Characterizing the petrophysical properties of shallow marine environments and their potential as methane hydrate reservoirs
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In shallow marine sedimentary environments, characterization of sediment petrophysical and thermodynamic properties is imperative for understanding the subsurface transport of fluids and their chemical constituents. This work first presents an objective method of scanning electron microscope image analysis that directly quantifies microporosity in clay-rich, fine-grained sediments typical of the shallow marine subsurface. The method is powerful because it is fast, easy, and provides a direct microporosity estimation technique to augment or replace experimental data. When used appropriately, the method can be implemented on microporous sediments and sedimentary rock in general. With an understanding of how microporosity manifests in shallow marine sediments, the impact of small pore sizes on methane hydrate solubility is then examined for core samples taken from 3 sites in the Nankai Trough offshore Japan, an area that has been heavily surveyed in recent years for its potential to host economically recoverable deposits of methane hydrate for use as a natural gas resource. Small pores in fine-grained shaley intervals are shown to significantly increase the aqueous solubility of methane in pore water relative to surrounding coarser-grained sediment strata, which can have broad implications for methane hydrate formation, including lack of formation in the clayey intervals and strong diffusive fluxes of methane into coarser sediment layers. Finally, an existing methane hydrate reservoir simulator is modified to model methane hydrate accumulations in marine environments with heterogeneous layered sediments. The impact of pore size on solubility is included in the model along with steady state microbial methanogenesis and diffusion of salt in the pore water. The simulator is then used to successfully model methane hydrate accumulations in 1D and 2D at Walker Ridge Site 313 in the Gulf of Mexico, where well logs and seismic surveys throughout the region abound. This work is an important step in building a general 3D methane hydrate reservoir simulator for shallow marine environments around the globe.