Title:
METHOD FOR PRODUCTION, SUBSTITUTION, OR MINING OF GAS HYDRATE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gas hydrate is produced by injecting guest molecules into voids in a layer of which temperature and pressure condition allows the guest molecules to cause to form hydrate, in a form of emulsion where liquid of the guest molecules is dispersed in water as minute particles having a size of less than a size of voids, and thereby dispersing the guest molecules uniformly into the voids in the layer.



Inventors:
Svoboda, Michal (Praha, CZ)
Svobodova, Xenia (Praha, CZ)
Ikegawa, Yojiro (US)
Application Number:
12/063819
Publication Date:
02/05/2009
Filing Date:
08/25/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
166/279
International Classes:
E21B43/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LEFF, ANGELA MARIE DITRAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NOTARO, MICHALOS & ZACCARIA P.C. (100 DUTCH HILL ROAD, ORANGEBURG, NY, 10962, US)
Claims:
1. A method for production of gas hydrate, which is characterized in that guest molecules are injected into voids in the layer of which temperature and pressure condition allows the guest molecules to cause to form hydrate, in a form of emulsion where liquid of the guest molecules is dispersed in water as minute particles having a size of less than a size of the voids.

2. The method for production of gas hydrate according to claim 1, wherein the heating value per unit volume of the emulsion is controlled by varying the ratio of the liquid of the guest molecules and the water in the emulsion.

3. The method for production of gas hydrate according to claim 1, wherein the production rate of the hydrate is controlled by varying the size of the liquid minute particles of the guest molecules in the emulsion.

4. The method for production of gas hydrate according to claim 1, wherein an interfaces between the minute particles of the guest molecules and the water were activated by irradiating the emulsion with ultrasonic waves.

5. The method for production of gas hydrate according to claim 1, wherein, by irradiating the emulsion with ultrasonic waves continuously, the production of the hydrate during irradiation is repressed.

6. The method for production of gas hydrate according to claim 1, wherein the guest molecules are CO2.

7. A method for substitution of gas hydrate, which is characterized in that, to voids in a layer where hydrate of first guest molecules exists, an emulsion in which a liquid of second guest molecules is dispersed in water as minute particles having a size of less than the size of the voids is injected, wherein the second guest molecules can form hydrate under a higher temperature and lower pressure condition as compared with the temperature and pressure condition under which the first guest molecules forms the hydrate; and thereby the hydrate of the first guest molecules is decomposed by heat which is generated when the hydrate of the second guest molecules is produced.

8. The method for substitution of gas hydrate according to claim 7, wherein the heating value per unit volume of the emulsion is controlled by varying the ratio of the liquid of the second guest molecules and the water in the emulsion.

9. The method for substitution of gas hydrate according to claim 7, wherein the production rate of the hydrate of the second guest molecules is controlled by varying the size of the liquid minute particles of the second guest molecules in the emulsion.

10. The method for substitution of gas hydrate according to claim 7, wherein an interfaces between the minute particles of the second guest molecules and the water were activated by irradiating the emulsion with ultrasonic waves at the early stage of the substitution.

11. The method for substitution of gas hydrate according to claim 7, wherein, by irradiating the emulsion with ultrasonic waves continuously, the production of the hydrate of the second guest molecules during irradiation is repressed.

12. The method for substitution of gas hydrate according to claim 7, wherein the progress for decomposition of the hydrate of the first guest molecules and the progress for production of the hydrate of the second guest molecules are estimated by at least one or more of the change in temperature of the layer, the change in passing speed of ultrasonic waves through the layer, and the change in permeability of the emulsion into the voids.

13. The method for substitution of gas hydrate according to claim 7, wherein the first guest molecules are CH4, and the second guest molecules are CO2.

14. A method for mining of gas hydrate, which is characterized in that, to voids in CH4 hydrate layer, an emulsion in which a liquid CO2 is dispersed in water as minute particles having a size of less than the size of the voids is injected, wherein the emulsion is used as a heating agent for decomposing the CH4 hydrate existing in the voids.

15. A method for mining of gas hydrate, which is characterized in that, to voids in a layer which is rested on a CH4 hydrate layer and is under the temperature and pressure condition that CO2 can forms hydrate, an emulsion in which a liquid CO2 is dispersed in water as minute particles having a size of less than a size of the voids is injected in order to form a seal layer of CO2 hydrate; and then the emulsion is injected to voids in the CH4 hydrate layer so that CO2 hydrate is produced while decomposing the CH4 hydrate existed in the voids by heat of reaction in the CO2 hydrate production, thus the CH4 hydrate is replaced with the CO2 hydrate while recovering CH4 gas.

16. A method for mining of gas hydrate, which is characterized in that, to voids in a layer which is rested on a CH4 hydrate layer and is under the temperature and pressure condition that CO2 can forms hydrate, an emulsion in which a liquid CO2 is dispersed in water as minute particles having a size of less than a size of the voids is injected in order to form a seal layer of CO2 hydrate; the emulsion is injected to voids in a layer which is rested under the CH4 hydrate layer in order to produce CO2 hydrate and to cause the temperature of the layer rested under the CH4 hydrate layer to rise by heat of reaction in the CO2 hydrate production, by which risen temperature the CH4 hydrate existing in the CH4 hydrate layer is decomposed from the lower side of the CH4 hydrate layer; and the CH4 gas is collected by the seal layer in order to recover the CH4 gas to the ground, while the strength of the layer after mining of the CH4 hydrate is restored by injecting the emulsion into the layer so as to form CO2 hydrate therein.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention relates to methods for production, substitution, and mining of gas hydrate. More particularly, this invention relates to a method for fixation of carbon dioxide (CO2), and a method useful for mining of methane (CH4) hydrate by substitution utilizing the fixation.

BACKGROUND OF ARTS

In order to prevent the global warming due to the release of enormous amount of CO2, it has been studied to fixate CO2 to submarine layer, lake bottom layer, permafrost, or the like by hydrating CO2. Meanwhile, vast amounts of CH4 hydrate lie under submarine layer or the like have been attracted as a new energy source, and thus the mining of CH4 hydrate has been studied. Further, it has been also studied to mine CH4 while fixating CO2 by substituting CH4 molecules in CH4 hydrate to CO2 molecules.

For instance, a research paper (Non-patent Literature 1) discloses about the substitution of CH4 molecules in CH4 hydrate to CO2 molecules. In this research paper, it is discussed thermodynamically that methane as guest molecules in hydrate lattice is substituted to carbon dioxide without decomposing the hydrate lattice under the mixture state of CH4 gas, carbon dioxide, water, CH4 hydrate and carbon dioxide hydrate.

Further, a method for fixation of carbon dioxide has been proposed, wherein carbon dioxide is introduced to the underground CH4 hydrate layer in order to substitute methane with carbon dioxide and fixate the carbon dioxide as carbon dioxide hydrate to the hydrate layer, and extract natural gas to the Earth's surface (Patent Literature 2). Since a condition where CH4 hydrate exists stably also functions as a condition where carbon dioxide hydrate exists stably, the carbon dioxide hydrate can be produced by injecting gaseous or liquid carbon dioxide to the CH4 hydrate layer through a penetrating injection pipe, while by the exothermal reaction at this production the CH4 hydrate can be decomposed. Then, the methane gas is recovered to the ground through a separate exhaust pipe.

Incidentally, as a method for mining of gas hydrate, it has been proposed to emit a high speed jet flow to gas hydrate layer through a mining pipe which was impacted to the layer having the gas hydrate layer, in order to cut and break the gas hydrate and recover it as a gas including mixture fluid to the ground, while filling cavities in the layer which are created by the recovery of gas hydrate with the composition of the high speed jet flow (Patent Literature 1). As the composition of the high speed jet flow, a minute grain material which includes slime, cement type hardener, and/or industrial by-product such as blast furnace slag in slurry which is prepared by kneading water and silt, cohesive soil or the like is used.

Patent Literature 1: Japanese Patent Unexamined Publication 2003-214082 (JP 2003-214082 A)

Patent Literature 2: Japanese Patent Unexamined Publication HEI 6-71161 (JP HEI 6-71161 A)

Non-Patent Literature 1: Kazunari Ohgaki, Kiyomitsu Takano, Masairi Moritoki, “Utilization of CH4 hydrate and reservation of CO2 in Nankai trough”, Collection of Chemical Engineering Essay, Japan, 20 (1), 1994.01, pp. 121-123

DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION

Problems to be Solved by the Invention

The method for mining of the gas hydrate disclosed in the Patent Literature 1, however, is useless for fixating CO2, because in the method the gas hydrate is merely recovered by cutting and breaking it in the layer. In addition, most of the layer as targets for mining of gas hydrate are ocean sedimentary layer where solid phases such as sand particles are connected to each other by the presence of CH4 hydrate. Therefore, although the cavities which have been created after the mining are filled with the composition of the high speed jet flow, there is a fear of causing caving or landslide of the layer around the region cut and broken by the high speed jet flow, or causing cracks which is followed by embrittlement or destruction of the layer around the region cut and broken by the high speed jet flow before the fluidity of the composition of the high speed jet flow settles and the composition fixes. Thereby, CH4 hydrate may come to the surface and is dissolved naturally, and then the situation that the effluence of CH4 gas to the ground can not be controlled may be happened. Further, the substitution of gas hydrate with the minute grain material which includes slime, cement type hardener, and/or industrial by-product such as blast furnace slag in slurry which is prepared by kneading water and silt, cohesive soil or the like may bring the fear of additional environmental pollution.

According to the method for fixation of carbon dioxide of the Patent Literature 2, since liquid CO2 of almost 100% concentration is injected without mixing with water, the area of the interface between the liquid CO2 and water where the hydrate producing reaction occurs is restricted and is very small, and thus there is a problem that the reaction is slow. In addition, although the ratio of water and CO2 is important for the CO2 hydrate producing reaction, it is hardly possible to maintain the ratio of water and CO2 uniformly in the void of the layer when injecting the liquid CO2 of almost 100% concentration into the layer. Therefore, it is very difficult to fixate a large amount of CO2 as CO2 hydrate, and it is also difficult to substitute it efficiently with a large amount of methane. Thus, the method is impractical when the fixation of a large amount of CO2 at once is demanded. Further, since the ocean sedimentary layer where the CH4 hydrate exists is unconsolidated one, when a large amount of liquid CO2 is injected there, the liquid CO2 will come to rise by buoyancy in the case that the reaction rate is slow. Because, the specific gravity of liquid CO2 is lighter than that of seawater. Thus, there is a fear that the leak of liquid CO2 to the ocean bottom before the CO2 hydrate is produced. Furthermore, since it is difficult to predict where and how the interface between the liquid CO2 and water is moved to the void in layer, it becomes difficult to predict the distribution of temperature rising of the layer due to the heat generation on the production of CO2 hydrate, and to control the temperature of the layer so as to create efficiently the decomposition of CH4 hydrate. Thus, there is a problem that the control of production of gas hydrate and the control of decomposition of gas hydrate are difficult.

In the case of low temperature and high pressure environment where CO2 hydrate is produced, however, CO2 hydrate can be produced at higher temperature and lower pressure side as compared with CH4, and thus, it is the environment where CO2 hydrate is retained stably as is the case with CH4 hydrate, and which can fixate CO2 hydrate. Therefore, in order to put the technique for fixating CO2 by hydration and the technique for mining of CH4 hydrate by substituting CH4 hydrate with CO2 hydrate to practical use, it is desired to accelerate the production rate of CO2 hydrate.

This invention aims to provide to methods for production, substitution, and mining of gas hydrate, which can accelerate production rate of the gas hydrate.

Means for Solving the Problems

The method for production of gas hydrate according to the present invention for attaining such an objective is characterized in that guest molecules are injected into voids in the layer of which temperature and pressure condition allows the guest molecules to cause hydration, in a form of emulsion where liquid of the guest molecules is dispersed as minute particles having a size of less than the size of voids in water.

The ratio of the liquid minute particle of guest molecules and water as dispersing medium, which constitute the emulsion, is not particularly limited to a certain value. Although it is preferable that the ratio is adjusted to a value suitable for producing hydrate, it is possible in some cases that the ratio of the liquid of guest molecules and water is varied in order to control the heating value per unit volume of emulsion. Further, it is also possible that the size of the liquid minute particles of guest molecules in emulsion is varied in order to control the production rate of hydrate. These controls are useful for preventing the temperature rising of the layer associated with the production of gas hydrate from reaching a temperature of not producing the hydrate or a temperature at which the hydrate becomes unstable.

In the present invention, the emulsion may be injected into the layer, as it is, without giving a particular operation. It is also possible, however, to irradiate emulsion with ultrasonic waves in order to activate the interfaces of guest molecules, or to irradiate emulsion with ultrasonic waves continuously in order to repress the production of the hydrate. These controls are optionally taken as occasion demands, and thus it is not always necessitated.

As the guest molecules in the method for production of the gas hydrate according to the present invention, any molecules capable of producing hydrate can be utilized. Among them, CO2 is particularly desirable.

The method for substitution of gas hydrate according to the present invention is characterized in that, to voids in a layer where hydrate of first guest molecules exists, an emulsion in which a liquid of second guest molecules is dispersed in water as particles having a size of less than the size of the voids is injected, wherein the second guest molecules can form hydrate under a higher temperature and lower pressure condition as compared with the temperature and pressure condition under which the first guest molecules forms the hydrate; and thereby the hydrate of the first guest molecules is decomposed by heat which is generated when the hydrate of the second guest molecules is produced.

In this substitution method of gas hydrate, as is the case with the production method of gas hydrate mentioned above, it is possible that the mixing ratio of the liquid of the second guest molecules and water in the emulsion is varied in order to control the heating value per unit volume of emulsion. Further, it is also possible that the size of the liquid minute particles of second guest molecules in emulsion is varied in order to control the production rate of hydrate.

In addition, when irradiating the emulsion with ultrasonic waves in the early stage of substitution, the interfaces between the minute particles of the second guest particles and water are activated. When irradiating the emulsion with ultrasonic waves, the production of the hydrate of the second guest molecules is repressed during the irradiation.

Further, in the method for substitution of gas hydrate according to the present invention, the progress for decomposition of the hydrate of the first guest molecules and the progress for production of the hydrate of the second guest molecules are estimated by at least one or more of the change in temperature of the layer, the change in passing speed of ultrasonic waves through the layer, and the change in permeability of the emulsion into the voids.

In addition, in the method for substitution of gas hydrate according to the present invention, it is preferable to use CH4 as the first guest molecules, and CO2 as the second guest molecules, respectively.

The method for mining of gas hydrate according to the present invention is characterized in that, to voids in a layer where CH4 hydrate exists, an emulsion in which a liquid CO2 is dispersed in water as particles having a size of less than the size of the voids is injected, wherein the emulsion is used as a heating agent for decomposing the CH4 hydrate existing in the voids.

Further, the method for mining of gas hydrate according to the present invention is characterized in that, to voids in a layer which is rested on a CH4 hydrate layer and is under the temperature and pressure condition that CO2 can forms hydrate, an emulsion in which a liquid CO2 is dispersed in water as particles having a size of less than the size of the voids is injected in order to form a seal layer of CO2 hydrate; and then the emulsion is injected to voids in the CH4 hydrate layer so that CO2 hydrate is produced while decomposing the CH4 hydrate existed in the voids by heat of reaction in the CO2 hydrate production, thus the CH4 hydrate is substituted with the CO2 hydrate while recovering CH4 gas.

Alternatively, the method for mining of gas hydrate according to the present invention is characterized in that, to voids in a layer which is rested on a CH4 hydrate layer and is under the temperature and pressure condition that CO2 can forms hydrate, an emulsion in which a liquid CO2 is dispersed in water as particles having a size of less than the size of the voids is injected in order to form a seal layer of CO2 hydrate; and the emulsion is injected to voids in a layer which is rested under the CH4 hydrate layer in order to produce CO2 hydrate and to cause the temperature of this layer to rise by heat of reaction in the CO2 hydrate production, by which risen temperature of the CH4 hydrate existing in the CH4 hydrate layer which is rested on this layer is decomposed from the lower side; and the CH4 gas is collected by the seal layer in order to recover the CH4 gas to the ground, while the strength of the layer after mining the CH4 hydrate is restored by injecting the emulsion into the layer so as to form CO2 hydrate therein.

EFFECT OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the method for production of gas hydrate of the present invention, since the liquid of the guest molecules which is injected into the layer is in the emulsion state where the liquid of guest molecules is dispersed in water as particles having a size of less than the size of the voids in the layer, like water, the liquid of the guest molecules can enter into the void easily without disturbance while displacing water or seawater filled in the void in the layer from the void, or can disperse in the water or seawater, and thus it can be distributed uniformly in the layer while maintaining the emulsion state where the minute particles of the guest molecules are admixed with the seawater. In addition, since the liquid of guest molecules is made into the emulsion state in advance of it's injection into the layer, it is possible to disperse water and the guest molecules with a ratio suitable for the production of hydrate, and thus, it is possible to produce the hydrate uniformly and efficiently.

Further, since the contacting area between the liquid of guest molecules and water can be enlarged dramatically by preparing the minute particles, it is possible to accelerate the reaction rate and thus it is possible to accelerate the production of hydrate. In addition, since the hydrate can be produced quickly, it is possible to fixate a large amount of guest molecules into the layer. Furthermore, since the time required for the production of the hydrate can be shortened and the hydrate can be produced quickly, it is possible to repress the migration and diffusion of the liquid of the guest molecules which are caused by the flow of groundwater or the buoyancy of the liquid.

Further, in accordance with the method for production of gas hydrate of the present invention, it is possible to control the temperature of the layer to the temperature at which the gas hydrate can be produced, when the mixing ratio of the liquid of the guest molecules and water is varied so as to control the heating value per unit volume of emulsion, or when the temperature of water as the dispersion medium is varied so as to change the temperature of the emulsion in itself. In this case, there is no fear that the hydrate becomes unstable due to the temperature rising of the layer associated with the production of gas hydrate, and there is no need for preparing any temperature reducing mechanisms.

Further, in accordance with the method for production of gas hydrate of the present invention, it is possible to control the production rate of the hydrate, when the specific surface area of the minute particles of the liquid of the guest molecules in the emulsion is varied by varying the size of the minute particle. Therefore, only by regulating the size of the minute particles of the liquid of the guest molecules, it is possible to control the production rate of the hydrate.

Further, in the method for production of gas hydrate of the present invention, it is also possible to accelerate the reaction rate and to accelerate the production of the hydrate, when the interfaces between the minute particles of the liquid of the guest particles and water are activated by irradiating them with the ultrasonic waves.

Further, in accordance with the present invention, since the production of the hydrate can be repressed by irradiating the emulsion with the ultrasonic waves continuously and thus causing the minute particles and water to vibrate, it is possible to control the timing of initiating the production of the hydrate by regulating the irradiation time of the ultrasonic waves.

In addition, in the method for production of gas hydrate of the present invention, it is also possible to fixate a great amount of CO2 which is the cause of global warming in the layer, when CO2 is used as the guest molecules and the hydrate thereof is produced in the voids of the layer.

In accordance with the method for substitution of gas hydrate of the present invention, it is possible to substitute the gas hydrate without causing weakening or collapse of the layer. Because, only by injecting the emulsion where the minute particles of the second guest molecules are admixed with seawater into the layer where the hydrate of the first guest molecules exists, the decomposition of the gas hydrate in which the first guest molecules have been included can be progressed at a rapid reaction rate while a gas hydrate in which the second guest molecules are included is produced. Therefore, even if a submarine landslide on a large scale will happen due to an earthquake or the like during the operation for the gas hydrate substitution, there is not very much risks about the leak of the gas of the second guest molecules which is injected into the layer, and about the leak of the gas of the first guest molecules which is produced by the decomposition, into the atmosphere, as well as about the release of the gas hydrate into the atmosphere as a result of ascending the gas hydrate with the buoyancy and then allowing it to gasify. In addition, since the reaction area necessitated for accelerating the chemical reaction is enlarged by making the second guest molecules into the minute particles and thus the heat necessitated for decomposing the gas hydrate can be supplied efficiently by the heat on the production of the other gas hydrate, it is possible to repress the generation of CO2 for obtaining the heat.

Further, in accordance with the method for substitution of gas hydrate of the present invention, it is possible to control the temperature rising of the layer in order to regulate the decomposition rate of the gas hydrate to be substituted, when the mixing ratio of the liquid of the guest molecules and water in the emulsion is varied so as to control the heating value per unit volume of emulsion, or when the temperature of water as the dispersion medium is varied so as to change the temperature of the emulsion in itself.

Further, in accordance with the method for substitution of gas hydrate of the present invention, it is possible to control the production rate of the hydrate of the second guest molecules, when the specific surface area of the minute particles of the liquid of the guest molecules in the emulsion is varied by varying the size of the minute particle.

Further, in the method for substitution of gas hydrate of the present invention, it is also possible to accelerate the reaction rate and to accelerate the production of the hydrate of the second guest molecules, when the interfaces between the minute particles of the liquid of the second guest particles and water are activated by irradiating them with the ultrasonic waves in the early stage of substitution. Further, since the production of the hydrate can be repressed by irradiating the emulsion with the ultrasonic waves continuously and thus causing the minute particles and water to vibrate, it is possible to control the timing of initiating the production of the hydrate by regulating the irradiation time of the ultrasonic waves. By these controls for the hydrate production, it is possible to control the temperature rising of the layer and to control the decomposition rate of the gas hydrate.

In addition, in the method for substitution of gas hydrate of the present invention, since the progress for decomposition of the hydrate of the first guest molecules and the progress for production of the hydrate of the second guest molecules can be estimated on the basis of at least one or more of the change in temperature of the layer, the change in passing speed of ultrasonic waves through the layer, and the change in permeability of the emulsion into the voids, it is possible to regulate the production rate or decomposition rate of gas hydrate in accordance with the estimation.

Further, in the method for substitution of gas hydrate of the present invention, it is possible to fixate a great amount of CO2 on the ground which is the cause of global warming, in the form of a stable hydrate into the layer, while collecting the CH4 in marine sediments by utilizing the heat of reaction for the hydrate production, when the first guest molecules are CH4 and the second guest molecules are CO2.

In accordance with the method for mining of gas hydrate of the present invention, it is possible to fixate a great amount of CO2 on the ground which is the cause of global warming, in the form of a stable hydrate into the layer at a high reaction rate, while collecting the CH4 in marine sediments by utilizing the heat of reaction for the hydrate production, when the first guest molecules are CH4 and the second guest molecules are CO2. Further, since the mining of the CH4 hydrate is progressed while substituting the CH4 hydrate with the CO2 hydrate, there is no fear of causing the weakening or collapse of the layer. In addition, since the energy for decomposing the CH4 hydrate, wherein the decomposition of the CH4 hydrate is necessitated for the mining of the CH4 hydrate, is obtained by using the CO2, which is fixate as waste in the layer, as a heating agent, it is possible to give the additional value to the waste CO2 and to utilize the energy effectively.

Further, in accordance with the method for mining of gas hydrate of the present invention, since the seal layer of CO2 hydrate is formed in the layer which is rested on the CH4 hydrate layer as the target of mining, by the production method for gas hydrate of the present invention, the solid phases in the layer are mutually adjoined owing to the fact that the voids in the layer are filled with the CO2 hydrate, and become stable. Therefore, even if a submarine landslide on a large scale will happen due to an earthquake or the like, there is not very much risks about the leak of CH4 gas, which is produced by decomposition of the CH4 hydrate, into the atmosphere, and about the release of the CH4 hydrate into the atmosphere as a result of ascending the CH4 hydrate with the buoyancy, wherein the density of CH4 hydrate is lower than that of seawater, and then allowing it to gasify. This point is particularly useful since the ocean sedimentary layer where the CH4 hydrate is deposited is accumulated in sand layer. In addition, it is possible to fixate the CO2 as a stable hydrate in both of the CH4 hydrate layer and the seal layer.

Further, in accordance with the method for mining of gas hydrate of the present invention, since the seal layer of CO2 hydrate is formed in the layer which is rested on the CH4 hydrate layer as the target of mining, and the heating layer of CO2 hydrate is formed in the layer which is rested under the CH4 hydrate layer, by using the production method for gas hydrate of the present invention, it is possible to mine and recover the CH4 hydrate safety without causing leak of methane gas, and also possible to fixate a large amount of CO2 as a stable hydrate into three layers, i.e., the seal layer, the layer which functions as the heating source, and the layer from which the CH4 hydrate is mined.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[FIG. 1] is a schematic diagram which illustrates an embodiment of the method for substitution of gas hydrate according to the present invention.

[FIG. 2] is a diagram which illustrates a state of producing CO2 hydrate and decomposing CH4 hydrate when liquid CO2 4 is injected into voids under the condition that the liquid CO2 4 has been divided into minute particles.

[FIG. 3] is a schematic diagram which illustrates a state of substitution of CH4 hydrate with CO2 hydrate.

[FIG. 4] is a schematic diagram which illustrates upper portions of an injection well.

[FIG. 5] is a schematic diagram which illustrates lower portions of an injection well.

[FIG. 6] is a sectional diagram of submarine ground which illustrates a state of substitution of CH4 hydrate with CO2 hydrate.

[FIG. 7] is a chart showing phase equilibrium of CH4 hydrate and CO2 hydrate.

[FIG. 8] shows changes in the substitution of CH4 hydrate with CO2 hydrate along the course of time, wherein (A) is a chart showing changes in constituents of CH4 hydrate layer, and (B) is a chart showing change in temperature of voids in the CH4 hydrate layer, change in the rate of ultrasonic waves, and change in permeability of emulsion.

[FIG. 9] is a schematic diagram which illustrates an embodiment of the method for production of gas hydrate according to the present invention.

[FIG. 10] is a diagram which illustrates a state of producing CO2 hydrate and decomposing CH4 hydrate when liquid CO2 4 is injected into voids under the condition that the liquid CO2 4 are not divided into minute particles.

[FIG. 11] is a schematic diagram which illustrates an embodiment of the method for mining of gas hydrate with showing an example for mining of CH4 hydrate.

[FIG. 12] is a graph which shows a distribution of particle sizes at a sedimentary layer in Nankai trough.

[FIG. 13] is a schematic diagram of an experimental device.

[FIG. 14] is a microscopic photograph of finely divided liquid CO2 in water.

[FIG. 15] is a microscopic photograph for comparing finely divided liquid CO2 in water with Toyoura sand.

[FIG. 16] is a graph which shows relations between particle size and percentage of penetrated weight with respect to the finely divided liquid CO2 in water and Toyoura sand.

[FIG. 17] is a schematic diagram which shows positions for measuring temperature in a pressure vessel for producing CO2 hydrate.

[FIG. 18] is a graph which shows a result of an experiment for production of CO2 hydrate, wherein (A) shows the temperature change from the start time to the end time in the experiment, and (B) shows the temperature change before and after the production of CO2 hydrate in a magnified scale.

[FIG. 19] is a graph which shows a result of an experiment for production of CO2 hydrate as Control 1, wherein gas hydrate is produced from liquid CO2.

DESCRIPTION OF NUMERALS

  • 1 CH4 hydrate (hydrate of the first guest molecules)
  • 2 Layer where CH4 hydrate is produced
  • 3 Void
  • 4 Liquid CO2 (liquid of the second guest molecules)
  • 5 CO2— water emulsion
  • 6 CO2 hydrate (hydrate of the second guest molecules)
  • 23 Minute particles of liquid CO2 (liquid minute particles of the second guest molecules)

BEST MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION

Hereinafter, the constitution of the present invention will be described in detail with reference to best modes illustrated in the drawings.

In FIGS. 1-6, an embodiment of the method for substitution of hydrate in the layer, which utilizes the method for production of gas hydrate according to the present invention, is illustrated. In the description of this embodiment, the method for production of gas hydrate will be also explained. The method for substitution of gas hydrate according to the present invention is the method wherein the production of a gas hydrate is artificially promoted in a layer, which brings the layer into a risen temperature condition, and thereby a natural gas hydrate which has been produced in the layer is decomposed, thus the guest molecules are replaced; and wherein, to voids 3 in a layer 2 where hydrate 1 of first guest molecules exists, a liquid 4 of second guest molecules is injected in a form of emulsion 5 in which the liquid 4 of the second guest molecules is dispersed as particles having a size of less than the size of the voids 3 in a dispersion medium 24, wherein the second guest molecules can form hydrate under a higher temperature and lower pressure condition as compared with the temperature and pressure condition under which the first guest molecules forms the hydrate, and thereby the hydrate 1 of the first guest molecules is decomposed by heat of reaction which is generated when the hydrate 6 of the second guest molecules is produced. Incidentally, the numeral 25 in FIG. 2 denotes sand particles in the layer 2. The layer 2 may be, for instance, a submarine layer, and as the dispersion medium 24 of the emulsion, water or seawater which can form a crystal for entrapping the guest molecule is used. Herein, the voids in the layer are spaces between solid phases (sand particles, CO2 hydrate, CH4 hydrate), and substantially mean regions which are occupied by liquid phase (liquid CO2, water, seawater) and gas phase (methane gas). That is, the liquid of the guest molecules is spouted as the emulsion where the liquid of the guest molecules is dispersed as particles having a size of less than the size of the spaces between the solid phases in the layer where the gas hydrate is formed.

The first guest molecules in the method for substitution of gas hydrate according to this embodiment may be, for example, CH4, and the hydrate 1 of the first guest molecules may be CH4 hydrate. Further, the second guest molecules may be, for example, CO2, the hydrate 6 of the second guest molecules may be CO2 hydrate, and the liquid 4 of the second guest molecules may be liquid CO2.

FIG. 7 is a chart showing phase equilibrium of CH4 hydrate and CO2 hydrate. The region blow the curve A is the stable region of CO2 hydrate 6, the region blow the curve B is the stable region of CH4 hydrate 1, the region at the left of the curve C is the region where H2O becomes solid, and the region at the right of the curve C is the region where H2O becomes liquid. As it is clear from FIG. 7, assuming that the pressures are the same, the temperature at which the CO2 hydrate 6 exists in stable is higher than the temperature at which the CH4 hydrate 1 exists in stable. Further, assuming that the temperatures are the same, the pressure under which the CO2 hydrate 6 exists in stable is lower than the pressure under which the CH4 hydrate 1 exists in stable. That is, the temperature and pressure under which the CO2 hydrate 6 exists in stable is higher temperature and lower pressure as compared with the temperature and pressure under which the CH4 hydrate 1 exists in stable. The region surrounded by curves A, B and C is the region which temperature and pressure conditions permit causing both the production of CO2 hydrate 6 and the decomposition of CH4 hydrate 1 concurrently. Thus, by utilizing this region, to substitute the CO2 hydrate 6 for the CH4 hydrate 1 is performed. By substituting the CO2 hydrate 6 for the CH4 hydrate, it becomes possible to mine CH4 while fixating CO2.

In the submarine ground, the places where the CH4 hydrate is accumulated are sand layer, and thus, the target for mining the CH4 hydrate is set to such an accumulated place. With recent studies, it has been found that CH4 hydrate exists in spaces which constitute a three-dimensional network structure occupying about 50% of the sand layer, and the CH4 hydrate is, at the most, of 60% of the spaces. Thus, the following will be explained about the case that the submarine layer 2 is the target layer for mining of the CH4 hydrate and for fixating the CO2 hydrate. The lower end of an injection well 7 and the lower end of a production well 8 reach the layer 2 where CH4 hydrate has been produced. On the sea, a platform 9 is provided, and the injection well 7 and the production well 8 are elongated downward from the platform 9 to the bottom of the sea. The upper end of the production well 8 is connected to a pump which is not shown in this figure, and thus it can pump CH4 gas up together with seawater 24 which has filled the spaces in the layer 2. The CH4 gas pumped up by the production well 8 may be used, for instance, for electric power generation at thermal power plant 26, after separating it from the seawater 24.

As shown in FIG. 4, the injection well 7 has a double pipe constitution where an inner pipe 11 is placed inside an outer pipe 10. The upper end of the inner pipe 11 is connected to a liquid CO2 tank 12, and a pathway through which liquid CO2 4 flows is formed in the inner pipe 11. The liquid CO2 4 reserved in the liquid CO2 tank 12 is prepared by collecting CO2 discharged from the thermal power plant 26, a steelworks, or a cement plant, or the like, and liquefying the collected CO2. Further, as shown in FIG. 5, at the end of the inner pipe 11, spray nozzles 13, through which the liquid CO2 is sprayed as minute particles 23 which are smaller than the voids 3 in the layer 2 into the pathway which is surrounded with the outer pipe 10, are provided. By producing a high speed flows within the nozzles 13, and thus by giving shearing and collision effects, the liquid CO2 can be divided into the minute particles. Although the method for atomization of a liquid by using nozzle, per se, is a generally known technique which is also applied in sprayers, however, when the pressure difference between front and rear of the nozzle 13 is set to 1 MPa—some tens MPa so that the flow rate of the liquid CO2 4 in the nozzle 13 reaches about the speed of sound, it is possible to prepare minute particles 23 of the liquid CO2 4 sprayed from the nozzle 13 in sizes of under μm order. Herein, since it is necessitated that the mean particle size of the minute particles 23 of liquid CO2 on the spraying should be smaller than the voids in the layer where the gas hydrate is produced, i.e., the voids between the solid phases, for instance, it is preferable to be from about some μm to about 30 μm. When satisfying this condition, it is considered that the minute particles come to be amply smaller than the voids in the layer where the gas hydrate is produced. Incidentally, at a position near the liquid CO2 tank 12, the inner pipe 11 is equipped with a pressure gauge 15 for measuring the pressure of the liquid CO2 4.

The upper end of the outer pipe 10 is connected to an outlet of a pump 14 which pumps seawater 24 up from the ocean 31 and discharges it, and a pathway through which the seawater 24 flows is formed at the space between the outer pipe 10 and the inner pipe 11. When the minute particle 23 of the liquid CO2 4 are sprayed into the flow of the seawater 24 which passes through the space between the outer pipe 10 and the inner pipe 11, it is possible to prepare a CO2— water emulsion 5 where the liquid CO2 4 is dispersed, as minute particles having a size of less than the voids 3, in the seawater 24, just before the emulsion is jetted into the layer 2. The pumping up of the seawater 24 from the ocean 31 can be performed from any depths until reaching the sea bottom, by adjusting the length of a suction pipe 14a. Incidentally, the outer pipe 10 may be, for instance, a drill rod, and it has many injection ports 10a for injecting uniformly the prepared CO2— water emulsion 5 into the layer 2, on the peripheral surface. Injection port 10a is positioned ahead of the end of the inner pipe 11 where the splay nozzles 13 are provided.

Thereby, in the injection well 7, the weight ratio of water and CO2 in the emulsion can be adjusted to a preferable value in accordance with the purpose of producing hydrate, before the emulsion is injected into the layer 2. For instance, the mixing ratio of water and CO2 can be adjusted in accordance with the purpose of producing hydrate, for instance, a purpose that is to fixate guest molecules stably by producing hydrate in the targeted layer 2, a purpose that is to substitute supplied guest molecules for other guest molecules of the gas hydrate which exists in the layer, a purpose is to utilize the heat of reaction obtained when the hydrate is produced as a heat source for mining a natural resource which exists in the form of hydrate in the layer, and so on. For example, as in this embodiment, in the case that CO2 is fixated in the form of hydrate in the layer 2 where CH4 hydrate has been accumulated, while the CH4 hydrate is decomposed into water and CH4 in order to collect them, thereby the CH4 hydrate is mined by substituting the CO2 hydrate for the CH4 hydrate in the layer, it is preferable to adjust the weight ratio of water and CO2 to a value suitable for the production and stability of CO2 hydrate. Further, when regulating the temperature of the seawater or water used as dispersion medium of the emulsion 5, or the temperature of the liquid CO2, it is possible to injected the emulsion with giving a temperature condition which is profitable to produce the hydrate and maintain it stably against the temperature condition of the layer where the production of gas hydrate is intended and the temperature rising condition of the layer. For instance, when varying the depth for collecting the seawater 24, it is possible to obtain water or seawater at a desired temperature with ease.

The emulsion 5 jetted from the injection well 7 enters into voids 3 of the CH4 hydrate layer 2, while displacing seawater which have been filled in the voids, and thus the liquid CO2 and the seawater 24 can reach every part of the voids 3 with a uniform ratio. In the voids, CH4 hydrate is in existence stably. Thus, the temperature and pressure condition of the voids 3 is also to be a temperature and pressure condition where the CO2 hydrate can exist stably. Therefore, CO2 hydrate 6 is produced from the emulsion 5 entered into the voids.

The production of hydrate is an exothermic reaction, whereas the decomposition of hydrate is an endothermic reaction. Due to the heat emitted when the CO2 hydrate 6 is produced, the temperature of the layer 2 including surrounding solid phases and liquid phases rises, and CH4 hydrate is decomposed. For example, assuming that the temperature moves upward from the point P1 to the point P2 in FIG. 7, although the voids 3 belong to the CO2 stable region in FIG. 7, the voids 3 deviate from the CH4 stable region. Therefore, the CH4 hydrate in the voids 3 is decomposed, whereas the CO2 hydrate 6 exists stably. Thus, with respect to the hydrate capable of existing in the voids 3, the CH4 hydrate is replaced with the CO2 hydrate. Incidentally, with respect to the substitution in the voids 3, although the main phenomenon thereof is that the CH4 hydrate 1 is decomposed following the progress of the production of the CO2 hydrate, a phenomenon where the CH4 that is the guest molecules of CH4 hydrate 1 is replaced with CO2 without causing the decomposition of the CH4 hydrate 1 also occurs in a part.

Since the heat emitted when the CO2 hydrate 6 is produced is absorbed on the decomposition of the CH4 hydrate 1, the temperature of the voids 3, by extension, the temperature of the layer 2, does not rise exceed the temperature at which the CO2 hydrate can be produced and can exist stably. Thus, the produced CO2 hydrate 6 exists stably.

By the decomposition of the CH4 hydrate 1, CH4 gas 27 is generated. The CH4 gas 27 forms bubbles, and they float in the seawater 24 which flows in the void 3. Further, a part of the CH4 gas 27 is dissolved in groundwater 24. On the other hand, since the emulsion 5 is discharged from the injection well 7 and the groundwater 24 is pumped up by the production well 8, a flow of the groundwater 24 from the injection well 7 to the production well 8 is formed in the voids 3. Thus, both of the bubbles of the generated CH4 gas 27 and the CH4 gas 27 dissolved in the seawater 24 are collected along with the seawater 24 by the production well 8.

As mentioned above, when the hydrate is produced by injecting CO2 into the submarine layer, and the CH4 hydrate 1 in the submarine layer which is an effectual resource is decomposed due to the temperature rising of the layer 2 which is induced by the heat of reaction which is emitted when the CO2 hydrate 6 is produced, and thereby the CH4 hydrate 1 is replaced with the CO2 hydrate; it is possible to progress the fixation of CO2 and the mining of the CH4 hydrate 1, as well as the recovery and stabilization of the strength of the layer, simultaneously. Further, it is also possible to use the guest molecules simply as a heating agent, such as CO2 in this embodiment, which is to be fixated through the production of hydrate.

Since the liquid CO2 in the emulsion 5 is brought into the form of minute particles 23 which are smaller than the voids 3 in the layer 2, the liquid CO2 can enter into the voids 3 in the layer 2 with ease and without impediments to it's movement, like water, and thus it can be dispersed within the voids with a uniform distribution. Therefore, it is possible to disperse the liquid CO2 uniformly over a broader region of the voids 3 in the layer 2, with a water —CO2 ratio which is suitable or nearly suitable to the hydrate production, and thus it is possible to produce the CO2 hydrate uniformly over a broad region.

Further, since the liquid CO2 4 is brought into the form of minute particles, the contacting area between the liquid CO2 4 and the seawater 24 becomes large. For instance, assuming that the particle of liquid CO2 is a sphere, when its radius becomes one-tenth, the number of particles per unit volume, the surface area of each individual particle 23, and the total of the surface areas per unit volume will become 1000 times, one-hundredth, and ten times, respectively. For instance, assuming that the surface area of the minute particle 23 at when its radius is 1 mm is a criterion, when the diameter of the minute particles 23 is set to 0.01 mm or 0.001 mm, the total of the surface areas per unit volume will become 100 times, or 1000 times, respectively. As described above, since it is possible to enhance the contacting area between the liquid CO2 4 and the seawater 24, it becomes possible to accelerate the reaction rate so that the CO2 hydrate is promptly produced.

For reference purposes, in FIG. 10, a state when liquid CO2 4 is injected into voids 3 in the layer 2 under the condition that the liquid CO2 are not divided into minute particles and it is in it's intact state of almost 100% concentration is shown. In this case, since the liquid CO2 enters into the voids while the liquid CO2 puts the seawater 24 filled in the voids away from the void, the liquid CO2 makes contact with the seawater 24 only on the border between the liquid CO2 and seawater 24, and only one of the liquid CO2 and seawater 24 exists inside the border. Therefore, it is hardly possible to distribute the water and liquid CO2 uniformly with a ratio which is suitable to the hydrate production in the voids 3.

Further, in accordance with the present invention, since it is possible to accelerate the production rate of the gas hydrate, the present invention is useful for not only the substitution of one hydrate for another hydrate and the mining of the resource hydrate, but also for the fixation and storage of guest molecules in hydrate form into a layer. For instance, the present invention is suitable for a technique for fixation of CO2 which has been discharged in large amount.

Further, in the present invention, since the liquid CO2 is brought into the form of minute particles which are smaller than the voids in the layer 2 in advance and thus it is supplied in emulsion form, it becomes possible to control the heating value per unit volume of emulsion 5 when the mixing ratio of the liquid CO2 4 and water 24 in the emulsion which is injected into the voids 3 of the CH4 hydrate layer 2 from the injection well 7. For example, by regulating the ratio of the liquid CO2 4 flow rate and the seawater 24 flow rate in the injection well 7, the mixing ratio of the liquid CO2 4 and water 24 can be varied, and thus it becomes possible to control the heating value per unit volume of emulsion 5.

The ratio of the number of guest molecule and the number of water molecule for constituting a hydrate depends on the kind of guest molecule. When the mixing ratio of the liquid CO2 4 and water 24 in the emulsion 5 approaches the ratio of the number of CO2 molecule and the number of water molecule for constituting the CO2 hydrate, the quantity of the hydrate production per unit amount of the emulsion 5 increases and the heating value also increases. Conversely, when the mixing ratio of the liquid CO2 4 and water 24 in the emulsion 5 is away from the ratio of the number of CO2 molecule and the number of water molecule for constituting the CO2 hydrate, the quantity of the hydrate production per unit amount of the emulsion 5 decreases and the heating value also decreases. Therefore, by varying the mixing ratio of the liquid CO2 4 and water 24 in the emulsion 5, the heating value per unit volume of emulsion 5 on the production of the CO2 hydrate can be controlled. Further, by controlling the heating value per unit volume of emulsion 5 on the production of the CO2 hydrate, the temperature rising of the layer 2 can be regulated. Owing to this temperature regulation of the layer 2, it becomes possible to keep the temperature of the layer 2 to the temperature capable of producing the gas hydrate, or to regulate the decomposition rate of the hydrate to be replaced or to be mined, such as CH4 hydrate 1. Of course, in the cases of the replacement of CH4 hydrate by the CO2 hydrate production and the mining of CH4 hydrate by the CO2 hydrate production, since the heating value and the endothermic heating value of both hydrates can balance each other out, the temperature regulation is not necessitated.

Further, in the present invention, the production rate of the CO2 hydrate is controlled by varying the particle size of the minute particles 23 of the liquid CO2 4 in the emulsion 5 which is to be injected into the voids 3 of the CH4 hydrate layer 2 from the injection well 7. For instance, by replacing a nozzle 13 of the injection well 3 to another one, the particle size of the minute particles 23 of the liquid CO2 in the emulsion 5 can be varied, and thus the production rate of the CO2 hydrate can be controlled.

When the particle size of the minute particles 23 of the liquid CO2 in the emulsion 5 becomes small, the surface area of the liquid CO2 per unit volume of the liquid CO2, in other words, the contacting area between the liquid CO2 and the seawater 24 increases, and thus the production rate of the CO2 hydrate increases. Conversely, When the particle size of the minute particles 23 of the liquid CO2 in the emulsion 5 becomes large, the contacting area between the liquid CO2 and the seawater 24 decreases, and thus the production rate of the CO2 hydrate decreases. Thus, by varying the particle size of the minute particles 23 of the liquid CO2, the production rate of the CO2 hydrate can be controlled.

Furthermore, in this invention, by irradiating the emulsion 5 with the ultrasonic waves in the early stage of the substitution of the hydrate, the interfaces between the minute particles of the liquid of the second guest particles and water are activated, and thus, CO2 as the guest molecules can be brought into condition to form hydrate with ease. With respect to this point, if undergoing the ultrasonic waves' irradiation continuously, the minute particles of the liquid CO2 are vibrate and thus they can not form the hydrate. Once the irradiation is stopped, however, the production of the hydrate is initiated. Thus, by controlling the irradiation time of the ultrasonic wave, the initiation timing for the production of the CO2 hydrate can be controlled. For instance, although it is not shown in the drawings, it is possible to incorporate two kinds of ultrasonic waves generation devices 55, 56 into the end of the inner pipe 11, wherein the first ultrasonic waves generation devices 55 is used for activating the interfaces between CO2 and water in the CO2— water emulsion existing in the outer pipe 10 and thus accelerating the production of the hydrate, while the second ultrasonic waves generation devices 56 is used for giving ultrasonic waves continuously toward the layer 2 so as to vibrate the layer 2 continuously, and to repress the production of the CO2 hydrate. Incidentally, as the means for irradiating the minute particles 23 of the liquid CO2 with the ultrasonic waves, for example, it is also possible to use an ultrasonic generating and receiving device 16 which is settled at the CH4 hydrate layer 2 for measuring the ultrasonic wave speed.

Still further, according to the present invention, since the liquid CO2 as the guest molecules can be in the emulsion form where the liquid CO2 is dispersed in water with an uniform ratio necessitated for the production of the hydrate, in order to inject it into the layer, the liquid CO2 and the seawater 24 can be distributed throughout the voids 3, and therefore, the progress for decomposition of the CH4 hydrate 1 and the progress for production of the CO2 hydrate 6 can be estimated on the basis of the change in temperature of the layer 2, the change in passing speed of the ultrasonic waves through the layer, and the change in permeability of the emulsion 5 into the voids 3.

The temperature of the layer 2 where the CH4 hydrate has been produced takes changes due to the exothermic heat on the production of the CO2 hydrate 6 and the endothermic heat on the decomposition of the CH4 hydrate 1. The passing speed of the ultrasonic waves through the layer 2 is varied by the kind, amount, phase (gas phase, liquid phase, or solid phase), etc., of the substance existing in the voids 3. The permeability of the emulsion 5 into the voids 3 in the layer 2 is also varied by the kind, amount, phase (gas phase, liquid phase, or solid phase), etc., of the substance existing in the voids 3. Thus, the state of substitution of CO2 hydrate 6 for the CH4 hydrate 1 can be estimated by monitoring the change in temperature of the voids 3, the change in passing speed of ultrasonic waves through the voids 3, and the change in permeability of the emulsion 5 into the voids 3.

Changes in the replacement of CH4 hydrate 1 with CO2 hydrate 6 along the course of time is shown in FIG. 8. FIG. 8 (A) shows changes in constituents of CH4 hydrate layer 2, and T-line, U-line, and E-line in FIG. 8(B) show changes in temperature of the hydrate layer, changes in the rate of ultrasonic waves, and changes in permeability of emulsion 5, respectively. As shown in FIG. 8 (A), the layer 2 at the initial stage of substitution comprises, for instance, sand and silt layer 17 and voids 3, and CH4 hydrate 1 and seawater 24 exist in the voids 3.

When the emulsion 5 is injected into the voids 3 and thus the liquid CO2 4 is supplied, CO2 hydrate 6 starts to grow, and the temperature of the layer, i.e., the temperature of solid phase and liquid phase begins to rise along with the hydrate production, and thereby, the CH4 hydrate 1 starts to decompose. CH4 gas 27 generated by the decomposition of the CH4 hydrate 1 forms bubbles, and a part of the CH4 gas 27 is dissolved in seawater which flows the voids 3, namely, groundwater 24. The bubbles of the CH4 gas 27 and the CH4 gas 27 dissolved in the groundwater 24 are collected along with the groundwater 24 by the production well 8.

As shown in FIG. 8 (B), the temperature of the layer rises due to the production of the CO2 hydrate. When the temperature rising reaches a certain level, however, the decomposition of the CH4 hydrate which is an endothermic reaction starts. Thus, it is considered that the temperature at the end of the substitution goes back to the level at the initial stage of the substitution, because the endothermic heat due to the decomposition of the CH4 hydrate and the exothermic heat due to the production of the CH2 hydrate balance each other out, and the temperature variation goes to be small. Therefore, the temperature of the layer reflects the start and end of the hydrate production as well as the start and end of the decomposition.

It is considered that the permeability of the emulsion 5 is increased or decreased in proportion to the width of the portions other than the CH4 hydrate 1 and the CO2 hydrate 6 in the voids 3. When the bubbles of the generated CH4 gas become larger and they are trapped in the voids 3, however, the permeation of the emulsion comes to be impeded. Thus, it is considered that the permeability of the emulsion 5 will be lowered by this impeded extent. Thus, it is considered that, when the CH4 hydrate 1 starts to decompose, the permeability tends to decrease, and when the CH4 hydrate 1 disappears as a result of completing it's decomposition, the permeability tends to get better. Therefore, the permeability of the emulsion 5 reflects the status of the hydrate production as well as the status of the hydrate decomposition.

The ultrasonic waves tends to be reflected strongly at the interface between the solid and gas when the acoustic impedance becomes larger. On the other hand, in the sand and silt layer 17, it is considered that the reflection, penetration, and refraction of the ultrasonic waves would occur complicatedly. Since the speed of the ultrasonic waves propagated through the solid is faster than that through the liquid, the speed of the ultrasonic waves is varied according to the condition of the voids 3. Further, the more the solids of CH4 hydrate and CO2 hydrate exist in the voids 3, the faster the speed of the ultrasonic waves becomes, while the more the gas exists in the voids 3, the more likely the ultrasonic waves are reflected. Therefore, as the production of CO2 hydrate 6 starts, the speed of the ultrasonic waves increases gradually. As the decomposition of CH4 hydrate 1 starts, however, the speed of the ultrasonic waves decreases gradually. Further, when the CH4 hydrate 1 disappears as a result of completing it's decomposition, and thus the volume of the CH4 gas 27 decreases, the speed of the ultrasonic waves again increases gradually. Therefore, the speed of the ultrasonic waves reflects the status of the hydrate production as well as the status of the hydrate decomposition.

As mentioned above, since the temperature of the layer 2, the speed of the ultrasonic waves propagated through the layer 2, and the permeability of the emulsion 5 into the voids reflects the condition of the void 3, it is possible to presume the status of substitution of CO2 hydrate 6 for CH4 hydrate 1 in the voids 3 by monitoring such parameters.

The measurement of the temperature of the layer 2 can be performed, for instance, by using a temperature sensor 18 which is placed at the layer 2 where the CH4 hydrate has been produced. The measurement of the ultrasonic waves can be performed, for instance, by using an ultrasonic generator and an ultrasonic receiver which are placed at the layer 2 where the CH4 hydrate has been produced. In this embodiment, an ultrasonic generating and receiving device 16 where the ultrasonic generator is integral with an ultrasonic receiver is used. Namely, the ultrasonic generating and receiving device 16 which is used for activating the CO2 molecules and for repressing the production of the CO2 hydrate 6 is also used for the measurement. The speed of the ultrasonic waves propagated through the voids 3 can be determined by receiving, at the receiving part of the ultrasonic generating and receiving device 16, the ultrasonic waves for monitoring which has been generated from the generation part of the device 16. Further, the measurement of the permeability of the emulsion 5 into the voids 3 can be performed, for instance, by a pressure gauge 15 which is provided on the liquid CO2 supplying line of the injection well 7. By measuring the changes in the pressure of the liquid CO2 4 passing through the injection well 7, the permeability of the emulsion 5 can be determined.

Two or more of the temperature sensors 18 and two or more of the ultrasonic generating and receiving devices 16 are placed along a measuring line 28. The temperature sensors 18 and the ultrasonic generating and receiving devices 16 are connected with cables 19, and they are hanged from the communication control devices 20 which are placed at the sea bottom into holes 21. In the layer 2 wherein the CH4 hydrate have been produced, the temperature sensors 18 and the ultrasonic generating and receiving devices 16 are alternately arranged, and in a seal layer 22 located on the layer 2, the temperature sensors 18 are provided. The individual communication control devices 20 are connected to a computer which is placed on the sea via communication and power cables 30. Incidentally, in FIG. 3, the illustration for the temperature sensors 18 and the ultrasonic generating and receiving devices 16 is omitted.

In the case of mining the gas hydrate, it is preferable to form, on the gas hydrate layer as the target for mining, a seal layer of a gas hydrate which is stable even at a high temperature and a low pressure as compared with the gas hydrate to be mined, in advance of the mining. For instance, in the case of mining CH4 hydrate in this embodiment, the substitution of hydrate is done after the seal layer 22 of the CO2 hydrate is formed onto the layer 2 where the CH4 hydrate has been produced. Since CO2 can present stably in the form of hydrate even at a higher temperature and lower pressure condition as compared with CH4, CO2 is preferable as the seal layer 22 to be formed onto the layer 2 where the CH4 hydrate has been produced. First, by providing a injection well 29 which penetrates into a layer which is located on the layer 2 where the CH4 hydrate has been produced and of which temperature and pressure condition allows CO2 to form its hydrate, and injecting the CO2— water emulsion 5 through the infusing well 29 into the voids 3 between the solid particles in the layer, wherein the CO2— water emulsion 5 is being under condition that the liquid CO2 is dispersed in the seawater in the form of minute particles smaller than the voids 3, the seal layer 22 is formed. Thereafter, by injected the above mentioned CO2— water emulsion 5 into the voids 3 between the solid particles in the layer 2 where the CH4 hydrate has been produced, the CO2 hydrate is produced therein, while the CH4 hydrate existed in the voids 3 is decomposed by utilizing the heat of reaction for the CO2 hydrate production. The CH4 gas 27 produced by the decomposition of the CH4 hydrate is entrapped by the seal layer 22 so as to be able to be collected through the production well 8 without leaking out to the sea or the atmosphere. Thus, the CH4 hydrate embedded in the layer can be recovered as CH4 gas while it is replaced with the CO2 hydrate.

Incidentally, in the case that the seal layer 22 is formed by the production of gas hydrate but it is formed at a layer where a natural gas hydrate is not embedded, depending on the circumstance, it may be necessary to regulate temperature so as to attain the temperature capable of producing the gas hydrate which forms the seal layer 22, for instance, by regulating the temperature of the emulsion 5 or regulating the mean diameter of the minute particles of the liquid guest molecules, because the endothermic heat due to the decomposition of the gas hydrate can not be expected. For example, in the case that the guest molecules are CO2, depending on the circumstance, it may be necessary to take such a contrivance that the volume of the seawater to be mixed with the minute particles 23 of the liquid CO2 in the CO2— water emulsion is increased, or that the temperature of the seawater to be mixed is set to lower temperature. Separately, it is also possible to repress the heating value per unit volume of the emulsion 5 by varying the mixing ratio of the liquid CO2 and water in the emulsion. Further, it is also possible to regulate the production rate of the CO2 hydrate by varying the particle size of the minute particles of the liquid CO2 in the emulsion 5. Furthermore, it is also possible to activate the CO2 molecules by irradiating the emulsion 5 with the ultrasonic waves. Alternatively, it is also possible to repress the production of the hydrate during the irradiation by irradiating the emulsion 5 with the ultrasonic waves.

Next, an embodiment of another method for mining of the gas hydrate is shown in FIG. 11. In this method for mining the gas hydrate, first, a dome-shaped seal layer 22 of the CO2 hydrate is formed on a CH4 hydrate layer 32 as the target to be mined, and a CO2 hydrate layer 33 which aims to fixate the CO2 hydrate is formed at a layer which is rested under the CH4 hydrate layer 32, and then, the temperature of this layer 33 into which the CO2 emulsion is injected is risen by heat of reaction in the CO2 hydrate production, and, the CH4 hydrate existing in the CH4 hydrate layer 32 which is rested on this layer 33 is decomposed into water and CH4 gas from the lower side by the risen temperature. The CH4 gas 27 generated by the decomposition of the CH4 hydrate layer 32 is collected by the dome-shaped seal layer 22 temporarily, and then it is recovered through the production well 8 to the ground. In addition, into the layer after mining the CH4 hydrate, the CO2— water emulsion is injected by an operation of moving the injection well 7 upward or an constitution of providing an another injection well which penetrates into the CH4 hydrate layer 32, in order to produce the CO2 hydrate therein. Thereby, solid phases such as sand particles, which have been brought into a mutually unconsolidated condition, can be consolidated by the CO2 hydrate, and thus the strength of the layer can be restored. Therefore, it is possible to fixate a large amount of CO2 in the form of stable hydrate as the three layers 22, 32, and 33 into the submarine layer. Incidentally, since the region over the CH4 hydrate layer 32 is stabilized by producing the CO2 hydrate which forms the seal layer 22 and by which the solid phases in this layer are consolidated in advance of mining the CH4 hydrate, even if a submarine landslide on a large scale will happen due to an earthquake or the like, there is not very much risks about the leak of the CH4 gas obtained by the decomposition of the CH4 hydrate into the atmosphere, and about the release of the CH4 hydrate which has a lower density than the seawater into the atmosphere as a result of ascending the CH4 hydrate with the buoyancy and then allowing it to gasify.

Although the above mentioned embodiments are preferable embodiments of the present invention, many and various changes or modifications can be made unless they are deviated from the spirit and range of the present invention. Although the present invention is described by exemplifying the fixation of CO2 by hydration, the substitution of CO2 hydrate with CH4 hydrate, and the mining of CH4 hydrate in the above mentioned embodiments, the guest molecules to be targeted is not limited thereto. It would be clearly understood that the present invention can be applied to all guest molecules which can form a gas hydrate. With respect to the substitution of the hydrate, it can be also applied to any combinations of two guest molecules which are different from each other regarding the temperature and pressure condition for stably existing in their hydrate forms. For example, as the guest molecules of natural gas hydrate, methane (CH4), ethane (C2H6), propane (CH3CH2CH3), carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), air (nitrogen N2) are known, and it will be clearly understood that the methods according to the present invention can be applied to the production, substitution, and mining of the gas hydrate of these guest molecules.

Further, although in the abovementioned embodiment the methods for production, substitution, and mining of the gas hydrate in the submarine layer which mainly comprises the sand layer are described, as a matter of course, the present invention can be applied to the layer such as CH4 hydrate layer below a lake bottom, CH4 hydrate layer of a permafrost, etc. Further, since in the present invention the guest molecules are injected, in the form of emulsion 5 which includes water necessitated for the production of hydrate, into the voids of the layer, it is possible to perform the fixation, the substitution, and the mining owing to the production of the hydrate of the guest molecules, aimed at a layer where water does not exist in the voids thereof.

In addition, depending on the status of the layer, in order to adjust the ratio of the liquid CO2 and water in the emulsion 5, the liquid CO2, water/seawater 24, may be allowed to flow through the outer pipe 10, and the inner pipe 11, respectively, and the water/seawater 24 may be allowed to be sprayed into the liquid CO2. Further, although in the abovementioned embodiments the emulsion is prepared by injecting the liquid CO2 into the water/seawater in advance of injecting the emulsion into the layer, depending on the circumstances, it is also possible to inject the liquid CO2 directly from a splay nozzle into the layer where the CH4 hydrate exists so as to disperse the liquid CO2 as minute particles into the seawater or the like in the layer and to form the emulsion, and thereafter, to diffuse the emulsion into the layer by utilizing of the energy given by the injection.

EXAMPLES

Example 1

Room experimentation was performed in order to confirm whether the diameters of minute particles of the liquid CO2 which are suspended in the CO2— water emulsion can be made to be smaller than the size of voids in a sedimentary layer (voids between solid phases). This experimentation was conducted with respect to a sand layer in the Nankai trough which is a promising target for mining of the CH4 hydrate. This sand layer in the Nankai trough includes clay (particle size: 0.005-0.001 mm) and silt (particle size: 0.075-0.005 mm) at about 20%. The percentages of penetrated weight thereof were shown in FIG. 12. Although the sample of the sand layer in the Nankai trough had been obtained by trial diggings presided by Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan, it is difficult for me, the inventor, to obtain the sample. Therefore, the experimentation was conducted by using Toyoura sand in the range of 0.1-0.6 mm which was adjusted to the percentage of penetrated weight shown in FIG. 12 as an indicator for the room experimentation. The atomization of the liquid CO2 was proceeded by using a spray nozzle manufactured by H. Ikeuchi & Co., Ltd. (Product Code: 1/4MKB 80 063N S303-RW) according to the spray method. When spraying water from this nozzle under normal temperature and normal pressure and by setting the inner pressure to 1 MPa, the diameter of water drops were in the range of 30-40 μm. However, the spraying condition for the liquid CO2 was unknown. Thus, assuming that the condition for the liquid CO2 would adhere to that for the water, the differential pressure between a pressure vessel 34 into which the liquid CO2 was charged and an atomizing pressure vessel 35 on which the nozzle was provided was set to 1 MPa, with respect to the spraying pressure.

The experimentation was conducted by using the experimental instrument as shown in the schematic diagram of FIG. 13. Three pressure vessels, i.e., the liquid CO2 pressure vessel 34, the liquid CO2 atomizing pressure vessel 35, and a microscopic observing pressure vessel 37, which were mutually connected by pipe lines, constituted the experimental instrument. Into the liquid CO2 pressure vessel 34, CO2 was injected at the room temperature, so that the CO2 gas was charged over the liquid CO2 layer. Into the liquid CO2 atomizing pressure vessel 35, water was injected, and then the CO2 gas was charged over the water. Incidentally, in this figure, the numerals 45, 46, 51, 52, 53, 54 denote a water tank, hot-water, a pump, a valve, and a tank for liquid CO2, and a thermometer, respectively.

Into the liquid CO2 pressure vessel 34, carbon dioxide which had been liquidized under an initial condition that the temperature was 19° C. (room temperature) and the pressure was 5.2 MPa was sealed, and then it was warmed in hot water. When the temperature and the pressure reached 25° C. and 6.2 MPa, respectively, the valve 44 was opened to supply the liquid CO2 to the atomizing pressure vessel 35. In the atomizing pressure vessel 35, the liquid CO2 was sprayed through the spray nozzle (not shown in the figure) toward the CO2 gas as an upper layer in the atomizing pressure vessel 35, and then the minute particles of the liquid CO2 thus formed fell into the water layer as an lower layer in the pressure vessel 35 which was stirring with a stirrer, thus the CO2— water emulsion was prepared. Incidentally, before the warming in hot water, the inner pressure in the liquid CO2 pressure vessel 34 and the inner pressure in the atomizing pressure vessel 35 were equalized by opening the valve 43.

Thereafter, the CO2— water emulsion thus prepared were introduced into the microscopic observing pressure vessel 37 by opening the valve 47, and the microscopic observation was done. The CO2— water emulsion in the sampling room which was formed between pressure-proof glasses of 10 mm in thickness of the microscopic observing pressure vessel 37 was observed by using a stereo-microscope of 60 times magnification (manufactured by Nikkyo Technos, Co., Ltd., under the product code: S-20L(60 X)). After the observation, by using the microscopic photograph (See, FIG. 14), the diameters and counts of minute particles at the three points (a, b, c) were examined. The relations between the diameter and count of liquid CO2 at the three points were as shown in Table 1. When the relation between the particle sizes of the liquid CO2 and the percentages of penetrated weight was determined, it was found that the diameters of the liquid CO2 were within the range of 10-100 μm as shown in FIG. 16, and thus they were sufficiently smaller than the Toyoura sand (100-600 μm) (See, FIG. 15). In addition, it was similar in distribution to the Toyoura sand.

TABLE 1
D (mm)(a)(b)(c)Total
0.100 ≦ D1326
0.084 ≦ D < 0.10036110
0.062 ≦ D < 0.08439719
0.047 ≦ D < 0.06296823
0.034 ≦ D < 0.04716161042
0.026 ≦ D < 0.0341415534
0.018 ≦ D < 0.02625191256
0.010 ≦ D < 0.018472335105
Total1189780295

Judging from these results, the emulsion which includes a large volume of liquid CO2 can enter into the voids between the solid phases such as sand particles while it puts the seawater or water filled in the voids away from the void, that is, the CO2 particles which are smaller than the voids in the layer where the gas hydrate have been produced, i.e., the voids between the solid phases (sand particles) can flow through the voids, as is the case with water.

Example 2

The behavior for the production of CO2 hydrate when the CO2 water emulsion obtained in Example 1 was permeated into the Toyoura sand in the CO2 hydrate producing pressure vessel 42 which simulated the sand layer in the ocean sedimentary layer was observed by using as indicators the temperature and pressure. The schematic diagram of the experimental instrument used in the production of the CO2 hydrate is shown in FIG. 13. This experimental instrument was the same as in Example 1 except that the CO2 hydrate producing pressure vessel 36 was further connected downstream from the liquid CO2 atomizing pressure vessel 35. The inside of the CO2 hydrate producing pressure vessel 36 were pressurized by a hand-operated pump 39 under the condition that the water was supplied into the CO2 hydrate producing pressure vessel 36 from a not-shown water tank. The CO2 hydrate producing pressure vessel 36 were charged with the Toyoura sand and water which simulated the sand layer in the ocean sedimentary layer, the sand layer being within the range of the particle diameters shown in FIG. 12, so as to satisfy a porosity of about 50%. Incidentally, in this experiment, since there is no necessary to confirm the condition of the CO2— water emulsion, the CO2 hydrate producing pressure vessel 36 may be connected directly to the liquid CO2 atomizing pressure vessel 35 in the downstream of the pressure vessel 35. The numeral 45 represents a pressure gauge.

First, to, the CO2 hydrate producing pressure vessel 36 which had been charged with 314.09 g of the Toyoura sand saturated with 79.47 g of water and which had been pressurized up to about 5 MPa by using the hand-operated pump 39, 30.78 g of the CO2— water emulsion were introduced from the upside of the pressure vessel 36, under the condition that a valve which was located at the downside of the pressure vessel 36 was slightly opened to an extent that the pressure inside the pressure vessel 36 was not decreased, so that the water existing in the voids were extruded from the pressure vessel 36 by the emulsion and the emulsion was introduced into the pressure vessel. Upon when the emulsion was discharged from the downside of the pressure vessel, the valve was closed. At this condition, the water contained in the pressure vessel was 48.69 g. Then, by utilizing the iced water 50 in the water tank 38, the pressure vessel was cooled down for two hours to a temperature that is a stable condition for the CO2 hydrate, in order to produce the CO2 hydrate. Incidentally, the injection of the liquid CO2-water emulsion was proceeded by opening the valve 48 so as to introduce the liquid CO2— water emulsion which had been prepared in the liquid CO2 atomizing pressure vessel 35 into the CO2 hydrate producing pressure vessel 36. The discharge of the emulsion can be easily detected because the fact that the pressure falls to the atmospheric pressure allows the minute particles of the liquid CO2 in the emulsion to vaporize.

The temperature changes in the pressure vessel 36 at that time which were measured by thermometers 42 located at the six points shown in FIG. 17 is shown in FIG. 18. According to the results of the measurements, the temperatures at the six points rose at the same time and in similar fashion. It is considered that these temperature changes were due to a phenomenon that CO2 hydrate was produced uniformly, and it is also considered that CO2 was dispersed uniformly throughout the sample. By the way, the inner pressure of the vessel was varied within the range of 4-9 MPa.

In this experiment, the pressure vessel 36 was dipped in the iced water, and thus, this experiment was performed under the boundary condition that the heat could be dissipated (heat transmission). The values of temperature rising at the respective measurement points T3-T8 were about 4° C. However, in the case of the actual ocean sedimentary layer, there are boundaries where the initial temperature is not changed. Thus, under the boundary condition that the initial temperature is not changed, a non-steady thermal diffusion analysis was conducted. As the result, it was found that the temperature of the sample (mixture of the Toyoura sand, water and CO2) used as an indicator was risen at about 9° C. by the heat of reaction for the CO2 hydrate production. Since the theoretically calculated maximum temperature rising of the Toyoura layer (mixture of sand, water and CO2) by the heat of the reaction (absolute value) for the CO2 hydrate production is about 9° C., the experimental result meant that the environment near the condition that the maximum temperature rising can be produced was held. Namely, the result makes it clear that, by the atomization of and the emulsifying of the liquid CO2, the ideal hydrate producing reaction is caused, in other words, the production rate of the CO2 hydrate can be accelerated, and still further, the liquid CO2— water emulsion can be dispersed uniformly into the sand layer. In addition the result makes it clear that the CO2 can be utilized as a heating agent for the layer where the CH4 hydrate exists.

From the results of Examples 1 and 2, it can be judged that the CO2 particles which are smaller than the voids flowed in the voids in the layer or the Toyoura sand layer, as is the case with water.

<Control 1>

Into the pressure vessel 36 which had been charged with 314.09 g of the Toyoura sand saturated with 79.47 g of water and which had been pressurized up to about 5 MPa by using the hand-operated pump 39, 27.14 g of liquid CO2 of which pressure had been risen to about 1 MPa by dipping into hot water were introduced, and at the same time, about 25 cc of water were drawn out from the downside of the pressure vessel 36 by using the hand-operated pump. Upon when the liquid CO2 was discharged from the downside of the pressure vessel, the valve was closed. The discharge of the liquid CO2 can be easily detected because the fact that the pressure falls to the atmospheric pressure allows the liquid CO2 to vaporize. At this condition, the water contained in the pressure vessel was 50.85 g. Then, by utilizing the iced water 50 in the water tank 38, the pressure vessel was cooled down for two hours to a temperature that is a stable condition for the CO2 hydrate, in order to produce the CO2 hydrate.

The actual measurement data of the temperature changes at the six points in the Toyoura in case is shown in FIG. 17. According to the results of the measurements, the temperature changes at the six points were caused randomly with time differences. Further, with respect to the value of the temperature rising, the values of the individual points were mutually distinct, and the values, even the maximum, did not reach 2° C. Further, at the measuring point of being the minimum temperature change, the temperature rising was hardly observed. From these results, it is considered that the liquid CO2 was not dispersed uniformly into the voids in the Toyoura sand layer, and a large variation was caused in the dispersion, and further, depending on places, the liquid CO2 was not supplied. Further, since there was a variation in the values of the temperature rising at the respect measuring points, and the values of the temperature rising, per se, were low, it was shown that the reaction rate for the hydrate production was slow and the reaction were not progressed actively.