The Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics



A quantitative study of mud volcanoes is part of a broader project aiming to understand the formation of piercement structures. The main goal is to apply the modelling of mud volcanoes to palaeo hydrothermal vent systems present in the large igneous provinces (e.g. South Africa, Offshore Norway).  Azerbaijan represents an exclusive region to study onshore mud volcanism. The connection between hydrocarbons and mud volcanoes is visible here more than anywhere else. I conducted two fieldworks in Azerbaijan mapping, and sampling a dozen of these structures. The results reveal the origin of the fluids feeding mud volcanoes during their dormant period.

See pics gallery below. If you are interested in some of the material displayed please contact me. Don't forget to open the pics gallery on a separate page.


Dashgil MV is one of the structures with the strongest seepage activity during dormant period. Its crater has a subcircular shape and irregular morphology. Numerous are the currently active gryphons, pools, and salsae distributed throughout the crater. Gryphons appear to be grouped in fields forming in the central part of the crater forming a ridge oriented NS that bends towards the east. Here fluids with different viscosity seep vigorously with constant flow or with episodic bursts with frequency that can vary from seconds up to one minute. On the southern side evidence of ancient gryphon fields can be observed with orientation W-E; at this site burned and melted mud breccia indicates previous sustained burning of seeping methane. Inactive and eroded gryphons can be observed on the eastern side of the volcano. The northern side is characterised by the presence of eroded gryphons and seepage features some of which are still active (mainly pools with gas oil-seepage). On the eastern side two large pools show vigorous seepage of  fluids


    Kotturdag MV is one of the three main structures present in the Dashgil peninsula. A longue tongue of mud breccia groves the northern flak of the volcano indicating the last eruption.  In the central part of the crater a spectacular structure shows the contact between supercompacted mud breccia and the framing crater. On the contact between the crater and the squeezed mud breccia, gas is vigorously bubbling in the small pools. On the eastern part of the crater a small gryphon shows active seepage.


Bakar MV  is situated few kilometres east from Dashgil MV. Unlike Dashgil MV that shows strong seepage but no evidence of recent eruptions, Bakhar MVshows also relatively fresh mud breccia flows on the eastern side of the volcano. Presumably the two mud volcanoes are part of the same large scale plumbing system. Isolated gryphons and pools are scattered inside the crater, locally grouped in few units; some isolated gryphons are significantly high (several tens of meters). Seepage activity was observed at all these sites as well as microbial colonies forming mats on the rim of the pools. Microbial colonies show large diversity in colour thickness and consistency at different pools. Blocks of carbonate cemented bioclast have been observed throughout the crater.


    A small satellite structure west of  Bahar, indicate a strong blast eruption that left an empty crater with steep and several metres high wall framing the crater. The fluids seeping from this satellite are supposedly similar in composition to the one seeping on the western part of Bahar MV. This suggetss that they have a connected plumbing system in the subsourface.  Inside the crater are now present up to 1m high seeping gryphons.


Lokbatan, Shongar, Akhtarma Puta, Gushkhana MVs are situated on the crest of an anticline that continues offshore with E-W direction. The southernmost mud volcano is Lokbatan that has been broadly studied by academia and by oil companies because of its relatively frequent eruptive activity (every 8-10 years approx) and because of the large oil field that is situated beneath and around it. More then 1000 wells are currently active around this structure and numerous are the publications that tried to describe the dynamics of this mud volcano. No evidence of seepage activity was observed during our visit (October 2005). The volcano has elongated EW graben shape along the direction of the main flow of the last eruption. The crater consists of two main ridges interrupted by the main mud breccia flow that forms a tongue directing towards W-SW. In the crater, burned mud breccia shows the effects of the last methane eruption (October 2001) that saw the gas burning for more then a year. Circular collapse structures are visible framing the crater. Fewer structures were observed in 2002 suggesting an ongoing subsidence of the volcano is still ongoing. The faults along the elongated graben defining the mud breccia flow support this hypothesis. Supposedly a shallow chamber slowly started the process of collapse after mud breccia eruption. Up to 15 cm wide degassing features have been observed throughout the most recent mud breccia flows (last eruption October 2001) clearly indicating that a large amount of gas was still present in the mud during the mud breccia eruption. Circular craters up to 2 m in diameter were observed around the main crater demonstrating that smaller scale blasts were ongoing at the time of mud breccia release. It appears obvious that in the budget of gas released should be taken in account both the first explosive methane blast and the following gassified mud breccia eruption.


Moving west Akhtarma Puta is the second structure positioned on the crest of the anticline. No active seepage activity was observed and evidence of strong erosion of the old mud breccia flows was observed. Partly eroded hollows were observed throughout the volcano, presumably representing collapse structures.


Further to the west Gushkhana MV doesn’t show any evidence of seepage activity. Erosion appears strong throughout the crater where the altered mud breccia appears rather poor in clasts content. Steep up to 2-3 m high faults and collapse walls were observed in the crater resembling the features observed in Lokbatan MV. The volcano is recorded to be inactive since the last 200 years.


The anticline hosting the mud volcanoes rotates from west to north direction and the next feature aligned with Lokbatan, Akhtarma Puta, Gushkhana MVs is Shongar MV. The volcano reveals the presence of two superimposed conic features presumably representing two different eruption events. The top most conic feature has a subcircular crater that is characterised by concentric collapse features converging towards the central part. Up to four metres steep walls are characterizing the crater. Similarly to what observed for Lokbatan, even in this case a gradual subsidence of the crater is suggested. The mud breccia didn’t reveal significant alteration indicating relatively “recent” eruption. Degassing features similar to the one observed in Lokbatan MV were also seen. No evidence of active seepage was observed.


Garadag MV presents a circular shape with gently dipping flanks and a wide crater with flat morphology. In the central part of the crater is present a large salsa (approx 6 m wide) where large amount of gas is bubbling from focused locations. The size of the bubbles can reach 60-70 cm in diameter. Oil forms a biofilm in defined areas of the salsa. Microbial colonies are also observed in the surface and were sampled. Inside the crater caldera-like features were observed. Up to 1 m high internal walls of the crater and large fractures observed along the rim suggest a gradual collapse and subsidence of the internal part of the crater. This can be considered as evidence of the deflation of the structure following to the eruption. No evidence of mud breccia flows was observed. The local flows consist of fluidized mud.


   Pirekeshkyul MV shows elongated structure with a ridge of active gryphons that extends along the western flank of the crater. Pools are usually situated at the foot of the active gryphons. In several instances, different types of fluids where observed seeping from sites located few centimetres away, indicating a complex plumbing system even in the close subsurface.


Keyrekie MV is situated ~25 km east of Pirekeshkyul MV. Here is visible the emplacement of the different mud breccia flows that clearly appear superposed to each other. The crater has an almost perfectly circular shape open towards the eastern side where the last mud breccia flow erupted. Walls up to 1 m high frame the crater indicating gradual collapse and compaction of the mud breccia following the last eruption. On the internal SW side of the crater large blocks of mud breccia appear to have slide towards the centre of the crater supposedly after the cooling and the contraction of the mud breccia. Various tongues of mud breccia flows are observed especially on the eastern side. Mud breccia flows are thicker in their central and thinner on the edge before reaching the steep and thick walls that contain the boundaries of the flows. Degassing features where locally observed and appear to be highly concentrated on the surfaces of isolated “gryphon like” structures.

Selected reading:

Mazzini, A., Etiope, G., and Svensen, H., 2012, A new hydrothermal scenario for the 2006 Lusi eruption, Indonesia. Insights from gas geochemistry: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 317-318, no. 0, p. 305-318.DOWNLOAD

Mazzini, A., 2009. Mud volcanism: Processes and implications. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 26(9): 1677-1680. DOWNLOAD

Mazzini, A., Nermoen, A., Krotkiewski, M., Podladchikov, Y., Planke, S. and Svensen, H., 2009a. Strike-slip faulting as a trigger mechanism for overpressure release through piercement structures. Implications for the Lusi mud volcano, Indonesia. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 26(9): 1751-1765. DOWNLOAD

Mazzini, A., Svensen, H., Planke, S., Guliyev, I., Akhmanov, G.G., Fallik, T. and Banks, D., 2009b. When mud volcanoes sleep: Insight from seep geochemistry at the Dashgil mud volcano, Azerbaijan. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 26(9): 1704-1715. DOWNLOAD

Skinner Jr, J.A. and Mazzini, A., 2009. Martian mud volcanism: Terrestrial analogs and implications for formational scenarios. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 26(9): 1866-1878. DOWNLOAD

Svensen, H., Hammer, Ø., Mazzini, A., Onderdonk, N., Polteau, S., Planke, S. and Podladchikov, Y.Y., 2009. Dynamics of hydrothermal seeps from the Salton Sea geothermal system (California, USA) constrained by temperature monitoring and time series analysis. Journal of Geophysical Research (Solid Earth), 114, B09201, doi:10.1029/2008JB006247. DOWNLOAD

Mazzini, A., Ivanov, M.K., Nermoen, A., Bahr, A., Borhmann, G., Svensen, H. and Planke, S., 2008. Complex plumbing systems in the near subsurface: geometries of authigenic carbonates from Dolgovskoy Mound (Black Sea) constrained by analogue experiments. Marine & Petroleum Geology 25(6): 457-472. DOWNLOAD

Mazzini, A., Svensen, H., Akhmanov, G.G., Aloisi, G., Planke, S., Malthe-Sorenssen, A. and Istadi, B., 2007. Triggering and dynamic evolution of the LUSI mud volcano, Indonesia. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 261(3-4): 375-388. DOWNLOAD

H. Svensen, G. Gisler, S. Polteau, A. Mazzini, and S. Planke, 2007, Hydrothermal Vent complexes and the search of extra-terrestrial water. Lunar and Planetary Science XXXVIII (2007) 2268.pdf

Mazzini, A., Ivanov, M.K., Parnell, J., Stadnitskaya, A., Cronin, B., Poludetkina, E., Mazurenko, L., and van Weering T.C.E., 2004. Methane-related authigenic carbonates from the Black Sea: geochemical characterization and relation to seeping fluids. Marine Geology, 212 (1-4), 153-181.  DOWNLOAD

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