Hydrates in the California Borderlands Revisited: Results from a Controlled-Source Electromagnetic Survey of the Santa Cruz Basin.
Abstract:Methane hydrate, an ice-like clathrate of water and methane, forms in shallow continental slope sediments, and is both a potential energy source and geologic hazard. Hydrates presence is traditionally inferred from the presence of the bottom simulating reflector (BSR), a seismic velocity inversion resulting from free gas pooling at the base of the hydrate stability field. The BSR is not a measure of hydrate, but rather a proxy for free gas presence. Whereas seismic methods are sensitive to velocity anomalies, controlled-source electromagnetic (CSEM) methods are sensitive to conductivity anomalies. The electrically resistive methane hydrate makes a favorable target for CSEM surveys, which are capable of detecting and potentially quantifying the presence of methane hydrate directly. Building on previous work 100km to the south in the San Nicolas Basin, we present initial results from a 6-day June 2014 survey in the Santa Cruz Basin, located 100km west of Los Angeles.
CSEM surveys are performed by deep-towing an EM source that is transmitting a known signal; this signal is detected by towed and seafloor receivers. The initial EM source signal is altered by the electrical properties of the surrounding environment. Conductors such as brine and seawater are attenuating mediums, while resistors such as methane hydrate, gas, and oil are preservative of the original signal. Twenty-one seafloor receivers, as well as a 4 receiver towed array were deployed to image the resistivity structure of the Santa Cruz Basin.
Using 30-year-old 2D seismic profiles as a guide, potential hydrate targets were identified, and the transmitter and array were towed over 150 km on 6 lines with 5 seafloor receivers each. The 6 towed lines were coincident with legacy seismic lines. The towed array is sensitive to sediment depths less than 1km, allowing for high data density through the hydrate stability field. The larger transmitter-receiver offsets of the seafloor receivers allow sensitivity to at least 3km below the seafloor. Combining the two data sets allows for both high resolution in the near-seafloor hydrate accumulations as well as imaging the potential gas-source regions of the hydrate field.