Transient seafloor venting from methane hydrate dissociation on continental slopes

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 4:30 PM
Kristopher Darnell, University of Texas, Institute for Geophysics, Austin, TX, United States and Peter B Flemings, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, United States
We present model results of hydrate dynamics that show the development of a gas chimney at three-phase equilibrium where gas flows through the marine hydrate stability zone and vents into the ocean during transient adjustment to imposed warming. Previous studies show venting occurs at the seaward retreating up-dip boundary of the hydrate stability zone during warming, whereas our results are the first to provide a mechanism for temporary gas venting vertically through the hydrate stability zone during warming. Transient behavior records the combined effect of hydrate dissociation from seafloor warming and secondary hydrate formation from gas produced by hydrate dissociation. We perform simulations of seafloor warming with a 1-d, unsteady, multiphase, fluid-flow model of methane hydrate dynamics. We assume an initial hydrate layer 6o meters thick with 10% pore volume saturation with seawater occupying the remaining domain above and below. We apply an instantaneous temperature increase at the seafloor. The temperature increase propagates downward through the deposit and initiates hydrate dissociation at the base of the deposit. Gas sourced from dissociation migrates upward and re-solidifies as hydrate to a maximum saturation set by a three-phase equilibrium salinity constraint. Additional gas migrates further upward to repeat the process. A chimney defined by dissociation at the bottom, secondary hydrate formation at the top, and maintained at three-phase equilibrium on the interior propagates to the seafloor in 10 kyr. Gas and salt then exit the system by venting into the ocean until dissociation stops producing new gas. Elevated salinities then diffuse to background seawater values. A shorter, shoaled hydrate deposit remains after ~100 kyr. This result shows that temporary venting can potentially occur anywhere along the hydrate stability zone during seafloor warming while retaining a hydrate deposit at steady state.