Articles | Volume 12, issue 12
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 3617–3629, 2012
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 3617–3629, 2012

Research article 11 Dec 2012

Research article | 11 Dec 2012

Monitoring methane emission of mud volcanoes by seismic tremor measurements: a pilot study

D. Albarello1, M. Palo2,*, and G. Martinelli3 D. Albarello et al.
  • 1Dip. di Scienze della Terra, Università di Siena, Italy
  • 2Dip. di Ingegneria Industriale, Università di Salerno, Italy
  • 3Agenzia Regionale Prevenzione e Ambiente, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
  • *now at: GFZ Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ, Telegrafenberg, A3 101, 14473 Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. A new approach for estimating methane emission at mud volcanoes is here proposed based on measurements of the seismic tremor on their surface. Data obtained at the Dashgil mud volcano in Azerbaijan reveal the presence of energy bursts characterized by well-determined features (i.e. waveforms, spectra and polarization properties) that can be associated with bubbling at depth. Counting such events provides a possible tool for monitoring gas production in the reservoir, thus minimizing logistic troubles and representing a cheap and effective alternative to more complex approaches. Specifically, we model the energy bursts as the effect of resonant gas bubbles at depth. This modelling allows to estimate the dimension of the bubbles and, consequently, the gas outflow from the main conduit in the assumption that all emissions from depth occur by bubble uprising. The application of this model to seismic events detected at the Dashgil mud volcano during three sessions of measurements carried out in 2006 and 2007 provides gas flux estimates that are in line with those provided by independent measurements at the same structure. This encouraging result suggests that the one here proposed could be considered a new promising, cheap and easy to apply tool for gas flux measurements in bubbling gas seepage areas.