Bottom simulating reflectors in the Manila Trench forearc and its implications on the occurrence of gas hydrates in the region

E. J.M. Maglalang, L. T. Armada, M. C. Santos, K. F. Sayen, C. B. Dimalanta, S. K. Hsu, G. P. Yumul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gas hydrate occurrence and stability in active plate margins have been reported in various localities, with investigations focusing on its potential as an alternative energy resource or the threat it poses due to dissociation and methane release into the atmosphere. The Manila Trench forearc, proximal to active margins and probable methane-rich sediments, can be an analog for gas hydrate formation and geologic preconditions constrained by tectonics and sedimentation processes. The possible occurrence of gas hydrates in offshore western Luzon Island is reported for the first time based on bottom simulating reflectors (BSRs) in multi-channel seismic reflection datasets. Results indicate a prevalence of BSRs on the frontal wedge seaward of the North Luzon Trough (NLT) and in the West Luzon Trough (WLT) basin fill. Continuous, discontinuous, double, and pluming BSRs in the forearc encompass a total area of approximately 15,400 km2 at depths of 223–553 mbsf in the frontal wedge and 486 to 1428 mbsf within the basins. Enhanced amplitude reflectors (EARs) above and below the BSRs indicate possible gas hydrate and free gas accumulations, respectively. Gas chimneys associated with the upward migration of methane-rich fluids appear to be controlled by deep structural features. The accretion of continent-derived sediments along the northern segment of the frontal wedge promotes the formation of fluid migration structures, enhancing fluid migration and gas hydrate formation at shallower depths. Estimated geothermal gradient values for the frontal wedge range from 28 to 92 °C/km, consistent with previously reported in-situ measurements from offshore SW Taiwan. In contrast, arc-derived sediments within the NLT and west-ward fluid migration along the landward-tilted sequences limit gas hydrate accumulation within the basin. To the south, the preferential formation of gas hydrates within the WLT basin points to deep gas sources within the forearc basin sediments, with upward movement of methane-rich fluids along normal faults. Estimated geothermal gradient values in the basin are lower, ranging from 12 to 45 °C/km, reflecting lower thermal conditions. The absence of BSRs seaward of the WLT signifies widespread gas hydrate dissociation in the frontal wedge slope.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106538
JournalMarine and Petroleum Geology
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Bottom simulating reflector
  • Gas hydrates
  • Luzon
  • Manila trench forearc


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