You are on page 1of 4

International Journal of the Physical Sciences Vol. 6(5), pp.

971-974, 4 March, 2011

Available online at
DOI: 10.5897/IJPS11.013
1992 - 1950 ©2011 Academic Journals

Full Length Research Paper

Prediction of excess pore pressure due to dissociation

of gas hydrate within sandy soils
Sung-Sik Park
Department of Civil Engineering, Kyungpook National University, 1370 Sangyeok-dong, Buk-gu, Daegu 702-701,
Republic of Korea. E-mail: Tel: +82-53-950-7544. Fax: +82-53-950-6564.
Accepted 03 March, 2011

The small hydrate concept (SHC) was proposed to predict the generated excess pore water pressure
due to dissociation of gas hydrate within sandy soils. This concept was then used to calculate excess
pore water pressure in the Storegga slide of which gas hydrate dissociation may have contributed.
Since the excess pore water pressure calculated by the SHC resulted in the considerable loss of
stiffness and strength in the gas hydrate zone, the submarine slope failure that occurred at the
Storegga slide was successfully simulated.

Key words: Gas hydrate, dissociation, submarine slope, excess pore water pressure.


Gas hydrates are ice-like compounds containing gas cannot escape from gas hydrate sediments, which may
(usually methane) that is trapped by a cage of water not be appropriate to sandy soils.
molecules under high pressure and low temperature. A The purpose of this paper is to propose a simple and
large portion of gas hydrate bearing sediment is occupied practical pore water pressure calculation method which
by hydrate that is surrounded by a soil matrix. Gas can apply for gas hydrate dissociation occurred within
hydrate dissociation can cause pore water pressure sandy soils. The proposed method is herein applied to a
increase in gas hydrate bearing sediments, which results case history of submarine slope failure due to gas
in the decrease of an effective stress and in the hydrate dissociation.
degradation of stiffness and strength of soil in a
submarine slope.
An analytical or theoretical model that can calculate the EXCESS PORE WATER PRESSURE CALCULATION
pore water pressure increase due to the dissociation of METHOD DUE TO GAS HYDRATE DISSOCIATION
gas hydrate between pore spaces was necessary in
order to evaluate the stability of a gas hydrate bearing Wheeler (1988) studied the behavior of soil containing
submarine slope. Kwon et al. (2008) developed a gas bubbles and compared the sizes of gas bubbles to
formulation that can calculate pressure- and temperature- those of soil particles. He assumed a soil structure with
dependent volume changes of gas hydrate and predict discrete gas bubbles in two cases: (i) where the gas
the increase in excess pore water pressure due to gas bubbles were significantly smaller than the soil particles,
hydrate dissociation. Nixon and Grozic (2007) also and (ii) where the gas bubbles were significantly larger
proposed a calculation method for the increase of excess than the soil particles. This assumption can be applied to
pore water pressure following gas hydrate dissociation, a structure of gas hydrate bearing sediments by replacing
and analyzed a submarine slope upon gas hydrate gas bubbles with a fraction of hydrate. By comparing the
dissociation in terms of a factor of safety. Kimoto et al. size of a hydrate with that of a soil particle, two profiles of
(2007) developed a chemo-thermo-mechanically coupled gas hydrate bearing sediments are assumed as follows:
numerical method and predicted the ground settlement For the first profile in Figure 1(a), it is assumed that
due to gas hydrate dissociation. These methods were coarse soil particles such as sand are relatively loosely
derived from a closed boundary condition; generated gas linked and small hydrate fractions are scattered over the
972 Int. J. Phys. Sci.

(a) (b)

Figure 1. Assumed soil profiles containing (a) small hydrates, and (b) large hydrates (modified
from Wheeler, 1988).

soil structure. In the second profile in Figure 1(b), it is increases in water pressure. Under the assumption of the
assumed that hydrate fractions are relatively large and SHC where the generated gas during gas hydrate disso-
enclosed by small soil particles which are continuously ciation may not contribute to pore pressure increase, the
linked. These assumed profiles were assisted by Dillon pore pressure rise can be simulated by the ice-melting
and Max (2002), who mentioned that gas hydrate formed process, which was performed by Jackson et al. (2004).
between sediments normally exists in two ways: (i) They carried out an ice-melting experiment by simply
disseminated form in coarse-grained sediments, and (ii) considering a gas hydrate as an ice, and showed that
nodules and lenses in fine-grained sediments. pore pressure increases as the ice surrounded by
Using the assumed soil profile outlined in Figure 1(a), a saturated sand melts.
method is proposed that can calculate pore water The rise in pore water pressure can be calculated from
pressure generation upon gas hydrate dissociation in the volume change in the assumed soil skeleton. The
coarse-grained sediments. volume change of all components of gas hydrate can be
the same as the volume change of the gas hydrate as
follows (Sultan et al., 2004):
Small hydrate concept
∆V = ∆V s + ∆V w + ∆V g + ∆V H (1)
The profile of sediments containing gas hydrate varies
considerably, depending on soil types, gas amounts and Where ∆VS is the volume change of solid; ∆VW is the
formation conditions such as temperature and pressure. volume change of water; ∆Vg is the volume change of
The basic composition of gas hydrate consists of soil gas; ∆VH is the volume change of hydrate. In Equation 1,
particle, hydrate, and water. A small hydrate concept the volume change of solid is insignificant because solid
(SHC) is proposed based on the assumption that a is usually incompressible, and the volume change of gas
fraction of hydrate is smaller than a soil particle and can be omitted as originally assumed. Therefore,
exists between coarse particles such as sandy soils as Equation 1 can be simplified as follows:
shown in Figure 1(a). In this condition, upon gas hydrate
dissociation, the generated gas can easily escape from a
∆ V = ∆ V w + ∆ VH (2)
loosely-connected soil skeleton. Consequently, the
volume of soil structure decreases as ice-like hydrates
are converted into water. The corresponding volume In summary, the total volume change ∆ V is the sum of
decrease in the soil structure confines water, resulting in the water and hydrate volume change, ∆VW+ ∆VH.
Park 973

Equation 2 is uncomplicated and practical to use al. (2004) and other researchers (Leynaud et al., 2004;
compared to Equation 1. Since water can be considered Mienert et al., 2005) investigated the influence of gas
incompressible, the volume change of gas hydrate is the hydrate dissociation on submarine slope using a case
same as hydrate volume change. Each volume of hydrate study of the Storegga slide. It was assumed that the
produces 0.87 volumes of water at standard pressure Storegga slide would fail due to gas hydrate dissociation
and temperature conditions (1 atm. and 25°C). Therefore, (Sultan et al., 2004). This hypothetical slide was selected
the volumetric strain is 0.13. By multiplying an equivalent to evaluate the proposed excess pore water pressure
bulk stiffness of pore water (= Bf/n) to the volumetric calculation method.
strain (∆εv) we can determine the excess pore water In this research, the two-dimensional finite difference
pressure upon gas hydrate dissociation as follows: program FLAC (Itasca, 2004) is used to simulate
The equivalent bulk stiffness is used to incorporate the submarine slope failure due to gas hydrate dissociation.
bulk stiffness of water within soil skeleton. As shown in Figure 2(a), a submarine slope was
assumed where a 10 m thick gas hydrate layer located at
Bf 100 m below the slope. The dimension of this slope is
∆u = ⋅ ∆ε v also shown in Figure 2(a). Left and right boundaries are
n (3) fixed in x direction and free in y direction. Bottom
boundary is fixed in both x and y directions.
The excess pore water pressure which developed at the The stress-strain model used for this slope is an elastic
Storegga slide can be estimated from Equation 3. If the perfectly plastic Mohr-Coulomb model. It needs two
stiffness of pore water is considered, a bulk stiffness of elastic model parameters, shear modulus G and bulk
pore water Bf is found to be a function of p, the current modulus B, and two plastic model parameters, cohesion
absolute pressure of the water and S, the degree of c’ and friction angle (Ф’). The unit weight of soil was
saturation, and is given by: assumed to be 14 kN/m3. The friction angle for the
Storegga slide was assumed to be 28°, as obtained by
1 Sultan et al. (2004). Cohesion is simply assumed to be
Bf =
1− S S zero. Shear modulus (G) and bulk modulus (B) are
p Bw determined as follows:
(4) Based on these values, the initial lateral stress ratio
was set to 0.5.
where Bw = 2 × 10 kPa, the bulk stiffness of water. 0. 5
 σ′ 
In this study, by assuming that the saturation is 96% and G = 21.7(100 )(Pa ) m 
that p is 950 m below sea level, the bulk stiffness of pore  Pa  (5)
water Bf in Equation 4 was approximately 2 × 105 kPa.
Porosity n was assumed to be 0.375. Sultan et al. (2004) B = 3⋅G (6)
assumed that the volume of hydrate of the sedimentary
layer was about 1% where the Storegga slide occurred. If tan φ'eq = (1 − ru ) ⋅ tan φ′
the hydrate amount is 1%, the excess pore water
pressure is calculated as;
where Pa is atmospheric pressure ( ≅ 100 kPa) and σ' m
is the mean effective stress.
A friction angle (Ф’) was adjusted to consider the
This method is uncomplicated. However, the influence of excess pore water pressure generation due
determination of Bf is very important because Bf mainly to gas hydrate dissociation. It was defined as Ф’eq in
controls calculated excess pore water pressure. It should Equation 7. A pore water pressure ratio ru, which is the
be noted that Bf is a function of the saturation that is ratio of an excess pore water pressure to an initial
dependant on gas in pores and pressure acting on water. effective stress, is determined from the calculated excess
pore water pressure in the previous section. The ru was
calculated by using the initial vertical effective stress of
NUMERICAL SIMULATION OF THE STOREGGA 700 kPa. Based on this ru, the adjusted friction angle
SLIDE Ф’eq for the method was calculated as 0.3°. Using this
parameter, slope stability analysis was carried out to
During a gas hydrate production process, the submarine evaluate the deformation of the slope. An analysis based
slope may lose its strength and consequently fail. For on the SHC produced considerable movement.
safe gas production from gas hydrates bearing The maximum displacement from the crest was more
sediments, it is necessary to predict the stability of the than 100 m as shown in Figure 2(b). This type of large
submarine slope when gas hydrate dissociates. Sultan et movement could have occurred in the Storegga slide
974 Int. J. Phys. Sci.

Figure 2. (a) Reconstructed Storegga slide geometry for numerical analysis and (b) numerical simulation of Storegga slide after 1% gas
hydrate dissociation.

where gas hydrate dissociated. REFERENCES

Dillon WP, Max MD (2002). Oceanic gas hydrate. in Natural Gas

Hydrate in Oceanic and Permafrost Environments. edited by Max,
CONCLUSIONS MD, Kluwer Acad. New York, pp. 61-76.
Itasca (2004). FLAC version 4.0. Itasca Consulting Group Inc.
An analytical method was proposed to calculate excess Minneapolis.
pore water pressure due to gas hydrate dissociation Jackson P, Gunn D, Long D, Lovell M, Musson R, Hobbs P, Rees J,
using the small hydrate concept (SHC). The predicted Rochelle C, Bateman K, Nelder V (2004). Slope stability issues in
hydrate bearing sediments under seismic loading. AAPG Hedberg
excess pore water pressure was applied to a case history Conference on Gas Hydrates: Energy Resource Potential and
of submarine slope failure where gas hydrate dissociated. Associated Geologic Hazards, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
The method estimated excess pore water pressures in Kimoto S, Oka F, Fushita T, Fujiwaki M (2007). A chemo-thermo-
the Storegga slide due to 1% gas hydrate dissociation to mechanically coupled numerical simulation of the subsurface ground
deformations due to methane hydrates dissociation. Com. Geotech.,
693 kPa. By considering generated excess pore water 34: 216-228.
pressures upon 1% gas hydrate dissociation, the original Kwon TH, Cho GC, Santamarina JC (2008). Gas hydrate dissociation in
friction angle of 28° became 0.3°. Based on the reduced sediments: pressure-temperature evolution. Geochem. Geophy.
friction angles, the estimated slope deformation was Geosys. 9: Q03019, doi:10.1029/2007GC001920.
Leynaud D, Mienert J, Nadim F (2004). Slope stability assessment of
greater than 100 m. The method provides relatively the Helland Hansen area offshore the mid-Norwegian margin. Marine
simple and practical calculation even though it requires Geol., 213: 457-480.
few assumptions and parameters. Therefore, this method Mienert J, Vanneste M, Bunz S, Andreassen K, Haflidason H, Sejrup
can be used to evaluate the stability of a submarine slope HP (2005). Ocean warming and gas hydrate stability on the mid-
Norwegian margin at the Storegga slide. Marine. Petrol. Geol., 22:
due to gas hydrate dissociation at the screening level. 233-244.
Nixon MF, Grozic JLH (2007). Submarine slope failure due to gas
hydrate dissociation: a preliminary quantification. Can. Geotech. J.,
Sultan N, Cochonat P, Foucher JP, Mienert J (2004). Effect of gas
hydrates melting on seafloor slope instability. Marine Geol., 213: 379-
This research was partially supported by Basic Science 401.
Research program through the National Research Wheeler SJ (1988). A conceptual model for soils containing large gas
Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of bubbles. Geotechnique, 38: 389-397.
Education, Science and Technology (2010-0023540).