Deeply buried ancient volcanoes control hydrocarbon migration in the South China Sea
Q. Sun, C.A.L. Jackson, C. Magee and X. Xie
Journal name: Basin Research
Issue: Vol 32, No 1, February 2020 pp. 146 - 162
Info: Article, PDF ( 5.7Mb )
Seismic reflection data image now‐buried and inactive volcanoes, both onshore and along the submarine portions of continental margins. However, the impact that these volcanoes have on later, post‐eruption fluid flow events (e.g., hydrocarbon migration and accumulation) is poorly understood. Determining how buried volcanoes and their underlying plumbing systems influence subsurface fluid or gas flow, or form traps for hydrocarbon accumulations, is critical to de‐risk hydrocarbon exploration and production. Here, we focus on evaluating how buried volcanoes affect the bulk permeability of hydrocarbon seals, and channel and focus hydrocarbons. We use highresolution 3D seismic reflection and borehole data from the northern South China Sea to show how ca. <10 km wide, ca. <590 m high Miocene volcanoes, buried several kilometres (ca. 1.9 km) below the seabed and fed by a sub‐volcanic plumbing system that exploited rift‐related faults: (i) acted as long‐lived migration pathways, and perhaps reservoirs, for hydrocarbons generated from even more deeply buried (ca. 8–10 km) source rocks; and (ii) instigated differential compaction and doming of the overburden during subsequent burial, producing extensional faults that breached regional seal rocks. Considering that volcanism and related deformation are both common on many magma‐rich passive margins, the interplay between the magmatic products and hydrocarbon migration documented here may be more common than currently thought. Our results demonstrate that now‐buried and inactive volcanoes can locally degrade hydrocarbon reservoir seals and control the migration of hydrocarbon‐ rich fluids and gas. These fluids and gases can migrate into and be stored in shallower reservoirs, where they may then represent geohazards to drilling and impact slope stability.