Thermal responses of a gas hydrate-bearing sediment to a depressurization operation
As a part of a research program aiming to mobilize marine gas hydrate deposits as an energy resource, the worlds' first gas production attempt was performed in early 2013 in the Daini Atsumi Knoll, Eastern Nankai Trough, off Honshu Island, Japan. The test concluded with 119 000 m3 (under ambient conditions) of methane gas production during six consecutive days of depressurization operation through a borehole drilled at 1000 m water depth. As thermal and mass transportation in a heterogeneous geological formation are the governing factors of efficiency and effectiveness of the resource, the test was associated with intensive underground temperature monitoring. Temperature sensors installed in one production and two observation boreholes could detect temperature variations during gas production due to the endothermic gas hydrate dissociation process and mass/heat transport around the boreholes. The measurements in the observation holes started one year before the test and continued until plug-and-abandonment, and thus enabled monitoring of both the initial temperature and temperature change arizing from recovery processes. The depth profiles of measured temperatures in all holes can be related to the geological features of the corresponding formation, and those thermal responses revealed the intervals where gas hydrate dissociation predominantly occurred. By analyzing the energy conservation in the production borehole, the gas and water production profiles could be estimated and major gas and water production zones were identified. Preliminary numerical analysis results show the range of formation permeability and that the observed temperature drop is equivalent to the heat consumption by hydrate dissociation for the volume of produced methane gas. Moreover, the thermal responses could provide some clues about the location and mechanism of the sand production event. This sand production event ultimately terminated the production operations on the seventh day of flow.
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