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How to avoid hydrate formation during underground natural gas storage in salt caverns

In my last article, I gave you an overview of underground natural gas storage in salt caverns and the challenge of hydrate formation.

In this case study, I focus on how to avoid hydrate formation in natural gas pressure measurement pipelines. I describe the traditional approach to avoid hydrate formation during natural gas storage in salt caverns. Furthermore, I explain a patented customer solution that AS-Schneider has industrialized.

How to avoid hydrate formation?

Hydrate formation can be prevented by altering one or more of the four essential conditions required for their formation:

Icon for water to avoid hydrate formation in salt caverns.


Icon for presence of light hydrocarbons to avoid hydrate formation in salt caverns.

Presence of light hydrocarbons

Icon for pipieline under low temperature to avoid hydrate formation in salt caverns.

Low temperature

Icon for pipieline under high pressure to avoid hydrate formation in salt caverns.

High pressure

If a single one of these components is missing, methane hydrates will not form. Based on these conditions, there are five methods of preventing hydrate formation:

The threshold temperature for hydrate formation varies with the composition of the gas. In general, it is around 24°C. Above this temperature, the formation of hydrates is unlikely.

The traditional approach to avoiding hydrate formation in measuring lines is to heat the measuring points. This, however, is not a simple task. Gas pipes are typically thick-walled and often flanged. It is extremely difficult to transfer heat from outside to the gas inside. At low outdoor temperatures, this method is very inefficient and consumes a significant amount of energy.

Modern approach: Avoid hydrate formation by using a heatable sampling probe

Natural gas storage operators in Europe, struggling with the issue of hydrate formation in measuring lines, turned to AS-Schneider with their challenge. 

Together with one of these customers, we industrialized the customer-patented solution to avoid hydrate formation in the measuring line. Due to the customer’s application, our engineering team complemented the solution with a build in ball valve which did not exist in the patent before.

The heatable sampling probe consists of a copper block with an integrated shut-off ball valve and a sensor tube. The copper tube extends into the inner wall of the transport piping. There it heats the gas thus preventing hydrate formation. An electrical heating block, screwed to the body, heats the assembly through induction.

This energy-efficient heating block independently regulates the temperature and is extremely safe. Depending on the wall thickness, the length of the probe can be adjusted to selectively transfer heat through appropriate wall or flange thickness.

The heated sampling probe does not allow hydrate formation to clog the lines. It transfers the full static pressure of the gas without any restriction. Thus, ensuring accurate measurements. The ball valve, integrated with the probe, functions as an initial shut-off between the transport and gas impulse lines.

The valve can withstand a pressure of up to 250 bar and a maximum temperature of 120°C. In addition, the specially designed ball valve offers the following benefits:

Our solution to the natural gas hydrate issue in measuring lines has been proven to work safely and efficiently in the field.

The integrated ball valve greatly simplifies installation. All the essential components are fitted in a single housing.

The space-saving heated sampling probe is being successfully used in several storage facilities. All operated by well-known companies across Europe and the world.

Heatable sampling probe to avoid hydrate formation salt caverns.

Ball valve made of cooper. 

Cooper ball valve with installation and heatable sampling probe to avoid hydrate formation salt caverns.

Cooper ball valve with installation.  

Cooper ball valve without installation and heatable sampling probe to avoid hydrate formation salt caverns.

Cooper ball valve without installation.  


Avoiding hydrate formation in hydrogen applications

Injection of hydrogen into a natural gas supply network is being tested to lower the need for investment in the development of hydrogen infrastructure. The hydrogen-methane gas mixture can also form hydrates in the supply and measurement lines.

A heatable sampling probe is suitable for preventing hydrate formation in these applications as well.

Image Source: © matrivgraphics (Fiverr), phojaip, Digital Bazaar, sharpnose, Nikolai Titov & AS-Schneider