Pore-Scale Controls on Permeability, Fluid Flow, and Methane Hydrate Distribution in Fine-Grained Sediments
Daigle, Hugh Callahan
Doctor of Philosophy
Permeability in fine-grained sediments is governed by the surface area exposed to fluid flow and tortuosity of the pore network. I modify an existing technique of computing permeability from nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) data to extend its applicability beyond reservoir-quality rocks to the fine-grained sediments that comprise the majority of the sedimentary column. This modification involves correcting the NMR data to account for the large surface areas and disparate mineralogies typically exhibited by fine-grained sediments. Through measurements on resedimented samples composed of controlled mineralogies, I show that this modified NMR permeability algorithm accurately predicts permeability over 5 orders of magnitude. This work highlights the importance of pore system surface area and geometry in determining transport properties of porous media. I use these insights to probe the pore-scale controls on methane hydrate distribution and hydraulic fracturing behavior, both of which are controlled by flux and permeability. To do this I employ coupled poromechanical models of hydrate formation in marine sediments. Fracture-hosted methane hydrate deposits are found at many sites worldwide, and I investigate whether pore occlusion and permeability reduction due to hydrate formation can drive pore fluid pressures to the point at which the sediments iii fracture hydraulically. I find that hydraulic fractures may form in systems with high flux and/or low permeability; that low-permeability layers can influence the location of fracture initiation if they are thicker than a critical value that is a function of flux and layer permeability; that capillary-driven depression of the triple point of methane in finegained sediments causes hydrate to form preferentially in coarse-grained layers; that the relative fluxes of gas and water in multiphase systems controls hydrate distribution and the location of fracture initiation; and that methane hydrate systems are dynamic systems in which methane flux and hydrate formation cause changes in fluid flow on time scales of hundreds to thousands of years. My results illustrate how pore-scale processes affect macro scale properties of methane hydrate systems and generally affect fluid flow and transport from pore to basin scale.