A 403-day in situ field experiment at Ocean Drilling Program Site 892B sought to quantify the flux of methane along a fluid-active fault and to experimentally determine rates of methane hydrate and authigenic carbonate deposition associated with fluid expulsion from the borehole. An instrument package was deployed that osmotically sampled fluid, measured borehole pressure and flow rates, and contained reaction chambers in which deposition of gas hydrates and carbonates was anticipated, and from which microbial communities might be extracted. Flow is highly variable in the three-phase water - methane system that exists at Site 892B. Flow rates fluctuate over two orders of magnitude in response to tidally induced pressure variations and gas hydrate formation and dissociation. Hydrate formation began 45 days into the experiment and reduced the initial flow (∼ 21/day) to 20 ml/day. Unexpectedly, the hydrate destabilized after about 125 days. Tidally induced flow reversals are common (∼ 25% of time) in this setting characterized by 'overpressured' pore waters. These reversals pump sulfate-rich bottom water into near-surface sediments where Archaea anaerobically oxidize CH4 and induce carbonate precipitation. At the sediment - water interface, authigenic carbonates are undergoing dissolution. Methanotrophs dominated the microbial community where fluid is discharged to ambient seawater. All expelled methane is apparently oxidized in the water column.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by National Science Foundation Grants OCE-9712174 (B.C.) and OCE-9712135 (M.K. and D.B.). We thank the crews of the RV Atlantis and DSRV Alvin and Mr. Thomas Pettigrew of the ODP for their skill, guidance, and assistance in deploying and recovering this experiment at ODP Site 892.
- Accretionary prism
- Authigenic carbonates
- Fluid expulsion
- Gas hydrates
- Oregon Margin