The primary project goal is to gain insight into the nature, formation, occurrence, and physical properties of methane hydrate-bearing sediments for methane hydrate resource appraisal through the planning and execution of drilling, coring, logging, testing, and analytical activities to assess the geologic occurrence, regional context, and characteristics of marine methane hydrate deposits in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and/or other areas of the United States Outer Continental Shelf.
University of Texas at Austin (UTA) - Austin, TX
Ohio State University - Columbus, OH
Columbia University, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory - Palisades, NY
Oregon State University - Corvallis, OR
University of New Hampshire - Durham, NH
University of Washington - Seattle, WA
Tufts University - Somerville, MA
United States Geological Survey (USGS) - Denver, CO
Methane hydrates within sand‐rich marine reservoirs represent a vast reservoir of methane. Previous drilling in the GOM has verified the presence of hydrate-filled sand reservoirs and shown that such reservoirs can be identified by seismic analysis. However, conventional and pressurized cores of these reservoirs have not been collected, a number critical in situ measurements are lacking, and pressure perturbation experiments have not been performed.
The project team will attempt to address these issues by planning and executing a state-of-the-art deepwater, methane hydrate drilling program targeting methane hydrate reservoirs on the U.S. continental margin.
In Phase 1, potential research expedition sites will be identified, appraised using available geophysical and geologic data, and ranked using criteria developed in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Following site selection, pre-expedition drilling, coring, logging, and a sampling operational plan will be developed, as well as efforts undertaken to access a suitable drill ship/science vessel. A Complementary Project Proposal (CPP), based on the Operational Plan, will be submitted to the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) as a primary method of accessing a suitable drill ship/science vessel. Lab testing, modification, and planning for a land-based field test of the pressure coring tool with ball valve (PCTB) will be conducted concurrently.
During Phase 2, a land-based field test of the PCTB will be conducted followed by a Marine Field Test (UT-GOM2-1) in a deep‐water environment. UTA will develop the capability to transport, store, and manipulate pressure cores, acquired during the UT-GOM2-1, and will transport the cores to land-based facilities to be stored, subsampled, and characterized. The Operational Plan for the UT-GOM2-2 Scientific Drilling Program will be refined. UTA will provide notification of CPP outcome and, if necessary, evaluate alternate means of gaining access to a vessel for the UT-GOM2-2 Scientific Drilling Program.
During Phase 3, UTA will continue support of the CPP and will maintain and further develop the capability to transport, store, and manipulate pressure cores. Pressure cores acquired during UT-GOM2-1 will be further characterized and pressure core analytical capabilities will be strengthened. The Operational Plan for the UT-GOM2-2 Scientific Drilling Program will be refined, and UTA will continue to pursue access to a vessel for the UT-GOM2-2 Scientific Drilling Program. A post UT-GOM2-1 performance evaluation of the PCTB will take place concurrently, a second PCTB lab test will be performed, and modifications will be made as needed. Additionally, UT-GOM2-2 Scientific Drilling Program preparations will be initiated.
In Phase 4, pressure cores acquired during UT-GOM2-1 will be further characterized and pressure core analytical capabilities will be strengthened. The Operational Plan for UT-GOM2-2 will be refined and UTA pursuit of access to a vessel for UT-GOM2-2 will be continued. Engineering modifications to the PCTB will continue to be made as needed, and a Land Test of the PCTB will be conducted prior to planned deployment during the UT-GOM2-2 (Phase 5). UT-GOM2-2 preparations will continue, including planning and initiation of permitting.
During Phase 5, pressure cores acquired from the UT-GOM2-1 will complete characterization. The Operational Plan for UT-GOM2-2 will be finalized and UTA will complete contracting for a suitable vessel, as well as preparations and permitting for the expedition. UT-GOM2-2 Program will be executed and will involve drilling, logging, and collecting core samples in marine gas hydrate bearing sediments in the GOM. Planned data and sample acquisition includes, but is not limited to: pressure cores, conventional wireline cores, and probe penetrometer measurements to determine the in situ thermodynamic conditions. Following shipboard operations, UTA transports the cores to land-based facilities to be stored, subsampled, and initiate characterization.
In Phase 6, pressure cores acquired from UT-GOM2-2 will continue to be characterized and UTA will distribute hydrate cores to other research facilities. Scientific analysis of methane hydrate reservoirs will continue through sample and data distribution, collaborative analysis of geologic data, archiving, or the scientific results volume, and technical presentations. A summary of the onboard drilling and sample procurement procedures, as well as scientific results, will be archived and made publicly available.
Successful acquisition of project data will strengthen our understanding of methane hydrate morphology, saturation, physical properties, geochemistry, and geological characteristics. This data will provide the foundation to model and ultimately predict the behavior of these reservoirs during perturbations caused by production. More broadly, the field data will strengthen our ability to reliably predict concentrations of methane hydrate and formation stability in sand‐dominated reservoir settings, as well as better understand the contribution of marine methane hydrates to the carbon cycle.
Methane hydrates may ultimately contribute to the long‐term energy security of the U.S. and world. Characterization of methane hydrates in marine sands is the first step toward demonstrating the feasibility of production from this type of hydrate occurrence.
Budget Period (BP) 5 - To date
The project remains in Phase 5. Activities in this Phase continue to focus on the completion of preparations for UT-GOM2-2, which includes finalization of contracting, permitting, scientific, operational, and logistical plans, followed by the execution of the large-scale GOM2-2 drilling, logging, and coring expedition at sites in WR313. This expedition is scheduled to take place in the Spring of 2023. Concurrently, during Phase 5, project researchers continue analyzing cores collected during UT-GOM2-1 and will be preparing for core storage and analysis for cores taken during GOM2-2.
Marine Test Expedition Report – Expedition Summary [PDF] February, 2018
ICGH 2017 Paper on Marine Test Drilling, Logging and Coring Expedition [PDF-1MB] May 2017