Submarine seepage of natural gas in Norton Sound, Alaska

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Unusual concentrations of dissolved two- to four-carbon alkanes were observed in the waters in Norton Sound in a localized area approximately 40 kilometers south of Nome, Alaska, in 1976. The hydrocarbons were identified in the near-bottom waters downcurrent for more than 100 kilometers from a sea-floor point source. Preliminary dynamic modeling estimates of the initial gas phase composition predict methane/ethane and ethane/propane ratios of 24 and 1.7, respectively, assuming the hydrocarbons were introduced by bubbles. The low ethane/propane ratio is indicative of gas from a liquid petroleum source rather than from nonassociated or biogenic natural gas. Preliminary data on the structural geology of Norton Basin lend support to the interpretation based on the hydrocarbon plume. Unconformably truncated strata dip basinward from the seep locus; acoustic anomalies and numerous steeply dipping faults in the immediate vicinity of the seep are corroborating evidence that shallow gas- or petroleum-charged sediments and strata coincide with avenues for migration of mobile hydrocarbons to the sea floor. These factors, taken in concert with the sedimentological regime, the recent revision (increase) of basin depth estimates, and the highly localized hydrocarbon source, strongly suggest a thermogenic rather than a recent biogenic origin for these gaseous compounds.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Submarine seepage of natural gas in Norton Sound, Alaska
Series title Science
Volume 198
Issue 4322
Year Published 1977
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Science
First page 1149
Last page 1153
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