In April and May 2005, cores were acquired and sub-sampled for gases in lease blocks Atwater Valley 13 and 14 and Keathley Canyon 151 during deep subseafloor drilling conducted as part of the JIP study of gas hydrates in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Sample types included sediment headspace gas, free gas derived from sediment gas exsolution, and gas exsolution from controlled degassing of pressurized cores. The gases measured both onboard and in shore-based labs were nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, and the hydrocarbons methane through hexane. The presence of seafloor mounds, seismic anomalies, a shallow sulfate-methane interface, and similar gas compositions and isotopic compositions near the seafloor and at depth suggest an upward flux of methane at both sites. Sediment gases at the Atwater Valley sites, where seafloor mounds and adjacent sediments were cored, strongly suggest a microbial source of methane, with very little thermogenic gas input. Sediment gas from all cores contained from about 96 to 99.9% methane, with the balance composed primarily of carbon dioxide. Methane to ethane ratios were greater than 1000, and often over 10,000. Gases from cores at Keathley Canyon were similar to those at Atwater Valley, however, deeper cores from Keathley Canyon contained more ethane, propane, and butane suggesting mixing with minor concentrations thermogenic gas. The isotopic composition of methane, ethane, and carbon dioxide were measured, and ??13C values range from -84.3 to -71.5???, -65.2 to -46.8???, and -23.5 to -3.0???, respectively, all consistent with microbial gas sources, early diagenesis of organic matter and perhaps biodegradation of petroleum. The presence of deep microbial gas at these sites here and elsewhere highlights a potentially significant, predominantly microbial gas source in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Additional publication details
Natural gas geochemistry of sediments drilled on the 2005 Gulf of Mexico JIP cruise