Estimation of the global inventory of methane hydrates in marine sediments using transfer functions
The accumulation of gas hydrates in marine sediments is essentially controlled by the accumulation of particulate organic carbon (POC) which is microbially converted into methane, the thickness of the gas hydrate stability zone (GHSZ) where methane can be trapped, the sedimentation rate (SR) that controls the time that POC and the generated methane stays within the GHSZ, and the delivery of methane from deep-seated sediments by ascending pore fluids and gas into the GHSZ. Recently, Wallmann et al. (2012) presented transfer functions to predict the gas hydrate inventory in diffusion-controlled geological systems based on SR, POC and GHSZ thickness for two different scenarios: normal and full compacting sediments. We apply these functions to global data sets of bathymetry, heat flow, seafloor temperature, POC input and SR, estimating a global mass of carbon stored in marine methane hydrates from 3 to 455 Gt of carbon (GtC) depending on the sedimentation and compaction conditions. The global sediment volume of the GHSZ in continental margins is estimated to be 60–67 × 10 15 m 3, with a total of 7 × 10 15 m 3 of pore volume (available for GH accumulation). However, seepage of methane-rich fluids is known to have a pronounced effect on gas hydrate accumulation. Therefore, we carried out a set of systematic model runs with the transport-reaction code in order to derive an extended transfer function explicitly considering upward fluid advection. Using averaged fluid velocities for active margins, which were derived from mass balance considerations, this extended transfer function predicts the enhanced gas hydrate accumulation along the continental margins worldwide. Different scenarios were investigated resulting in a global mass of sub-seafloor gas hydrates of ~ 550 GtC. Overall, our systematic approach allows to clearly and quantitatively distinguish between the effect of biogenic methane generation from POC and fluid advection on the accumulation of gas hydrate, and hence, provides a simple prognostic tool for the estimation of large-scale and global gas hydrate inventories in marine sediments.