Use of cosmogenic 129I to constrain numerical models of fluid flow in marine sediments: Application to the Blake Ridge Hydrate Province



[1] Concentrations of cosmogenic iodine, 129I, in the pore fluid of marine sediments often indicate that the pore fluid is much older than the host sediment, even when vertical flow due to sediment compaction is taken into account. Old pore fluid has been used in previous studies to argue for pervasive upward fluid flow and a deep methane source for hydrate deposits. Alternatively, old pore fluid age may reflect more complex flow patterns. We use a two-dimensional numerical transport model to account for the effects of topography and fractures on pore fluid pathlines when sediment permeability is anisotropic. We find that fluid focusing can cause significant lateral migration as well as regions where downward flow reverses direction and returns toward the seafloor. Longer pathlines can produce pore fluid ages much older than that expected with a one-dimensional compaction model. For steady-state models with geometry representative of Blake Ridge (USA), a well-studied hydrate province, we find pore fluid ages beneath regions of topography and within fractured zones that are up to 70 Ma old. Our results suggest that the measurements of 129I/127I reflect a mixture of new and old pore fluid. However, old pore fluid need not originate at great depths. Methane within pore fluids can travel laterally several kilometers, implying an extensive source region around the deposit. This type of focusing should aid hydrate formation beneath topographic highs.