Interim Report

Team Number: 055
School Name: Espanola Valley High School
Area of Science: Chemical Engineering
Project Title: Methane Clathrates Beneath the Ocean Sediment
Project Abstract: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/abstracts/055.html
Interim Report: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/interims/055.html
Final Report: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/finalreports/055/finalreport.html

The objective of our project is to obtain methane gas from beneath the ocean sediment. (In addition to its use as a fuel, methane is an important source of energy and organic chemicals.) The ocean sediment contains one of theimportant elements for our project to be possible - methane clathrates. Methaneclathrates are solid, ice-like compounds, in which methane molecules are caged by water. Methane clathrates are formed at low temperatures and high pressure. The other element is porous rock beneath the layer of methane gas, which contains warm water. We intend to accomplish our objective by modeling the extraction of the gas and the effect that will result from this extraction.

In order to extract the methane from beneath the ocean sediment, we must first drill through the methane clathrates to reach the methane below them. Then we are going to extract a certain amount of methane from this area beneath the ocean sediment. The amount of methane we extract will be our main variable.We will then model the effects on the layer of methane clathrates and on the porous rock, (or the water contained in the rock). When the methane is extracted, there will be a change in pressure. How is this change in pressure going to effect the lower layer of clathrates? What is going to occupy the space that is now open, but was once occupied by the methane? These are some ofthe questions we are hoping to answer.

From the knowledge we have acquired about methane clathrates, porous rock, pressure, and temperature, we are hypothesizing that the following are things that could occur and/or questions that may arise:

-- The bounderies between the methane and methane clathrates are at the melting point. When the methane is extracted, the pressure will drop. If you have any drop in pressure the clathrate melts, lowering the temperature and in turn stopping the melting process. However,the heat stored from the surrounding rock can keep the melting process going. If this occurs, then the lower layers of clathrates will begin to decompose into separate water and methane molecules. Will the methane add to the already existent methane gas, and will the water molecules sink down into the porous rock, as expected?

-- Or will the water in the porous rock act as a natural piston as the methane is extracted, and replace the pressure as quickly as it is being reduced?

-- Will we need to add a heat source at the point of extraction that can melt the clathrates that replenish the methane gas?

-- Is this extraction even possible or will the decrease in pressure be too rapid for the layers of clathrates to melt, causing them to collapse along with the ocean floor, allowing the methane gas to bubble up to the surface of the ocean and be released into the atmosphere?

-- If it turns out that this extraction is possible, can we extract enough methane to make this all worth while? And if so, how much is enough?

All these are questions that must be taken into consideration to successfully solve our problem.

We will be modifying an already existent code by adding necessary components needed to model our project.

Currently, we are in the middle of the physics aspect of our project, learning why things happen according to the laws of physics. We will begin modifications of the code in the very near future. Once modifications are complete we will then conduct a simple test run, to ensure that our code will work as we want and need it to.

The successful completion of our project depends on our code, its correct operation, and on the completion of the remaining work, including the analysis of our results, and the conclusions left to be drawn.

Having used teamwork throughout the project, we hope to culminate by submitting a final report that will complete our competition in the 1997-1998 Supercomputing Challenge.

Team Members:

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New Mexico High School Supercomputing Challenge