Shallow gas and gas hydrate occurrences on the northwest Greenland shelf margin

David R. Cox*, Mads Huuse, Andrew M.W. Newton, Arka Sarkar, Paul C. Knutz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
44 Downloads (Pure)


Industrial 3D seismic data are used to investigate the contemporary hydrocarbon distribution and historical fluid migration in Melville Bay offshore northwest Greenland. Gas-related amplitude anomalies and an extensive bottom simulating reflector (BSR) were mapped within the uppermost 1–2 km of stratigraphy to define the first inventory of shallow gas and gas hydrate along this part of the Greenland margin. The shallow gas anomalies vary in seismic character and have been subdivided into four categories that represent (I) isolated shallow gas, (II) free gas trapped at the base of the gas hydrate stability zone (GHSZ), (III) gas charged glacial clinoforms and (IV) a giant mass transport deposit gas reservoir. Gas hydrate deposits have been identified across an area of 537 km2 via the identification of a discontinuous BSR that marks the base of the GHSZ. The BSR has been used to estimate a geothermal gradient of 49 °C/km across the GHSZ and a heat flow of 70–90 mW/m2, providing the first publically available heat flow estimates offshore western Greenland. The contemporary hydrocarbon distribution and historical fluid migration is influenced by the underlying paleo-rift topography and multiple shelf edge glaciations since ~2.7 Ma. Continued uplift of the Melville Bay Ridge, as well as glacial-sediment redistribution and basinward margin tilting from isostatic compensation, have led to a concentration of hydrocarbons within the Cenozoic stratigraphy above the ridge. Furthermore, repeated variations in subsurface conditions during glacial-interglacial cycles likely promoted fluid remigration, and possibly contributed to reservoir leakage and increased fluid migration through faults. The top of the gas hydrate occurrence at 650 m water depth is well below the hydrate-free gas phase boundary (~350 m) for the present bottom-water temperature of 1.5 °C, suggesting this hydrate province mainly adjusted to glacial-interglacial changes by expansion and dissociation at its base and is relatively inert to current levels of global warming. This glacial-related dissociation may have significantly contributed to the numerous free gas accumulations observed below the GHSZ at present day.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106382
Number of pages21
JournalMarine Geology
Early online date23 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


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