Natural Gas Hydrates: Occurrence, Distribution, and Detection
Copyright 2001 by the American Geophysical Union
Editor(s): Charles K. Paull, William P. Dillon
Published Online: 18 MAR 2013 04:11AM EST
Print ISBN: 9780875909820
Online ISBN: 9781118668412
Book Series: Geophysical Monograph Series
About this Book
Published by the American Geophysical Union as part of the Geophysical Monograph Series, Volume 124.
We publish this volume at a time when there is a growing interest in gas hydrates and major expansion in international research efforts. The first recognition of natural gas hydrate on land in Arctic conditions was in the mid-1960s (by I. Makogon) and in the seabed environment only in the early 1970s, after natural seafloor gas hydrate was drilled on the Blake Ridge during Deep Sea Drilling Project Leg 11. Initial scientific investigations were slow to develop because the study of natural gas hydrates is unusually challenging. Gas hydrate exists in nature in conditions of temperature and pressure where human beings cannot survive, and if gas hydrate is transported from its region of stability to normal Earth-surface conditions, it dissociates. Thus, in contrast to most minerals, we cannot depend on drilled samples to provide accurate estimates of the amount of gas hydrate present. Even the heat and changes in chemistry (methane saturation, salinity, etc.) introduced by the drilling process affect the gas hydrate, independent of the changes brought about by moving a sample to the surface. Gas hydrate has been identified in nature generally by inference from indirect evidence in drilling data or by using remotely sensed indications, mostly from seismic data. Obviously, the established techniques ofgeologic analysis, which require direct observation and sampling, do not apply to gas hydrate studies, and controversy has surrounded many interpretations. Pressure/temperature conditions appropriate for the existence of gas hydrate occur over the greater part of the shallow subsurface of the Earth beneath the ocean at water depths exceeding about 500 m (shallower beneath colder Arctic seas) and on land beneath high-latitude permafrost. Gas hydrate actually will be present in such conditions, however, only where methane is present at high concentrations. In the Arctic, these methane concentrations are often associated with petroleum deposits, whereas at continental margins in the oceans, where by far the greatest amount of gas hydrate occurs, the gas is almost all microbially derived methane. The margins of the oceans are where the flux of organic carbon to the sea floor is greatest because oceanic biological productivity is highest and organic detritus from the continents also collects to some extent. Furthermore, the continental margins are where sedimentation rates are fastest, so that the rapid accumulation of sediment serves to cover and seal the organic material before it is oxidized, allowing the microorganisms in the sediments to use it as food and form the methane that becomes incorporated into gas hydrate.