A new 3D seismic reflection data volume acquired in 2012 has allowed for the detailed mapping and characterization of gas hydrate distribution in the Pearl River Mouth Basin in the South China Sea. Previous studies of core and logging data showed that gas hydrate occurrence at high concentrations is controlled by the presence of relatively coarse-grained sediment and the upward migration of thermogenic gas from the deeper sediment section into the overlying gas hydrate stability zone (BGHSZ); however, the spatial distribution of the gas hydrate remains poorly defined. We used a constrained sparse spike inversion technique to generate acoustic-impedance images of the hydrate-bearing sedimentary section from the newly acquired 3D seismic data volume. High-amplitude reflections just above the bottom-simulating reflectors (BSRs) were interpreted to be associated with the accumulation of gas hydrate with elevated saturations. Enhanced seismic reflections below the BSRs were interpreted to indicate the presence of free gas. The base of the BGHSZ was established using the occurrence of BSRs. In areas absent of well-developed BSRs, the BGHSZ was calculated from a model using the inverted P-wave velocity and subsurface temperature data. Seismic attributes were also extracted along the BGHSZ that indicate variations reservoir properties and inferred hydrocarbon accumulations at each site. Gas hydrate saturations estimated from the inversion of acoustic impedance of conventional 3D seismic data, along with well-log-derived rock-physics models were also used to estimate gas hydrate saturations. Our analysis determined that the gas hydrate petroleum system varies significantly across the Pearl River Mouth Basin and that variability in sedimentary properties as a product of depositional processes and the upward migration of gas from deeper thermogenic sources control the distribution of gas hydrates in this basin.

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