Molecular dynamic simulations are performed to study the conditions for methane nano-bubble formation during methane hydrate dissociation in the presence of water and a methane gas reservoir. Hydrate dissociation leads to the quick release of methane into the liquid phase which can cause methane supersaturation. If the diffusion of methane molecules out of the liquid phase is not fast enough, the methane molecules agglomerate and form bubbles. Under the conditions of our simulations, the methane-rich quasi-spherical bubbles grow to become cylindrical with a radius of ∼11 Å. The nano-bubbles remain stable for about 35 ns until they are gradually and homogeneously dispersed in the liquid phase and finally enter the gas phase reservoirs initially set up in the simulation box. We determined that the minimum mole fraction for the dissolved methane in water to form nano-bubbles is 0.044, corresponding to about 30% of hydrate phase composition (0.148). The importance of nano-bubble formation to the mechanism of methane hydrate formation, growth, and dissociation is discussed.
The Journal of Chemical Physics142, no. 21, 214701 (2 June 2015).