Violent Gas Venting on the Heng-Chun Mud Volcano, South China Sea Active Continental Margin offshore SW Taiwan
Abstract:Accumulation of methane as gas hydrate under the sea floor has been considered a major trap for both thermal and biogenic gas in marine environment. Aided by rapid AOM process near the sea floor, fraction of methane escaping the sea floor has been considered at minuscule. However, most studies focused mainly on deepwater gas hydrate systems where gas hydrate remain relatively stable. We have studied methane seeps on the active margin offshore Taiwan, where rapid tectonic activities occur. Our intention is to evaluate the scale and condition of gas seeps in the tectonic active region. Towcam, coring, heat probe, chirp, multibeam bathymetric mapping and echo sounding were conducted at the study areas.
Our results showed that gas is violently venting at the active margin, not only through sediments, but also through overlying sea water, directly into the atmosphere. Similar ventings, but, not in this scale, have also been identified previously in the nearby region. High concentrations of methane as well as traces of propane were found in sediments and in waters with flares. In conjunction, abundant chemosynthetic community, life mussel, clams, tube worms, bacterial mats together with high concentrations of dissolve sulfide, large authigenic carbonate buildups were also found. Our results indicate that methane could be another major green house gas in the shallow water active margin region.