Summary

As one of the geotechnical risks, sanding has been one of the main constraints for safely and sustainably developing marine natural gas hydrate. In this study, a cylindrical vessel that is packed with the clayey-silt sediment collected from the Shenhu area of the northern South China Sea is used to microscopically observe sand detachment, migration within matrix, invasion to gravel packing, and production for openhole gravel packing. More specifically, by injecting water from the vessel boundary, the seepage and stress-strain field for sediment near the wellbore after hydrate dissociation is simulated, and the sand failure characteristics [i.e., the produced sand volume and particle size distributions (PSDs)] are quantified. The sand failure pattern is found to largely differ from that of a sandstone reservoir, whereas fractures, wormholes, and fluidized channels are successively developed along with a large scale of sand production and inlet pressure variation. Followed is a steady flow state with a stable inlet pressure without noticeable sand failure. Correspondingly, the fracture is induced and propagated by the combinational effort of shear and tensile failure, whereas wormholes and fluidized channels are associated with the liquid dragging force. At the end of each test, foraminifera are found to accumulate near the external side of the gravel-packing region, which is beneficial to sand control. In the meantime, a compact mudcake, as an infiltration medium, is observed outside the gravel-packing layer. The 30/50 mesh gravel packing is able to control grain size up to 30.0 µm in diameter with a median of 5.0 µm, whereas the produced grains account for less than 1.0 vol% of the total sediment. By performing sensitivity analysis on sand production, depressurization shall be conducted at a small rate to not only control sand production, but also to induce flow paths at the early stage. Moreover, the sand production rate associated with fracture development is larger than those of wormholes and fluidized channels. This study focuses on the experimental observations on sand failure patterns, and the theoretical formulations and modeling will be presented and explained in a future work.3

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