Evolution law of pulsating seepage and thermal deformation by injecting high-temperature steam into coal for thermal coalbed methane recovery

Zhiqiang Li, Junliang Li, Jinsheng Chen, Ali Karrech, Ningchao Zhang, Ju Chang, Kaiqi Jin, Yangyang Yu, Hongbin Wang, Aijie Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Chinese coal reservoirs are characterized by low pressure and low permeability, which need to be enhanced so as to increase production. However, conventional methods for permeability enhancement can only increase the permeability in fractures, but not the ultra-low permeability in coal matrices. Attempts to enhance such impermeable structures lead to rapid attenuation of gas production, especially in the late stage of gas extraction. Thermal stimulation by injecting high-temperature steam is a promising method to increase gas production. The critical scientific challenges that still hinder its widespread application are related to the evolution law of permeability of high-temperature steam in coal and the thermal deformation of coal. In this study, an experimental approach is developed to explore the high-temperature steam seepage coupled with the thermal deformation in coal under triaxial stress. The tests were conducted using cylindrical coal specimens of ϕ50 mm × 100 mm. The permeability and thermal strain in coal were investigated when high-temperature steam was injected at 151.11, 183.20, 213.65, and 239.76°C. The experimental results reveal for the first time that as the amount of injected fluid increases, the steam permeability shows periodic pulsation changes. This paper introduces and explains the main traits of this discovery that may shed more light on the seepage phenomenon. When the injected steam temperature increases, the amplitude of pulsating permeability decreases, whereas the frequency increases; meanwhile, the period becomes shorter, the pulsation peak appears earlier, and the stabilization time becomes longer. The average peak permeability shows a “U-shaped” trend, decreasing first and then increasing as the steam temperature increases. Meanwhile, with the extension of steam injection time, the axial, radial, and volumetric strains of coal show a stage-wise expansion characteristic at different temperatures of steam injection, except for the radial strains at 151.11°C. A two-phase flow theory of gas–liquid is adopted to elucidate the mechanism of pulsating seepage of steam. Moreover, the influencing mechanism of inward and outward thermal expansion on the permeability of coal is interpreted. The results presented in this paper provide new insight into the feasibility of thermal gas recovery by steam injection.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalDeep Underground Science and Engineering
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2024


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