Author(s): Thomas H Shipley
Anomalous reflections in marine seismic reflection data from continental slopes are often correlated with the base of gas hydrated sedimentary rocks. Examination of University of Texas Marine Science Institute reflection data reveals the possible presence of such gas hydrates along the east coast of the United States, the western Gulf of Mexico, the coasts of northern Colombia and northern Panama, and along the Pacific side of Central America in areas extending from Panama to near Acapulco, Mexico. Suspected hydrates are present in water depths of 700 to 4,400 m and extend from 100 to 1,100 m subbottom. Geometric relations, reflection coefficients, reflection polarity, and pressure-temperature relations all support the identification of the anomalous reflections as the base of gas hydrated sediments. In most places, gas hydrate association is related to structural anomalies (anticlines, dipping strata), which may allow gas to concentrate and migrate updip into pressure and temperature conditions suitable for hydrate formation. The gas hydrate boundary can be used to estimate thermal gradients. In general, thermal gradients estimated from the gas hydrate phase boundary are higher than reported thermal gradients measured by conventional means.