A systematic mapping program incorporating more than 5000 km of side scan sonar and seismic reflection tracklines in the western Gulf of Maine has identified more than 70 biogenic natural gas deposits, occupying 311 km 2 in nearshore muddy embayments. Many of these embayments also contain pockmark fields, with some exhibiting geologically active characteristics including the observance of plumes of escaping fluids and sediment. Pockmarks, hemispherically shaped depressions of various size and depths, formed through fluid escape of gas and/or pore water, are sometimes found within or outside gas fields, although many gas fields lack pockmarks altogether. Although the origin of the natural gas remains unclear, if coastal environments at times of lower sea level were similar to the present, numerous lake, wetland, valley fill and estuarine sources of organic-rich material may have formed on the inner shelf. If these deposits survived transgression and remain buried, they are potential gas sources. Intensive mapping of the Belfast Bay pockmark field in 1998 produced the first nearly continuous side scan sonar mosaic of a Gulf of Maine pockmark field with a corresponding 3-dimensional geological model generated from seismic data. Statistical analysis of pockmark geometry, gas deposit loci, and subsurface evidence for gas-enhanced reflectors suggest that gas migration from deeper lateral sources along permeable subsurface strata may be the mechanism for pockmark formation in areas lacking gas-curtain seismic reflections. The coarse-grained transgressive ravinement unconformity between Pleistocene glacial-marine mud and Holocene mud may act as a conduit for distributing methane to the field's margins. ?? 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
Shallow-water pockmark formation in temperate estuaries: A consideration of origins in the western gulf of Maine with special focus on Belfast Bay