Effect of a discrete three-phase methane equilibrium zone on the bottom-simulating reflection
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Marine gas hydrates are stable under conditions of low temperature and high pressure in the upper few hundreds of meters below the seafloor in a variety of geological setting. At a discrete horizon where thermodynamically favored phase switches from hydrate to gas, a characteristic seismic reflection referred as the bottom-simulating reflection (BSR) is produced. Furthermore, in sediments with a distribution of pore sizes, the gas and hydrate phases can coexist in pores of different sizes, giving a rise to three-phase equilibrium zone. This three-phase zone causes the BSR to have distinct characteristics that differ from those observed with a discrete phase boundary. The main objective of this thesis is to model the seismic response of a potential three-phase zone at the Walker Ridge Block 313H in the northern Gulf of Mexico. I modeled the BSR arising from this three-phase zone and analyzed the characteristics of the BSR and their relationships to the thickness and phase saturation within the three-phase zone. This was done by determining the elastic properties of the formation via rock physics models and their mathematical convolution with a seismic wavelet to create synthetic seismograms. Results show that the main factor for the intensity of the BSR is the abundance of the free gas in the three-phase zone. Free gas saturation as low as 5% in the three-phase zone is enough to make the BSR visible in synthetic seismograms regardless of the hydrate saturation. Results of this thesis are significant for resource prospecting based on seismic data, drilling hazard identification, as well as the importance of hydrate as a potential source of energy and its influence on the global climate. For seismic prospecting, the presence of a three-phase zone inferred from BSR characteristic indicates the minimum methane flux into the base of the hydrate stability zone, and can be used to infer whether sufficient methane is available to form hydrate. For drilling hazard identification, the BSR characteristic indicates a possible shallower occurrence of gas than would be estimated under the assumption of a discrete phase boundary.