Traditionally, it is commonly assumed that a single gas hydrate (or clathrate hydrate) structure/phase is formed in natural gas systems - e.g., "s-II natural gas (NG) hydrates"or "s-I methane hydrates"- based on that which is understood to be the most thermodynamically stable at incipient phase boundary conditions. This applies with respect to both studies of hydrates in natural sediments, and in the case of hydrocarbon production operations, including the testing of low-dosage hydrate inhibitors (LDHIs). Here, we present the results of experimental studies of simple propane (C3), binary methane-propane (C1-C3), and ternary methane-ethane-propane (C1-C2-C3) hydrate systems, aimed at investigating phase behavior at higher subcoolings where significant water conversions to clathrates - and associated gas fractionation - might be expected to result in the formation of more than one hydrate structure. Measurements were made by means of established, reliable, isochoric equilibrium step-heating/cooling approaches. In the single guest propane system, pressure-temperature (PT) conditions follow the gas hydrate phase boundary, in agreement with the univariant hydrate + gas + water (H + G + W) equilibrium. By contrast, binary and ternary mixes clearly show PT behavior consistent with the growth of at least two and four hydrate phases, respectively, with these forming sequentially on cooling, and dissociating in the corresponding reverse order upon heating. In-house hydrate model (HydraFLASH) predictions support experimental observations, pointing to processes being gas fractionation driven; the mixed C3-C1 or C3-C2-C1 s-II type hydrates formed first close to the phase boundary preferentially incorporating the most strongly clathrate cage (51264) stabilizing propane, making the remaining gas leaner. Once C3 is largely consumed, trends agree with less stable C2-C1 structures (s-II followed by s-I) then growing (where ethane is present), with this, like C3 uptake, making remaining free gas increasingly of almost pure C1. This ultimately drives systems toward the final simple, single guest C1 s-I clathrate formation as the well-established univariant phase boundary for this structure is reached. As observed phase behavior arises because of gas fractionation, it can be expected to occur during hydrate formation in all mixed gas systems of relatively fixed composition (at constant volume or pressure). The findings highlight that care should be taken in the application of isochoric methods to multicomponent gas systems, given the potential for numerous (rather than just one) clear changes in heating curve slopes as different hydrate structures form/dissociate. In addition, results show that extending equilibrium steps well into the hydrate region can reveal important information on clathrate phase behavior with potentially significant implications for issues such as gas production from hydrates in sediments, hydrate technologies for gas capture/separation/storage in the energy industry, and flow assurance in hydrocarbon production operations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemical Engineering(all)
- Fuel Technology
- Energy Engineering and Power Technology