A thorough understanding of the thermal conductivity of hydrate-bearing sediments is necessary for evaluating phase transformation processes that would accompany energy production from gas hydrate deposits and for estimating regional heat flow based on the observed depth to the base of the gas hydrate stability zone. The coexistence of multiple phases (gas hydrate, liquid and gas pore fill, and solid sediment grains) and their complex spatial arrangement hinder the a priori prediction of the thermal conductivity of hydrate-bearing sediments. Previous studies have been unable to capture the full parameter space covered by variations in grain size, specific surface, degree of saturation, nature of pore filling material, and effective stress for hydrate-bearing samples. Here we report on systematic measurements of the thermal conductivity of air dry, water- and tetrohydrofuran (THF)-saturated, and THF hydrate-saturated sand and clay samples at vertical effective stress of 0.05 to 1 MPa (corresponding to depths as great as 100 m below seafloor). Results reveal that the bulk thermal conductivity of the samples in every case reflects a complex interplay among particle size, effective stress, porosity, and fluid-versus-hydrate filled pore spaces. The thermal conductivity of THF hydrate-bearing soils increases upon hydrate formation although the thermal conductivities of THF solution and THF hydrate are almost the same. Several mechanisms can contribute to this effect including cryogenic suction during hydrate crystal growth and the ensuing porosity reduction in the surrounding sediment, increased mean effective stress due to hydrate formation under zero lateral strain conditions, and decreased interface thermal impedance as grain-liquid interfaces are transformed into grain-hydrate interfaces.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science