Hydrate Growth on Methane Gas Bubbles in the Presence of Salt

Louis C.Y. Yu, Thomas B. Charlton, Zachary M. Aman, David T. Wu, Carolyn A. Koh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Methane bubble dispersions in a water column can be observed in both vertical subsea piping as well as subsea gas seepages. Hydrate growth has been shown to occur at the gas-water interface under flowing conditions, yet the majority of the current literature is limited to quiescent systems. Gas hydrate risks in subsea piping have been shown to increase in late life production wells with increased water content and with gas-in-water bubble dispersions. The dissolution of subsea methane seepages into seawater, or methane release into the atmosphere, can be affected by hydrate film growth on rising bubbles. A high-pressure water tunnel (HPWT), was used to generate a turbulent, continuous water flow system representative of a vertical jumper line to study the relationship between bulk methane hydrate growth and bubble size during a production-well restart. The HPWT comprises a flow loop of 19.1 mm inner diameter and 4.9 m length, with a vertical section containing an optical window to enable visualization of the bubble and hydrate flow dynamics via a high-speed, high-resolution video camera. Additional online monitoring includes the differential pressure drop, viscosity, temperature, flow rates, and gas consumption. Experimental conditions were maintained at 275 K and 6.2 MPa during hydrate formation and 298 K and 1.4 MPa during hydrate dissociation. Hydrate growth using freshwater and saltwater (3.5 wt % NaCl) was measured at four flow velocities (0.8, 1.2, 1.6, and 1.9 m s-1). The addition of salt is shown in this work to alter the surface properties of bubbles, which introduces changes to bubble dynamics of dispersion and coalescence. Hydrate volume fractions and growth rates in the presence of salt were on average ∼32% lower compared to that in freshwater. This was observed and validated to be due to bubble size and dynamic factors and not due to the 1.5 K thermodynamic inhibition effect of salt. Throughout hydrate growth, methane bubbles in pure freshwater maintained larger diameters (2.4-4.2 mm), whereas the presence of salt promoted fine gas bubble dispersions (0.1-0.7 mm), increasing gas-water interfacial area. While gas bubble coalescence was observed in all freshwater experiments, the addition of salt limited coalescence between gas bubbles and reduced bubble size. Consequently, earlier formation of solid hydrate shells in saltwater produced early mass-transfer barriers reducing hydrate growth rates. While primarily directed toward flow assurance, the observed relationship between hydrates, bubble size, and saltwater also applies to broader research fields in subsea gas seepages and naturally occurring hydrates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-95
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2020


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