Possible Causes of Double-BSRs on the Hikurangi Margin, New Zealand
Abstract:Bottom Simulating Reflections (BSRs) are commonly thought to be caused by free gas at the base of gas hydrate stability (BGHS). BSRs usually occur at the pressure-temperature conditions for the phase boundary of gas hydrate, which depends on gas composition, pore water chemistry, and various other factors. Hence, BSRs should only occur at a single depth level beneath the seafloor. At several locations worldwide however, double and multiple BSRs have been observed. We have recently discovered localized double-BSRs on the Hikurangi Margin east of New Zealand and present first results from studying the possible origin of these double-BSRs.
Both BSRs display negative polarity compared to the seafloor ruling out diagenetic origins. The deeper BSR (BSR-2) is found to be anomalously deep, while the shallower BSR (BSR-1) is at similar depths as BSRs regionally. BSR-2 and BSR-1 are clearly separated on seismic lines from east to west, while they converge from north to south.
We propose two possible models for formation of these double-BSRs:
1. Uplift leads to depressurization and an upward movement of the BGHS with respect to the seafloor. BSR-1 may have formed at the new BGHS while immobile gas may remain in place at the original level of the BGHS causing BSR-2.
2. Thermogenic gas may leak from a deeper hydrocarbon reservoir. Gas mixes of thermogenic origin are predicted to form hydrate that is more stable than pure methane hydrate, in particular if the mix contains gases that lead to formation of Structure-II hydrate. BSR-2 may form at a level of the BGHS for a more stable gas mix; residual gases may migrate further until they reach the phase boundary for less stable hydrates at BSR-1.
We currently slightly favour uplift as cause of the double-BSRs largely because of the smooth topography of BSR-2: Small-scale lateral variations of gas composition should lead to significant BSR topography. More importantly, we note that the process of fractionation of gas during hydrate formation from thermogenic gas mixes in nature is only poorly understood.