Homogeneous nucleation rate of methane hydrate formation under experimental conditions from seeding simulations

Grabowska, S. Blazquez, E. Sanz, E. G. Noya, I. M. Zeron, J. Algaba, J. M. Miguez, F. J. Blas, C. Vega J. Chem. Phys. 2023, 158, 114505 https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0132681

In this work, we shall estimate via computer simulations the homogeneous nucleation rate for the methane hydrate at 400 bars for a supercooling of about 35 K. The TIP4P/ICE model and a Lennard-Jones center were used for water and methane, respectively. To estimate the nucleation rate, the seeding technique was employed. Clusters of the methane hydrate of different sizes were inserted into the aqueous phase of a two-phase gas–liquid equilibrium system at 260 K and 400 bars. Using these systems, we determined the size at which the cluster of the hydrate is critical (i.e., it has 50% probability of either growing or melting). Since nucleation rates estimated from the seeding technique are sensitive to the choice of the order parameter used to determine the size of the cluster of the solid, we considered several possibilities. We performed brute force simulations of an aqueous solution of methane in water in which the concentration of methane was several times higher than the equilibrium concentration (i.e., the solution was supersaturated). From brute force runs, we infer the value of the nucleation rate for this system rigorously. Subsequently, seeding runs were carried out for this system, and it was found that only two of the considered order parameters were able to reproduce the value of the nucleation rate obtained from brute force simulations. By using these two order parameters, we estimated the nucleation rate under experimental conditions (400 bars and 260 K) to be of the order of log10 (J/(m3 s)) = −7(5).