A case study of natural gas hydrates (NGH) in offshore NW Sabah: Identification, shallow geohazard implication for exploration drilling, extraction challenges and potential energy resource estimation


Author : John Jong, Goh Hui Sin, Steve McGiveron, Jim FittonPublication : Bulletin of the Geological Society of MalaysiaNumber : 70Page : 57-75Year : Nov 2020DOI : doi.org/10.7186/bgsm70202005


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Bulletin of the Geological Society of Malaysia, Volume 70, November 2020, pp. 57 - 75
 

A case study of natural gas hydrates (NGH) in offshore NW Sabah: Identification, shallow geohazard implication for exploration drilling, extraction challenges and potential energy resource estimation

John Jong1,*, Goh Hui Sin2,3, Steve McGiveron4, Jim Fitton5

1 JX Nippon Oil and Gas Exploration (Malaysia) Limited, Malaysia
2 C/O Department of Geology, Universiti of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
3 No. 25, Taman Hoover Park, Jln Sultan Abdullah, 36000 Teluk Intan, Perak, Malaysia
4 Independent Principal Consultant, Marine Geoscience, Wales, UK
5 Consultant Operations Geologist, Malacca, Malaysia
*Corresponding author email address: jjong2005@gmail.com

Abstract: Natural gas hydrates (NGHs), sometimes referred to as “flammable ice”, are crystalline solids, consisting of hydrocarbon gases with low molecular weight, such as methane, ethane and propane, bound with water molecules within cage-like lattices. The water molecules and low molecular weight NGH lattices are stable within a specific range of temperatures and pressures, and the source of the gases can be biogenic or thermogenic in origin. NGHs are common in the upper hundreds of metres of sub-seafloor sediments on the continental margins at water depths greater than about 500 m. Seismic reflection profiles and wireline well logs are common indicators used to identify the presence of NGHs, which are often encountered during offshore deepwater exploration drilling. They may cause geohazards such as slope instability, expulsion of the seafloor, shallow water flows and shallow gas if the stability of penetrated NGHs is disturbed and starts to dissociate. Methane gas hydrates represent a significant potential energy resource, as illustrated in this case study from offshore NW Sabah and may represent one of the world’s largest reservoirs of carbon-based fuel, with some estimates suggest that the hydrocarbons bound in the form of NGHs may rival the total energy resources contained in other conventional hydrocarbon sources. Methane can be extracted from NGHs through three methods: depressurization, inhibitor injection and thermal stimulation. However, risk associated with NGHs extraction can contribute to environmental concerns such as global warming and a decrease in microbial communities associated with methane hydrate ecosystem. Presently, in many countries, national programs exist for the research and production of natural gas from NGH deposits. As a result, hundreds of deposits have been discovered, with a few hundred wells drilled and kilometres of NGH cores studied. Hence, in the future (pending improved gas price and extraction technology), methane gas hydrates could be a vast source of natural gas supply.

Keywords: Natural gas hydrates (NGH), geohazards, methane, offshore Sabah, energy resource

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7186/bgsm70202005