Nyman, S.L., Nelson, C.S., Campbell, K.A., Schellenberg, F., Pearson, M.J., Kamp, P.J.J., Browne, G.H. & King, P.R. (2006). Tubular carbonate concretions as hydrocarbon migration pathways? Examples from North Island, New Zealand. In Proceedings of New Zealand Petroleum Conference 2006, 6 – 10 March.
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Cold seep carbonate deposits are associated with the development on the sea floor of distinctive chemosyn¬thetic animal communities and carbonate minerali¬sation as a consequence of microbially mediated anaerobic oxidation of methane. Several possible sources of the methane exist, identifiable from the carbon isotope values of the carbonate precipitates. In the modern, seep carbonates can occur on the sea floor above petroleum reservoirs where an important origin can be from ascending thermogenic hydrocar¬bons. The character of geological structures marking the ascent pathways from deep in the subsurface to shallow subsurface levels are poorly understood, but one such structure resulting from focused fluid flow may be tubular carbonate concretions. Several mudrock-dominated Cenozoic (especially Miocene) sedimentary formations in the North Island of New Zealand include carbonate concretions having a wide range of tubular morphologies. The concretions are typically oriented at high angles to bedding, and often have a central conduit that is either empty or filled with late stage cements. Stable isotope analyses (δ13C, δ18O) suggest that the carbonate cements in the concretions precipitated mainly from ascending methane, likely sourced from a mixture of deep thermogenic and shallow biogenic sources. A clear link between the tubular concretions and overlying paleo-sea floor seep-carbonate deposits exists at some sites. We suggest that the tubular carbonate concretions mark the subsurface plumbing network of cold seep systems. When exposed and accessible in outcrop, they afford an opportunity to investigate the geochemical evolution of cold seeps, and possibly also the nature of linkages between subsurface and surface portions of such a system. Seep field development has implications for the characterisation of fluid flow in sedimentary basins, for the global carbon cycle, for exerting a biogeochemical influence on the development of marine communities, and for the evaluation of future hydrocarbon resources, recovery, and drilling and production hazards. These matters remain to be fully assessed within a petroleum systems framework for New Zealand’s Cenozoic sedimentary basins.
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This article has been published in Proceedings of New Zealand Petroleum Conference 2006, 6 – 10 March. © 2006 S.L. Nyman, C.S. Nelson, K.A. Campbell, F. Schellenberg, M.J. Pearson, P.J.J. Kamp, G.H. Browne & P.R. King.