Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Earth and Ocean Sciences



First Advisor

Camelia C Knapp


Due to the estimated massive quantities of natural methane hydrates, they represent one of the largest sources of future alternative energy on Earth. Methane hydrates have been found in the shallow sub-seafloor of the Northern Gulf of Mexico where the water depth is in excess of ~900 m. Mississippi Canyon Block 118 has been chosen by the Gulf of Mexico Hydrates Research Consortium to be the site of a multi-sensor, multi-discipline sea-floor observatory for gas hydrate research. First evidence for gas hydrates at MC 118 was observed at Woolsey Mound. Subsurface evidence for gas hydrates has subsequently been substantiated by 3D seismic reflection data and piston coring. It is estimated that methane trapped within gas hydrates worldwide may exceed 1016 kg, one of the largest sources of hydrocarbons to date, and here they present an opportunity for exploitation via harvesting for energy production. The analysis of the 3-D seismic reflection data and integration with industry well logs reveals the subsurface structural and stratigraphic architecture of a thermogenic hydrate system in the Mississippi Canyon area (MC-118) of the Gulf of Mexico. Like many hydrocarbon systems in the Gulf of Mexico, Woolsey Mound is dominated by the presence and sporadic movement of allochthonous salt within the sedimentary section. Exploration-scale 3-D seismic imaging shows a network of faults connecting the mound to a salt diapir and an extended area of high P-wave velocity just beneath the sea floor. Gas hydrates exhibit clear seismic properties such as the bottom simulating reflector (BSR), relatively high P- and S- wave velocities, seismic blanking, and amplitude vs. offset (AVO) effects. These effects occur mainly due to the presence of free gas that is usually trapped by the more rigid overlying hydrate formations. In order to substantiate the presence of hydrates in the shallow subsurface at Woolsey Mound, an AVO analysis based on the variation of the P-wave reflection coefficient with the angle of incidence was performed on a seismic transect across the mound. The AVO analysis targeted a shallow (~150 m below the seafloor) 'bright spot' that is interpreted to mark the base of the gas hydrate stability field. The AVO analysis shows results consistent with evidence for free gas underlying a medium with higher P-wave and S-wave velocities such as gas hydrates. This shallow, high-velocity zone, pore-fluid analyses revealing microbial processes, thermobaric and AVO analysis provide convincing evidence for the existence of gas hydrates at MC 118.


© 2013, Walter R. Anderson

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