Heat flow in the rifted continental margin of the South China Sea near Taiwan and its tectonic implications

Wei Zhi Liao, Andrew T. Lin, Char Shine Liu, Jung Nan Oung, Yunshuen Wang

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16 Scopus citations


Temperature measurements carried out on 9 hydrocarbon exploration boreholes together with Bottom Simulating Reflectors (BSRs) from reflection seismic images are used in this study to derive geothermal gradients and heat flows in the northern margin of the South China Sea near Taiwan. The method of Horner plot is applied to obtain true formation temperatures from measured borehole temperatures, which are disturbed by drilling processes. Sub-seafloor depths of BSRs are used to calculate sub-bottom temperatures using theoretical pressure/temperature phase boundary that marks the base of gas hydrate stability zone. Our results show that the geothermal gradients and heat flows in the study area range from 28 to 128°C/km and 40 to 159mW/m2, respectively. There is a marked difference in geothermal gradients and heat flow beneath the shelf and slope regions. It is cooler beneath the shelf with an average geothermal gradient of 34.5°C/km, and 62.7mW/m2 heat flow. The continental slope shows a higher average geothermal gradient of 56.4°C/km, and 70.9mW/m2 heat flow. Lower heat flow on the shelf is most likely caused by thicker sediments that have accumulated there compared to the sediment thickness beneath the slope. In addition, the continental crust is highly extended beneath the continental slope, yielding higher heat flow in this region. A half graben exists beneath the continental slope with a north-dipping graben-bounding fault. A high heat-flow anomaly coincides at the location of this graben-bounding fault at the Jiulong Ridge, indicating vigorous vertical fluid convection which may take place along this fault.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-244
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Asian Earth Sciences
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2014


  • Gas hydrate
  • Geothermal gradients
  • Heat flows
  • South China Sea


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