Discovery of Widespread Biogenic Methane Emissions and Authigenic Carbonate Mound-like Structures at the Aquitaine Shelf (Bay of Biscay)

Monday, 15 December 2014: 11:05 AM
Stéphanie Dupré1, Benoit Loubrieu1, Carla Scalabrin1, Axel Ehrhold1, Emeric Gautier1, Livio Ruffine1, Catherine Pierre2, Anne Battani3, Naig Le Bouffant1 and Laurent Berger1, (1)IFREMER, Plouzané, France, (2)LOCEAN, Paris Cedex 05, France, (3)IFP Énergies nouvelles, Rueil-Malmaison Cedex, France
Fishery acoustic surveys conducted in the Bay of Biscay (1998-2012) and dedicated to monitoring and predicting pelagic ecosystem evolution reveal numerous active seeps on the Aquitaine Shelf, east of the shelf break (Dupré et al. 2014). Seafloor and water column acoustic investigation with the use of ship-borne multibeam echosounder in 2013 (Gazcogne1 marine expedition) confirmed the presence of numerous (> 3000) persistent and widespread gas emission sites at water depths ranging from ~140 to 180 m. These fluid emissions are associated at the seafloor with high backscatter subcircular small-scale mounds, on average less than 2 m high and a few meters in diameter. Near-bottom visual observations and samplings were conducted with the ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) Victor (Gazcogne2 expedition). The whole mounds cover an area of ~200 km2 of the seabed, and are by-products of gas seepage, i.e. methane-derived authigenic carbonates. The spatial distribution of the seeps and related structures, based on water column acoustic gas flares and high backscatter seabed patches, appears to be relatively broad, with a North-South extension of ~80 km across the Parentis Basin and the Landes High, and a West-East extension along a few kilometers wide on the shelf, up to 8 km. Gas bubbles sampled at in situ conditions are principally composed of biogenic methane, possibly originated from Late Pleistocene deposits. The volume of methane emitted into the water column is abundant i) with an average gas flux varying locally from 0.035 to 0.37 Ln/min and ii) with regard to the time needed for the precipitation of the authigenic carbonates identified both at the seabed and in the upper most sedimentary column.

The GAZCOGNE study is co-funded by TOTAL and IFREMER as part of the PAMELA (Passive Margin Exploration Laboratories) scientific project.


Dupré, S., Berger, L., Le Bouffant, N., Scalabrin, C., and Bourillet, J.-F., 2014. Fluid emissions at the Aquitaine Shelf (Bay of Biscay, France): a biogenic origin or the expression of hydrocarbon leakage? Continental Shelf Research, doi:10.1016/j.csr.2014.07.004