Gas hydrates are solid substances consisting of water and gas which are stable under high pressure and low temperature conditions. After Davy discovered chlorine hydrate in 1810, gas hydrates from natural gas were found to be the reason for gas pipeline plugging in 1934 by Hammerschmidt. In 1965, the Russian scientist Makogon discovered natural gas hydrate deposits. This was the beginning of research in the geological occurrence of the gas hydrates.
Today, hundreds of gas hydrate wells for exploration have been drilled all over the world in the permafrost and deep sea regions. Several big projects for gas hydrate research and exploration have been financed by Japan, India, Korea, China and the USA. It is assumed that the amount of carbon in natural gas hydrates is twice the amount present in oil, gas and coal together. This makes them interesting as a future energy source. To drill into horizontal layers filled with gas hydrates in the pores, directional wells are needed.
To achieve an adequate cutting transport, a high performance drilling fluid has to be used instead of sea water. The drilling fluid must be able to keep the gas hydrate reservoir stable while drilling and prevent the formation of secondary gas hydrates in the liquid. Moreover, the gas hydrate cuttings should not dissociate on their way to the surface. To avoid altering of the drilling fluid due to water and gas produced as a result of gas hydrate dissociation, cuttings should be kept stable to separate them from the fluid like any other rock cuttings by the surface equipment.
To prevent gas hydrate formation, thermodynamic inhibitors, like salt, glycols or methanol are used. Also, kinetic inhibitors are added to the drilling fluid to prevent gas hydrate agglomeration and formation for a period of time. Well known kinetic inhibitors are polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polyvinylcaprolactam (PVCap).
Although ethylene glycol (EG) is seen as a thermodynamic inhibitor for gas hydrates, it is shown in this study that it is able to stabilize methane hydrate significantly. For the investigation, a high pressure cell with pressures up to 8.5 MPa was used. The equilibrium point of methane hydrate was detected. Solutions with PVP, PEG, hydroxyethylcellulose (HEC), Sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) and a kinetic inhibitor containing EG were tested (concentrations from 1 to 10 wt.‰). PVP, PEG and HEC could not stabilize gas hydrates at the test condition. SDS showed both a stabilizing and promoting effect. EG can significantly stabilize gas hydrates.