Homogeneous Nucleation of Methane Hydrates: Unrealistic under Realistic Conditions

Methane hydrates are ice-like inclusion compounds with importance to the oil and natural gas industry, global climate change, and gas transportation and storage. The molecular mechanism by which these compounds form under conditions relevant to industry and nature remains mysterious. To understand the mechanism of methane hydrate nucleation from supersaturated aqueous solutions, we performed simulations at controlled and realistic supersaturation. We found that critical nuclei are extremely large and that homogeneous nucleation rates are extremely low. Our findings suggest that nucleation of methane hydrates under these realistic conditions cannot occur by a homogeneous mechanism.