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Primary deposition and early diagenetic effects on the high saturation accumulation of gas hydrate in a silt dominated reservoir in the Gulf of Mexico

January 17, 2022

On continental margins, high saturation gas hydrate systems (>60% pore volume) are common in canyon and channel environments within the gas hydrate stability zone, where reservoirs are dominated by coarse-grained, high porosity sand deposits. Recent studies, including the results presented here, suggest that rapidly deposited, silt-dominated channel-levee environments can also host high saturation gas hydrate accumulations. Here we present several sedimentological data sets, including sediment composition, biostratigraphic age from calcareous nannofossils, grain size, total organic carbon (TOC), C/N elemental ratio, δ13C-TOC, CaCO3, total sulfur (TS), and δ34S-TS from sediments collected with pressure cores from a gas hydrate rich, turbidite channel-levee system in the Gulf of Mexico during the 2017 UT-GOM2-1 Hydrate Pressure Coring Expedition. Our results indicate the reservoir is composed of three main lithofacies, which have distinct sediment grain size distributions (type A-silty clay to clayey silt, type B-clayey silt, and type C-sandy silt to silty sand) that are characteristic of variable turbidity current energy regimes within a Pleistocene (< 0.91 Ma) channel-levee environment. We document that the TOC in the sediments of the reservoir is terrestrial in origin and contained within the fine fraction of each lithofacies, while the CaCO3 fraction is composed of primarily reworked grains, including Cretaceous calcareous nannofossils, and part of the detrital load. The lack of biogenic grains within the finest grained sediment intervals throughout the reservoir suggests interevent hemipelagic sediments are not preserved, resulting in a reservoir sequence of silt dominated, stacked turbidites. We observe two zones of enhanced TS at the top and bottom of the reservoir that correspond with enriched bulk sediment δ34S, indicating stalled or slowly advancing paleo-sulfate-methane transition zone (SMTZ) positions likely driven by relative decreases in sedimentation rate. Despite these two diagenetic zones, the low abundance of diagenetic precipitates throughout the reservoir allowed the primary porosity to remain largely intact, thus better preserving primary porosity for subsequent pore-filling gas hydrate. In canyon, channel, and levee environments, early diagenesis may be regulated via sedimentation rates, where high rates result in rapid progression through the SMTZ and minimal diagenetic mineralization and low rates result in the stalling of the SMTZ, enhancing diagenetic mineralization. Here, we observed some enhanced pyritization to implicate potential sedimentation rate changes, but not enough to consume primary porosity, resulting in a high saturation gas hydrate reservoir. These results emphasize the important implications of sedimentary processes, sedimentation rates, and early diagenesis on the distribution of gas hydrate in marine sediments along continental margins.