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Title: Controls on Gas Hydrate Formation and Dissociation

The main objectives of the project were to monitor, characterize, and quantify in situ the rates of formation and dissociation of methane hydrates at and near the seafloor in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with a focus on the Bush Hill seafloor hydrate mound; to record the linkages between physical and chemical parameters of the deposits over the course of one year, by emphasizing the response of the hydrate mound to temperature and chemical perturbations; and to document the seafloor and water column environmental impacts of hydrate formation and dissociation. For these, monitoring the dynamics of gas hydrate formation and dissociation was required. The objectives were achieved by an integrated field and laboratory scientific study, particularly by monitoring in situ formation and dissociation of the outcropping gas hydrate mound and of the associated gas-rich sediments. In addition to monitoring with the MOSQUITOs, fluid flow rates and temperature, continuously sampling in situ pore fluids for the chemistry, and imaging the hydrate mound, pore fluids from cores, peepers and gas hydrate samples from the mound were as well sampled and analyzed for chemical and isotopic compositions. In order to determine the impact of gas hydrate dissociation and/or methane venting across the seafloormore » on the ocean and atmosphere, the overlying seawater was sampled and thoroughly analyzed chemically and for methane C isotope ratios. At Bush hill the pore fluid chemistry varies significantly over short distances as well as within some of the specific sites monitored for 440 days, and gas venting is primarily focused. The pore fluid chemistry in the tub-warm and mussel shell fields clearly documented active gas hydrate and authigenic carbonate formation during the monitoring period. The advecting fluid is depleted in sulfate, Ca Mg, and Sr and is rich in methane; at the main vent sites the fluid is methane supersaturated, thus bubble plumes form. The subsurface hydrology exhibits both up-flow and down-flow of fluid at rates that range between 0.5 to 214 cm/yr and 2-162 cm/yr, respectively. The fluid flow system at the mound and background sites are coupled having opposite polarities that oscillate episodically between 14 days to {approx}4 months. Stability calculations suggest that despite bottom water temperature fluctuations, of up to {approx}3 C, the Bush Hill gas hydrate mound is presently stable, as also corroborated by the time-lapse video camera images that did not detect change in the gas hydrate mound. As long as methane (and other hydrocarbon) continues advecting at the observed rates the mound would remain stable. The {_}{sup 13}C-DIC data suggest that crude oil instead of methane serves as the primary electron-donor and metabolic substrate for anaerobic sulfate reduction. The oil-dominated environment at Bush Hill shields some of the methane bubbles from being oxidized both anaerobically in the sediment and aerobically in the water column. Consequently, the methane flux across the seafloor is higher at Bush hill than at non-oil rich seafloor gas hydrate regions, such as at Hydrate Ridge, Cascadia. The methane flux across the ocean/atmosphere interface is as well higher. Modeling the methane flux across this interface at three bubble plumes provides values that range from 180-2000 {_}mol/m{sup 2} day; extrapolating it over the Gulf of Mexico basin utilizing satellite data is in progress.« less
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Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
University Of California
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Country of Publication:
United States