Turkish Journal of Earth Sciences




Some strong reflections about 3 to 5 m thick were observed at depths of 25-60 metres below the sea floor using deep-towed, 5 kHz subbottom profiler data in the Turkish shelf and upper slope of the Eastern Black Sea at water depths of 250 to 700 m. Strong reflections of this kind are generally attributed to shallow and localized gas accumulations. We, however, observed that the reflection polarity of these strong reflections was positive, suggesting that they do not correspond to reflections from the upper boundary of a possible gas front. In this study, we evaluate these reflections to determine if they represent hydrogen sulphide-rich shallow gas hydrate layers, which would be an unusual gas hydrate occurrence in a shallow marine environment. The existence of gas hydrate formations in thermobaric conditions, as in our study area (shallower water depths and relatively higher temperatures), depends completely on the gas composition in the hydrate structure; it is possible for gas hydrates to be stable only if they are formed by a certain amount of hydrogen sulfide together with methane. We closely examined the hydrogen sulphide potential of the area and found that the maximum total hydrogen sulfide concentration in the surficial sediments in the area was, at 5550 ppm, enough to produce hydrogen sulphide-rich gas hydrates. Using geoacoustic and geochemical data, we propose a conceptual model for the formation of shallow hydrogen sulfide-rich gas hydrates. According to this model, conjectural gas hydrate layers in the area should be formed along the boundary between a sulphate-reducing zone and an underlying carbonate reducing zone, where methane comes into contact with hydrogen sulphide. We also propose that the strongly reflective appearance of these layers on the subbottom profiler data indicates that the hydrate zone consists of a number of gas hydrate sheets with a decreasing thickness towards the seabed, interbedded with non-hydrate-bearing sediments.

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