The deepwater portion of the Gulf of Mexico has long been an area of interest to gas hydrate researchers and industry stakeholders. The U.S. Department of Energy and NETL’s initial hydrate R&D work in the Gulf was formulated to evaluate safety concerns related to conventional oil and gas operations; and to learn more about concentrated hydrate deposits with significant energy resource potential.
In the early 2000s, DOE/NETL launched several projects aimed at characterizing hydrate deposits in the Gulf. A specific objective was to develop and test prospecting, drilling, and sampling approaches that could be used to delineate hydrate-bearing reservoirs and quantify their hydrate saturation. To meet this objective, the Gulf of Mexico Joint Industry Project (JIP) was formed, led by Chevron, as a partnership among industry, academia, and government entities.
JIP Leg I
In the Spring of 2005, the JIP partners conducted JIP Leg I, a 35-day marine expedition to collect data and samples at two deepwater sites—Atwater Valley Blocks 13/14 and Keathley Canyon Block 151. Specific technical objectives of the drilling and coring expedition were to collect log data, measure seismic velocities, recover core samples, and determine reservoir temperature and pressure data in hydrate-bearing formations at targeted sites. The expedition resulted in seven boreholes, yielding a mix of logging-while-drilling data, measurement-while-drilling data, conventional wireline logs, and core samples from intervals of interest.
JIP Leg II
In the Spring of 2009, the JIP, led by Chevron and including an international industry consortium, conducted a logging-while-drilling program at Walker Ridge block 313, Green Canyon block 955, and Alaminos Canyon block 21. The objective of the program was to test a geological and geophysical data analysis approach for identifying gas hydrate prospects in sand reservoirs in the deepwater Gulf.
Results of the expedition proved the effectiveness of the prospecting approach, which has since been adopted internationally. The approach integrates direct detection with geophysical tools; mapping of hydrate stability field boundaries using available pressure and temperature estimates; and classic petroleum system analysis.
The 2009 results also verified several high-saturation hydrate-bearing reservoirs, delineating these for follow-on engineering and characterization studies.
In 2017, NETL and the University of Texas at Austin conducted a successful drilling and coring expedition, GOM2 Expedition-1, at hydrate-rich sites discovered by the JIP Leg II team in 2009. The 2017 program resulted in successful retrieval of pressurized hydrate-bearing core samples from sands in the Green Canyon 955-H well. The samples have since been analyzed in a number of state-of-the-art laboratories. Results of drilling, coring, and laboratory studies continue to inform marine hydrate expeditions worldwide.