AVO Analysis of a Weak BSR on the Hikurangi Margin, New Zealand
Gas hydrates occur in deep, cold areas on the Hikurangi margin, New Zealand, generally at water depths of ≥ 600m and ≤ 8oC temperature. In these areas elevated hydrostatic pressures and low temperatures create stable conditions for hydrate formation. The occurrence of Bottom-Simulating Reflections (BSRs) is known to indicate the Base of the Gas Hydrate Stability (BGHS) zone, below which solid hydrates cannot exist due to increasing temperatures of sediments. BSRs in most settings worldwide are thought to be largely caused by free gas at the base of the gas hydrate stability zone. They are characterized by a large negative reflection coefficient due to significant decrease in P-wave velocity attributed to the presence of gas below the BSR. On the Hikurangi margin however, many BSRs appear relatively weak. This study presents the results of Amplitude Variation with Offset (AVO) analysis of a weak BSR beneath Puke Ridge, a thrust ridge on the accretionary wedge east of Gisborne, North Island. Rock-physics modelling is used to interpret the findings.
The 05CM04 seismic line has been processed by preserving the amplitude and care has been taken to not bias the variation of reflectivity coefficient with offset. The zero-offset reflection coefficient or AVO intercept (A) is in the range of -0.008 to - 0.015 and the AVO gradient (B) is between -0.015 and -0.03.
Rock-physics modelling was employed to determine the possible concentrations of gas and hydrate that can yield the observed reflection coefficients. Negligible hydrate saturation above with a patchy gas distribution of 3% saturation beneath the BSR might explain this pattern. An alternative end-member estimation of 13% saturation of hydrate in a frame-supporting model with no gas beneath it could generate the observed reflection coefficient but it is geologically unlikely. Synthetic modelling reveals that the low reflectivity of the BSR could also be due to the presence of thin layers of more concentrated or evenly distributed gas but this scenario is considered to be geologically unlikely.
BSRs beneath some thrust ridges in the southern Hikurangi margin, appear as a series of clearly separated bright spots, which indicate free gas accumulations which when connected mimic the geometry of the seafloor. The most likely lithologic explanation for these high amplitude patches within weak BSRs, is the concept of segmented BSRs which is also seen in the Gulf of Mexico. The bright ―gas‖ anomalies are inferred to correlate with sand-rich high permeability layers while the weak BSR could be due to low saturations of gas in clay-rich low permeability layers. The weak BSR beneath the Puke Ridge is indicative of low and patchy gas saturations in low-permeability reservoir rocks while high amplitude patches found in this area may indicate high-permeability sands that may be attractive reservoir rocks for future gas hydrate production.