Aqueous Solid Formation Kinetics in High-Pressure Methane at Trace Water Concentrations

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Natural gas containing trace amounts of water is frequently liquefied at conditions where aqueous solids are thermodynamically stable. However, no data are available to describe the kinetics of aqueous solid formation at these conditions. Here, we present experimental measurements of both solid formation kinetics and solid-fluid equilibrium for trace concentrations of (12 ± 0.7) ppm water in methane using a stirred, high-pressure apparatus and visual microscopy. Along isochoric pathways with cooling rates around 1 K·min-1, micron-scale aqueous solids were observed to form at subcoolings of (0.3-8.6) K, relative to an average equilibrium melting temperature of (253 ± 1.9) K at (8.9 ± 0.08) MPa; these data are consistent with predicted methane hydrate dissociation conditions within the uncertainty of both the experiment and model. The 36 measured formation events were used to construct a cumulative formation probability distribution, which was then fitted with a model from Classical Nucleation Theory, enabling the extraction of kinetic and thermodynamic nucleation parameters. While the resulting nucleation parameter values were comparable to those published for methane hydrate formation in bulk-water systems, the observed growth kinetics were distinctly different with only a small percentage of the water in the system converting into micron-scale solids over the experimental time scale. These results may help explain how cryogenic heat exchangers in liquefied natural gas facilities can operate for long periods without blockages forming despite being at very high subcoolings for aqueous solids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4631-4641
Number of pages11
Issue number13
Early online date23 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2023


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