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The variation of free gas distribution within the seeping seafloor hydrate stability zone and its link to hydrate formations in the Qiongdongnan Basin

Abstract

China geological survey has conducted two hydrate expeditions for two gas chimney structures (GC1, GC2) in the Qiongdongnan Basin, South China Sea, where the fluid migrations vary significantly. Although massive hydrates were recovered both in the seepage pathways above GC1 and GC2, the free gas distributions in seeping seafloor hydrate stability zone (HSZ) remain controversial. Previous studies confirm that structure I (sI) and structure II (sII) hydrates occur through the whole seepage pathways, and free gas accumulates below the base of methane hydrate stability zone (BHSZ). In fact, free gas and gas hydrates coexist in the whole seepage-gas chimney system. The quantitative estimation of the fluid distribution is significant for studying the heterogeneous fluid migration in the seepages. In this study, Archie formula and three-phase Biot-type equation are modified to invert fluid concentrations for the whole well sections, in which brine, free gas, gas hydrate and matrix are considered as separate phases. The results indicate that the bottom simulating reflector is the boundary of an increasing gas concentration and a decrease hydrate concentration, instead of the interfaces of the hydrate and free gas in most areas. And hydrate occurrence is closely related to the micro-fault in the gas chimney. By comparing the fluid distribution between GC1 and GC2, more free gas associated with gas hydrates is accumulated in the seepage pathways in HSZ in GC1 where less free gas occurred below the BHSZ. Gas-bearing fluids in GC1 are considered to be very active in historic time, but they nearly stop flowing now, and the remaining gas cannot form hydrates in the hydrate-saturated pores, while the fluids in GC2 tend to convert to hydrates till now, and it is an active or younger fluid system. Free gas is the important intermediate medium for revealing this phase transition and exerts a significant control on the timescales associated with phase equilibrium variation processes. It is the first study revealing the relationship between the fluid distribution and the mobility of the seepage-gas chimney system in the study area, which also provide a new insight for estimating hydrate resource.

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Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author, [Deng Wei, hahens@163.com], upon reasonable request.

Code availability

Not applicable.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the funding by China Geological Survey Project (No. DD20190217) and Key Special Project for Introduced Talents Team of Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Guangzhou) (No. GML2019ZD0102).

Funding

The authors would like to acknowledge the funding by China Geological Survey Project (No. DD20190217), Key Special Project for Introduced Talents Team of Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (No. GML2019ZD0102) and Guangdong Major project of Basic and Applied Basic Research (No.2020B0301030003).

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Correspondence to Deng Wei or Kuang Zenggui.

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Edited by Dr. Liang Xiao (ASSOCIATE EDITOR) / Prof. Michał Malinowski (CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF).

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Wei, D., Jinqiang, L., Zenggui, K. et al. The variation of free gas distribution within the seeping seafloor hydrate stability zone and its link to hydrate formations in the Qiongdongnan Basin. Acta Geophys. 70, 1115–1136 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11600-022-00763-1

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Keywords

  • Gas hydrate
  • Gas chimney
  • Seepage
  • Coexistence
  • Rock physics
  • Qiongdongnan area