Experiments Concerning the Commercial Extraction of Methane from Coalbed Reservoirs
In late 1992 coalbed methane became the most significant source of natural gas produced in Virginia. This gas is held within the coal formations adsorbed to the coal matrix. The current well stimulation technology applies a high pressure fluid to the coal formation surrounding the wellbore to induce a series of fractures. The research documented in this thesis investigates several new technologies that could replace or augment the current well stimulation approach of hydraulic fracturing.
The application of liquid carbon dioxide, as the stimulation agent was investigated in a series of permeability tests. These measurements were made using a radial flow technique developed specifically for this research project. The results of the tests using liquid carbon dioxide to enhance the permeability of coal samples, to methane gas, indicated a significant increase in permeability of the samples. Comparison to a reference material showed, however, that the increase was of a general nature, not by specific interaction with the coal matrix. Rather, the permeability increase was due to reduced resistance of the borehole skin. Studies of the new, radial flow, permeability measurement approach showed good agreement to a conventional, axial flow, approach for similar sample bedding orientation to the gas flow.
The documented experiments also include investigations into the potential for using custom designed nitrocellulose/nitroglycerin/RDX based propellant charges to produce extensive fracturing away from the wellbore. The first series of these experiments concerned the characterization of the burn properties for these propellants and their mixtures. Utilizing an interior ballistics approach, these laboratory small-scale shots were numerically modeled with a program written as a part of this project. Using the small-scale results and the modeled data, a series of large-scale test shots were developed and fired to gain understanding of the scale effects. The small-scale constant volume bomb, and the large-scale vented bomb were both custom designed and fabricated for this project. Comparisons of the laboratory data and modeled predictions show good agreement for both the small and large-scale test series.
This work concludes by presenting considerations for utilizing the propellant based well stimulation approach in the water filled wells in southwest Virginia.