Decomposition of CH4 hydrate: effects of temperature and salt from molecular simulations

We report a molecular simulation study to investigate the decomposition of CH4 hydrate. The decomposition is revealed to be stepwise from the outer to inner layers. Upon decomposition, the number of 51262 cages drops faster than that of 512 cages. CH4 molecules are released, dissolved in water, then enter gas phase; meanwhile, CH4 bubbles may form particularly at a high temperature. Based on the variations of potential energy, order parameter, cage number and density profile of CH4 at different temperatures (300, 330, 345 and 360 K) and NaCl concentrations (0, 0.6 and 1.8 M), the effects of temperature and salt are comprehensively examined. With increasing temperature, the decomposition in pure water is accelerated, whereas two opposite effects are observed in NaCl solution. At 330 K, the decomposition is retarded at a higher NaCl concentration, as attributed to the reduced CH4 solubility in NaCl solution and the participation of ions in cage formation; at 360 K, however, the decomposition is accelerated when NaCl concentration increases due to bubble formation. This simulation study provides microscopic insights into hydrate decomposition, which might be useful towards the optimisation of operating conditions for CH4 production from CH4 hydrate.