Production Characteristics of Oceanic Natural Gas Hydrate Reservoirs

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Michael D Max, Hydrate Energy International, Washington, DC, United States and Arthur H Johnson, Hydrate Energy International Kenner, Kenner, LA, United States
Oceanic natural gas hydrate (NGH) accumulations form when natural gas is trapped thermodynamically within the gas hydrate stability zone (GHSZ), which extends downward from the seafloor in open ocean depths greater than about 500 metres. As water depths increase, the thickness of the GHSZ thickens, but economic NGH deposits probably occur no deeper than 1 km below the seafloor. Natural gas (mostly methane) appears to emanate mostly from deeper sources and migrates into the GHSZ. The natural gas crystallizes as NGH when the pressure - temperature conditions within the GHSZ are reached and when the chemical condition of dissolved gas concentration in pore water is high enough to favor crystallization. Although NGH can form in both primary and secondary porosity, the principal economic target appears to be turbidite sands on deep continental margins. Because these are very similar to the hosts of more deeply buried conventional gas and oil deposits, industry knows how to explore for them. Recent improvements in a seismic geotechnical approach to NGH identification and valuation have been confirmed by drilling in the northern Gulf of Mexico and allow for widespread exploration for NGH deposits to begin.

NGH concentrations occur in the same semi-consolidated sediments in GHSZs worldwide. This provides for a narrow exploration window with low acoustic attenuation. These sediments present the same range of relatively easy drilling conditions and formation pressures that are only slightly greater than at the seafloor and are essentially equalized by water in wellbores. Expensive conventional drilling equipment is not required. NGH is the only hydrocarbon that is stable at its formation pressures and incapable of converting to gas without artificial stimulation. We suggest that specialized, NGH-specific drilling capability will offer opportunities for much less expensive drilling, more complex wellbore layouts that improve reservoir connectivity and in which gas-water separation can begin within the seafloor, and specialized production techniques. NGH is the only oceanic hydrocarbon deposit in which pressure can be controlled within the reservoir by balancing conversion and extraction. Oceanic NGH has a very low environmental risk, which also serves to distinguish it from other deepwater hydrocarbon deposits.