High-Resolution Seismic Definition of the Distribution of Gas in the West Svalbard Margin

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 1:55 PM
Timothy A Minshull1, Graham K Westbrook1,2, Hector Marin-Moreno1,3, Bruno Marsset2, Stephan Ker2, Sudipta Sarkar1,4, Mark E Vardy1 and Timothy Henstock1, (1)University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom, (2)IFREMER, Plouzané, France, (3)National Institute of Oceanography and Applied Geophysics OGS, Trieste, Italy, (4)GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Kiel, Germany
The widespread presence of gas beneath the seabed west of Svalbard is shown by negative-polarity high-amplitude reflectors (nephars), imaged in high-resolution near-surface and deep-towed seismic reflection data. The principal controls on the presence of gas are the gas hydrate stability zone (GHSZ), from which free gas is generally excluded, and stratigraphic control of permeable layers. A widespread bottom-simulating reflector (BSR) beneath the lower-mid continental slope indicates gas at the base of the GHSZ. The depth of the base of the GHSZ predicted by a numerical model that takes in to account variation in ocean temperature over the past two thousand years, is consistent with the depth of the BSR, even at its shallowest depth, where a steady-state model places base of the GHSZ shallower than the BSR. Similarly, farther up slope, where the BSR loses it coherency, the depths of the shallowest nephars are compatible with the predicted depth of the base of the GHSZ from the time-dependent model, but are about three times deeper than the predicted steady-state depth of the BSR. This approach to defining the limits of the GHSZ is not precise, as it depends upon the presence of gas. In the shallow sediment sequence, which has a high proportion of glacigenic sediments, gas is restricted to a smaller number of permeable units than in the contourite-dominated sequence farther down the continental slope. Where the seabed is shallower than the GHSZ, numerous plumes of methane gas ascend from the seabed, and gas, which has migrated up slope through dipping permeable layers, locally ponds beneath a thin veneer of unconformable glacial and post-glacial sediments on the continental shelf.