Coupled flow and geomechanics play an important role in the analysis of gas-hydrate reservoirs under production. The stiffness of the rock skeleton and the deformation of the reservoir, as well as porosity and permeability, are directly influenced by (and interrelated with) changes in pressure and temperature and in fluid-(water and gas) and solid-(hydrate and ice) phase saturations. Fluid and solid phases may coexist, which, coupled with steep temperature and pressure gradients, result in strong nonlinearities in the coupled flow and mechanics processes, making the description of system behavior in dissociating hydrate deposits exceptionally complicated.
In previous studies, the geological stability of hydrate-bearing sediments was investigated using one-way coupled analysis, in which the changes in fluid properties affect mechanics within the gas-hydrate reservoirs, but with no feedback from geomechanics to fluid flow. In this paper, we develop and test a rigorous twoway coupling between fluid flow and geomechanics, in which the solutions from mechanics are reflected in the solution of the flow problem through the adjustment of affected hydraulic properties. We employ the fixed-stress split method, which results in a convergent sequential implicit scheme.
In this study of several hydrate-reservoir cases, we find noticeable differences between the results from one- and two-way couplings. The nature of the elliptic boundary value problem of quasistatic mechanics results in instantaneous compaction or dilation over the domain through loading from reservoir-fluid production. This induces a pressure rise or drop at early times (low-pressure diffusion), and consequently changes the effective stress instantaneously, possibly causing geological instability. Additionally, the pressure and temperature regime affects the various phase saturations, the rock stiffness, porosity, and permeability, thus affecting the fluid-flow regime. These changes are not captured accurately by the simpler one-way coupling. The tightly coupled sequential approach we propose provides a rigorous, twoway coupling model that captures the interrelationship between geomechanical and flow properties and processes, accurately describes the system behavior, and can be readily applied to large-scale problems of hydrate behavior in geologic media.