Temporal Variation in Natural Gas Seep Rate and Influence Factors in the Lingtou Promontory Seep Field of the Northern South China Sea


Natural hydrocarbon seeps in marine environment are important sources of methane and other greenhouse gases into the ocean and the atmosphere. This greenhouse gas seepage influences the global methane budget and global climate change. Hydrocarbon seeps on the shallow seabed produce a near-shore gas bubble zone along the western coast of Hainan Island, in the northern South China Sea. However, few studies on the quantitative value of the methane flux and on temporal variation and influence factors of hydrocarbon seeps have been conducted until now. This study describes the results of continuous gas vent measurements for 420 hours on the seabed of the Lingtou promontory shore. The amount of gas released from a single gas vent was 30.5 m3 during the measurement period. The gas flow rate ranged from 22 - 72 L h-1, with an average rate of 53.4 L h-1. The time series analyses of the 420-hour record clearly show three principal tidal components with periods of 5.4, 4.6, and 2.4 hours, which are the main factors controlling the gas flow rate. Low flow rates were associated with high tide and high flow rates associated with low tide. A 1-m increase in seawater height results in a decrease of 20 - 30 L h-1 or 35 - 56% of the hourly flow rate. Therefore, the changes in gas volume escape from the pore could be attributed to the hydrostatic pressure effect induced by water depth. This dominant mechanism controlled pore activation as well as the gas flow rate, suggesting that in the marine environment, especially the shallow-water shelf area, sea level changes may result in great variations in methane release into the ocean and atmosphere.

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Published by The Chinese Geoscience Union