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Gas hydrates on Alaskan marine margins

January 1, 2022

Gas hydrate distributions on the marine margins of the U.S. state of Alaska are more poorly known than those on other U.S. margins, where bottom simulating reflections have been systematically mapped on marine seismic data to support modern, quantitative assessments of gas-in-place in gas hydrates. The extent of bottom simulating reflections in the U.S. Beaufort Sea has been known since the late 1970s, and researchers have investigated the possibility that remnant gas hydrate persists in association with decaying subsea permafrost on both the U.S. and Canadian Beaufort continental shelves. In the Bering Sea, possible gas hydrate-related features have been widely mapped, revealing zones of free gas and concentrated gas hydrate within the hydrate stability zone in features called velocity amplitude anomalies (VAMPs). However, there are few reports on bottom simulating reflections along the more than 2500 km of the Aleutian arc and along the transform plate margin in southeast Alaska. Here we examine selected seismic profiles from southeast Alaska, along the Aleutian margin, and on the Bering continental slope, emphasizing surveys acquired with large airgun arrays, and review the results obtained from Bering Sea’s Aleutian Basin and from the U.S. Beaufort Sea. In the new analyses, we detect hydrate-related bottom simulating reflections in southeastern Alaska and the eastern and central parts of the Aleutian arc, but not in the western Aleutian arc or beneath the continental slope from the island arc north into the Aleutian Basin. In the Bering Sea, recognition of hydrate-related bottom simulating reflections is complicated by the widespread existence of a bottom simulating reflector associated with a diagenetic transition (opal CT). Our detection of continental slope hydrate-related bottom simulating reflections in southeast Alaska and the eastern and central Aleutian arcs expands the area of potential gas hydrate distribution on Alaskan margins and underscores the need for more systematic analysis of existing seismic data to inform quantitative evaluation of gas-in-place.