EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Fluid dynamics at the base of hydrate-bearing sediments at the Vestnesa Ridge inferred from 5 years of high-resolution 4D seismic surveying

Malin Waage, Stefan Bünz, Kate Waghorn, Sunny Singhorha, and Pavel Serov
Malin Waage et al.
  • Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate, IG, UiT, Tromsø, Norway (

The transition from gas hydrate to gas-bearing sediments at the base of the hydrate stability zone (BHSZ) is commonly identified on seismic data as a bottom-simulating reflection (BSR). At this boundary, phase transitions driven by thermal effects, pressure alternations, and gas and water flux exist. Sedimentation, erosion, subsidence, uplift, variations in bottom water temperature or heat flow cause changes in marine gas hydrate stability leading to expansion or reduction of gas hydrate accumulations and associated free gas accumulations. Pressure build-up in gas accumulations trapped beneath the hydrate layer may eventually lead to fracturing of hydrate-bearing sediments that enables advection of fluids into the hydrate layer and potentially seabed seepage. Depletion of gas along zones of weakness creates hydraulic gradients in the free gas zone where gas is forced to migrate along the lower hydrate boundary towards these weakness zones. However, due to lack of “real time” data, the magnitude and timescales of processes at the gas hydrate – gas contact zone remains largely unknown. Here we show results of high resolution 4D seismic surveys at a prominent Arctic gas hydrate accumulation – Vestnesa ridge - capturing dynamics of the gas hydrate and free gas accumulations over 5 years. The 4D time-lapse seismic method has the potential to identify and monitor fluid movement in the subsurface over certain time intervals. Although conventional 4D seismic has a long history of application to monitor fluid changes in petroleum reservoirs, high-resolution seismic data (20-300 Hz) as a tool for 4D fluid monitoring of natural geological processes has been recently identified.

Our 4D data set consists of four high-resolution P-Cable 3D seismic surveys acquired between 2012 and 2017 in the eastern segment of Vestnesa Ridge. Vestnesa Ridge has an active fluid and gas hydrate system in a contourite drift setting near the Knipovich Ridge offshore W-Svalbard. Large gas flares, ~800 m tall rise from seafloor pockmarks (~700 m diameter) at the ridge axis. Beneath the pockmarks, gas chimneys pierce the hydrate stability zone, and a strong, widespread BSR occurs at depth of 160-180 m bsf. 4D seismic datasets reveal changes in subsurface fluid distribution near the BHSZ on Vestnesa Ridge. In particular, the amplitude along the BSR reflection appears to change across surveys. Disappearance of bright reflections suggest that gas-rich fluids have escaped the free gas zone and possibly migrated into the hydrate stability zone and contributed to a gas hydrate accumulation, or alternatively, migrated laterally along the BSR. Appearance of bright reflection might also indicate lateral migration, ongoing microbial or thermogenic gas supply or be related to other phase transitions. We document that faults, chimneys and lithology constrain these anomalies imposing yet another control on vertical and lateral gas migration and accumulation. These time-lapse differences suggest that (1) we can resolve fluid changes on a year-year timescale in this natural seepage system using high-resolution P-Cable data and (2) that fluids accumulate at, migrate to and migrate from the BHSZ over the same time scale.

How to cite: Waage, M., Bünz, S., Waghorn, K., Singhorha, S., and Serov, P.: Fluid dynamics at the base of hydrate-bearing sediments at the Vestnesa Ridge inferred from 5 years of high-resolution 4D seismic surveying, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-21949,, 2020


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