The existence of free gas and gas hydrate in the pore spaces of marine sediments causes changes in acoustic velocities that overprint the background lithological velocities of the sediments themselves. Much previous work has determined that such velocity overprinting, if sufficiently pronounced, can be resolved with conventional velocity analysis from long-offset, multichannel seismic data. We used 2D seismic data from a gas hydrate province at the southern end of New Zealand’s Hikurangi subduction margin to describe a workflow for high-resolution velocity analysis that delivered detailed velocity models of shallow marine sediments and their coincident gas hydrate systems. The results showed examples of pronounced low-velocity zones caused by free gas ponding beneath the hydrate layer, as well as high-velocity zones related to gas hydrate deposits. For the seismic interpreter of a gas hydrate system, the velocity results represent an extra “layer” for interpretation that provides important information about the distribution of free gas and gas hydrate. By combining the velocity information from the seismic transect with geologic samples of the seafloor and an understanding of sedimentary processes, we have determined that high gas hydrate concentrations preferentially form within coarse-grained sediments at the proximal end of the Hikurangi Channel. Finer grained sediments expected elsewhere along the seismic transect might preclude the deposition of similarly high gas hydrate concentrations away from the channel.

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