Geomechanical Behavior of Hydrate-Bearing Sediments in the Ulleung Basin during Methane Production

Monday, 15 December 2014
Gye Chun Cho1, Ah-Ram Kim1 and SE-Joon KIM2, (1)KAIST, Daejeon, South Korea, (2)KIGAM, Daejeon, South Korea
The potential of methane hydrate deposits in the Ulleung Basin of the Korean East Sea was suggested by the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources between 2000 and 2004. In a few years, a pilot production project is planned as the world’s second offshore methane production project. The basin has a water depth of 1500-2300 m; however, the depth of the hydrate occurrence zone is relatively shallow (about 100-200 mbsf) for gas hydrate production. There is high potential for geomechanical stability problems such as seafloor subsidence, differential settlement, effective stress concentrations, marine landslides, and wellbore instability. In this study, 2D axisymmetric numerical modeling is conducted to simulate the depressurization process in the Ulleung Basin for methane gas production. The coupled mechanical-flow-thermal model used for this purpose incorporates the physical processes of hydrate dissociation, the pore fluid flow, thermal advection, and the geomechanical response of hydrate-bearing sediments. Using the coupled model, two high-potential sites are compared with respect to the pore pressure, temperature change, production efficiency, and geomechanical stability. During depressurization, deformation of the sediments around the production well occurs due to the pore pressure difference and the increase in the effective stress in the depressurized region. This tendency becomes more pronounced due to the decrease in the stiffness of the hydrate-bearing sediments, which is caused by hydrate dissociation. In addition, the latent heat induced by methane hydrate dissociation and thermal advection due to the pore fluid flow have greater effects on the dissociation range and pace than do the geomechanical behaviors. Meanwhile, higher production efficiency, a larger latent heat effect and less settlement are induced in the site, which consists of thick sand layers with greater stiffness and permeability levels than mud layers.