mainly within pore spaces and do not come in contact with adjacent sands. Such an occurring model of natural gas hydrates is termed the floating model. Furthermore, natural gas hydrates were observed to nucleate at gas–water interfaces as lens-shaped clusters. Smaller sand grain sizes contribute to higher hydrate saturation. The wetting behavior of various sands had little effect on the occurrence of natural gas hydrates within pores. Additionally, geometric properties of the sediments were collected through CT image reconstructions. These findings will be instructive for understanding the microstructure of natural gas hydrates within major global reserves and for future resource utilization of natural gas hydrates.