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Anomalously high porosities and permeabilities are commonly found in the fluvial channel sandstone facies of the Triassic Skagerrak Formation in the central North Sea at burial depths greater than 3200 m (10,499 ft), from which hydrocarbons are currently being produced. The aim of our study was to improve understanding of sandstone diagenesis in the Skagerrak Formation to help predict whether the facies with high porosity may be found at even greater depths. The Skagerrak sandstones comprise fine to medium-grained arkosic to lithic-arkosic arenites. We have used scanning electron microscopy, petrographic analysis, pressure history modeling, and core analysis to assess the timing of growth and origin of mineral cements, with generation, and the impact of high fluid pressure on reservoir quality. Our interpretation is that the anomalously high porosities in the Skagerrak sandstones were maintained by a history of overpressure generation and maintenance from the Late Triassic onward, in combination with early microquartz cementation and subsequent precipitation of robust chlorite grain coats. Increasing salinity of pore fluids during burial diagenesis led to pore-filling halite cements in sustained phreatic conditions. The halite pore-filling cements removed most of the remaining porosity and limited the precipitation of other diagenetic phases. Fluid flow associated with the migration of hydrocarbons during the Neogene is inferred to have dissolved the halite locally. Dissolution of halite cements in the channel sands has given rise to megapores and porosities of as much as 35% at current production depths.
We describe the structure, microstructure, and petrophysical properties of fault rocks from two normal fault zones formed in low-porosity turbiditic arkosic sandstones, in deep diagenesis conditions similar to those of deeply buried reservoirs. These fault rocks are characterized by a foliated fabric and quartz-calcite sealed veins, which formation resulted from the combination of the (1) pressure solution of quartz, (2) intense fracturing sealed by quartz and calcite cements, and (3) neoformation of synkinematic white micas derived from the alteration of feldspars and chlorite. Fluid inclusion microthermometry in quartz and calcite cements demonstrates fault activity at temperatures of 195C to 268C. Permeability measurements on plugs oriented parallel with the principal axes of the finite strain ellipsoid show that the Y axis (parallel with the foliation and veins) is the direction of highest permeability in the foliated sandstone (10–2 md for Y against 10–3 md for X, Z, and the protolith, measured at a confining pressure of 20 bars). Microstructural observations document the localization of the preferential fluid path between the phyllosilicate particles forming the foliation. Hence, the direction of highest permeability in these fault rocks would be parallel with the fault and subhorizontal, that is, perpendicular to the slickenlines representing the local slip direction on the fault surface. We suggest that a similar relationship between kinematic markers and fault rock permeability anisotropy may be found in other fault zone types (reverse or strike-slip) affecting feldspar-rich lithologies in deep diagenesis conditions.
A three-dimensional seismic data set and published data from exploration wells were used to reconstruct the tectonostratigraphic evolution of the Mandal High area, southern North Sea, Norway. The Mandal High is an elongated southeast-northwest–trending horst. Three fault families in the Lower Permian sequence, inherited from the basement structural grain of Caledonian origin, are interpreted: (1) a north-northwest–south-southeast–striking fault family, (2) a northeast-southwest–striking fault family, and (3) a near east-west–striking fault family. In addition, an east-southeast–west-northwest–striking fault family (4) that formed during Late Jurassic rifting and was reverse reactivated in the Late Cretaceous is interpreted. We suggest that inversion occurred because of small dextral motion along fault family 1. A final fault family (5) displays various strike orientations and is associated with salt movements.
Seven chronostratigraphic sequences defined by well data and recognized on three-dimensional seismic data are interpreted and mapped: Early Permian rifting in a continental environment; Late Permian deposition of the Zechstein salt and flooding; Triassic continental rifting; uplift and erosion in the Middle Jurassic with deposition of shallow-marine and deltaic sediments; rifting and transgression in a deep-marine environment during the Late Jurassic; a post-rift phase in a marine environment during the Early Cretaceous; and flooding and deposition of the Chalk Group in the Late Cretaceous. An eighth sequence was interpreted—Paleogene–Neogene—but has not been studied in detail. This sequence is dominated by progradation from the east and basin subsidence. Well and seismic data over the Mandal High reveal that large parts of the high were subaerially exposed from Late Permian to Late Jurassic or Early Cretaceous, providing a local source of sediments for adjacent basins.
Similar to the Utsira High, where several large hydrocarbon discoveries have been recently seen, the Mandal High might consist of a set of petroleum plays, including fractured crystalline basement and shallow-marine systems along the flanks of the high, thereby opening up future exploration opportunities.
The geometries of clay smears produced in a series of direct shear experiments on composite blocks containing a clay-rich seal layer sandwiched between sandstone reservoir layers have been analyzed in detail. The geometries of the evolving shear zones and volume clay distributions are related back to the monitored hydraulic response, the deformation conditions, and the clay content and strength of the seal rock. The laboratory experiments were conducted under 4 to 24 MPa (580–3481 psi) fault normal effective stress, equivalent to burial depths spanning from less than approximately 0.8 to 4.2 km (0.5 to 2.6 mi) in a sedimentary basin. The sheared blocks were imaged using medical-type x-ray computed tomography (CT) imaging validated with optical photography of sawn blocks. The interpretation of CT scans was used to construct digital geomodels of clay smears and surrounding volumes from which quantitative information was obtained. The distribution patterns and thickness variations of the clay smears were found to vary considerably according to the level of stress applied during shear and to the brittleness of the seal layer. The stiffest seal layers with the lowest clay percentage formed the most segmented clay smears. Segmentation does not necessarily indicate that the fault seal was breached because wear products may maintain the seal between the individual smear segments as they form. In experiments with the seal layer formed of softer clays, a more uniform smear thickness is observed, but the average thickness of the clay smear tends to be lower than in stiffer clays. Fault drag and tapering of the seal layer are limited to a region close to the fault cutoffs. Therefore, the comparative decrease of sealing potential away from the cutoff zones differs from predictions of clay smear potential type models. Instead of showing a power-law decrease away from the cutoffs toward the midpoint of the shear zone, the clay smear thickness is either uniform, segmented, or undulating, reflecting the accumulated effects of kinematic processes other than drag. Increased normal stress improved fault sealing in the experiments mainly by increasing fault zone thickness, which led to more clay involvement in the fault zone per unit of source layer thickness. The average clay fraction of the fault zone conforms to the prediction of the shale gouge ratio (SGR) model because clay volume is essentially preserved during the deformation process. However, the hydraulic seal performance does not correlate to the clay fraction or SGR but does increase as the net clay volume in the fault zone increases. We introduce a scaled form of SGR called SSGR to account for increased clay involvement in the fault zone caused by higher stress and variable obliquity of the seal layer to the fault zone. The scaled SGR gives an improved correlation to seal performance in our samples compared to the other algorithms.
The continuity of clay smears evolving in sealed direct shear experiments of initially intact sandstone-mudrock sequences was quantified to large displacements up to more than ten times the thickness of the sealing layer. The sample blocks consisted of a preconsolidated clay-rich seal layer, which was embedded and synthetically cemented in quartz sand. The mineralogy and mechanical properties of the clay layer and the reservoir sandstones were varied systematically to mimic a range of natural clastic rock sequences. The fluid-flow response across the fault zone was monitored continuously during deformation using a new type of direct shear cell. The displacement at which seals break down is closely linked to the amount of phyllosilicates in the seal layer. Contrary to expectations, softer seal layers do not seal better than stiff seal layers for a given clay content. In the testing range of normal effective stresses between 4 to 24 MPa (580–3481 psi) covering maximum burial depth conditions of approximately 800 m (2625 ft) to approximately 4 km (2 mi) (assuming normal fault tectonics), a systematic trend is also observed, indicating better smear continuity by increasing the effective normal stress. Predominantly brittle processes such as slicing and wear, and not ductile drag or plastic flow, appear to be responsible for the generation of clay smears. The test results offer the prospect of incorporating critical shale smear factors (i.e., normalized displacement at which seal breakdown occurs) into probabilistic fault seal algorithms that consider important properties that can be measured or estimated, namely, clay content and fault-normal effective stress.
Gas generation is a commonly hypothesized mechanism for the development of high-magnitude overpressure. However, overpressures developed by gas generation have been rarely measured in situ, with the main evidence for such overpressures coming from source rock microfractures, the physical necessity of overpressures for primary migration, laboratory experiments, and numerical modeling. Indeed, previous in-situ observations suggest that gas generation only creates highly localized overpressures within rich source rocks. Pore-fluid pressure data and sonic velocity–vertical effective stress plots from 30 wells reveal that overpressures in the northern Malay Basin are primarily generated by fluid expansion and are located basinwide within the Miocene 2A, 2B, and 2C source rock formations. The overpressures are predominantly associated with gas sampled in more than 83% of overpressure measurements and have a sonic-density response consistent with gas generation. The association of fluid expansion overpressures with gas, combined with the sonic-density response to overpressure and a regional geology that precludes other overpressuring mechanisms, provides convincing in-situ evidence for basinwide gas generation overpressuring. Overpressure magnitude analysis suggests that gas generation accounts for approximately one-half to two-thirds of the measured excess pore pressure in the region, with the remainder being generated by coincident disequilibrium compaction. Thus, the data herein suggest that gas generation, if acting in isolation, is producing a maximum pressure gradient of 15.3 MPa/km (0.676 psi/ft) and not lithostatic magnitudes as commonly hypothesized. The gas generation overpressures in this article are not associated with a significant porosity anomaly and represent a major drilling hazard, with traditional pore-pressure prediction techniques underestimating pressure gradients by 2.3 1.5 MPa/km (0.1 0.07 psi/ft).
We use samples from undeformed and deformed sandstones (single deformation band, deformation band cluster, slip-surface cataclasite, and fault core slip zone) to characterize their petrophysical properties (porosity, permeability, and capillary pressure). Relationships between permeability and porosity are described by power-law regressions where the power-law exponent (D) decreases with the increasing degree of deformation (strain) experienced by the sample from host rock (D, 9) to fault core (D, 5). The approaches introduced in this work will allow geologists to use permeability and/or porosity measurements to estimate the capillary pressures and sealing capacity of different fault-related rocks without requiring direct laboratory measurements of capillary pressure. Results show that fault core slip zones have the highest theoretical sealing capacity (140-m [459-ft] oil column in extreme cases), although our calculations suggest that deformation bands can locally act as efficiently as fault core slip zones in sealing nonwetting fluids (in this study, oil and CO2). Higher interfacial tension between brine and CO2 (because of the sensitivity of CO2 to temperature and pressure) results in higher capillary pressure and sealing capacity in a brine and CO2 system than a brine and oil system for the same samples.
Reservoir properties of Upper Triassic–Middle Jurassic sandstones, Spitsbergen, are studied as part of a CO2 storage pilot project in Longyearbyen. The reservoir formations show large contrasts in sandstone compositions, with unexpected low permeability despite moderate porosity values. Petrographic analyses were performed to investigate the influence and distribution of diagenesis. It is concluded that, because of various compaction, cementation, and dissolution processes, the sandstone porosity is mainly isolated molds and micropores and associated with fibrous illite and chamosite, explaining the low permeability. Diagenesis and the distribution of quartz cement is influenced by lithofacies and detrital compositions. Mineralogically immature sandstones (De Geerdalen Formation) show a homogeneous distribution of quartz cement overgrowths on quartz grains, distributed interstitial to labile grains and other cements (e.g., late calcite). The main silica source was from the dissolution of adjacent feldspar and labile grains as part of the chemical compaction. In contrast, quartz-dominated sandstones (Knorringfjellet Formation) show a heterogeneous patchy distribution of quartz cement influenced by the sedimentary bioturbation pattern, with silica sourced also from dissolution at clay-rich microstylolites. Phosphatic beds at the base and top of the formation are strongly influenced by marine eogenesis and reworking processes and associated with concentration of iron-rich authigenic minerals. The highest porosity appears in sand-supported conglomerate where moldic clay-mineral ooids contributed to reduce quartz cementation. The stratigraphic change from mineralogical immature (Triassic) to mature (uppermost Triassic–Jurassic) sandstone compositions is detected in wide areas of the Barents Shelf and has considerable implications for the distribution of sandstone reservoir properties.
A joint AAPG–Society of Petroleum Engineers–Society of Exploration Geophysicists Hedberg Research Conference was held in Saint-Cyr sur Mer, France, on July 8 to 13, 2012, to review current research and explore future research directions related to improved production from carbonate reservoirs. Eighty-seven scientists from academia and industry (split roughly equally) attended for five days. A primary objective for the conference was to explore novel connections among different disciplines (primarily within geoscience and reservoir engineering) as a way to define new research opportunities. Research areas represented included carbonate sedimentology and stratigraphy, structural geology, geomechanics, hydrology, reactive transport modeling, seismic imaging (including four-dimensional seismic, tomography, and seismic forward modeling), geologic modeling and forward modeling of geologic processes, petrophysics, statistical methods, numerical methods for simulation, reservoir engineering, pore-scale processes, in-situ flow experiments (e.g., x-ray computed tomography), visualization, and methods for data interaction.
Outcrops of the Cretaceous high-porosity sandstone of the Southeast Basin, France, show two main types of deformation structures: a large number of small-offset, shear-enhanced cataclastic deformation bands (DBs); and a small number of large (meters to decameters)-offset ultracataclastic fault zones. Microstructural analyses of the cataclastic DBs show that fragmentation produces strands of cataclastic fragment-supported matrix, separated by weakly fractured host rock, which cluster to form the DBs. The ultracataclastic fault zones, however, are composed of a matrix-supported ultracataclasite material. Permeability data show that the DBs reduce host-rock permeability by 0.5 to 2 orders of magnitude, whereas the ultracataclasites reduce permeability by approximately 4 orders. Simple calculations considering the structural frequency, thickness, and permeability of these faults suggest that, although the DBs may have an impact on single-phase flow, it is most likely to be less than a 50% reduction in flow rate in extensional contexts, but it may be more severe in the most extreme cases of structural density in tectonic shortening contexts. The larger ultracataclastic faults, however, despite their much lower frequency, will have a more significant reduction in flow rate, probably of approximately 90 to 95%. Hence, although they are commonly at or below the limit of seismic resolution, the detection and/or prediction of such ultracataclastic faults is likely to be more important for single-phase flow problems than DBs (although important two-phase questions remain). The study also suggests that it is inappropriate to use the petrophysical properties of core-scale DB structures as analogs to larger seismic-scale faults.
In order to support the energy transition, optimizing exploration and production from complex stratigraphic-diagenetic conventional and unconventional plays remains highly important. At the same time, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) poses new technological challenges that will impact both the industry and academia for decades to come.
This 2nd edition will present reviews and discuss technology developments in geological process-based forward modeling achieved during the last 2 years. New perspectives for future technology developments and implementation in industry workflows will be discussed and with the additional focus on CO₂ storage and other sustainability-related applications, the scope of the workshop will be considerably extended.
AAPG and EAGE have teamed up to deliver the upcoming New Discoveries in Mature Basins workshop to be held from 30-31 January, 2024 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Save the date! Registration to open soon.
The fifth annual AAPG Siliciclastic Reservoirs of the Middle East Workshop will take place in Al Khobar in Saudi Arabia from 4-6 December 2023. This workshop will bring together professionals from the region to share their knowledge and experience related to siliciclastic reservoirs and showcase the best success stories in the industry on understanding and utilizing oil and gas siliciclastic reservoirs in the region.
Join us for the 4th Edition of: "Stratigraphic Traps of the Middle East" workshop.
The workshop will be hosted by AAPG in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia 4-6 March 2024.
Plan now to attend an interactive in-person workshop with industry leaders, government representatives and technical experts working in the Guyana-Suriname Basin.
Three-dimensional (3D) seismic-reflection surveys provide one of the most important data types for understanding subsurface depositional systems. Quantitative analysis is commonly restricted to geophysical interpretation of elastic properties of rocks in the subsurface.
Wide availability of 3D seismic-reflection data and integration provide opportunities for quantitative analysis of subsurface stratigraphic sequences. Here, we integrate traditional seismic-stratigraphic interpretation with quantitative geomorphologic analysis and numerical modeling to explore new insights into submarine-channel evolution.
Request a visit from Jacob Covault!
Around 170 million years ago, the Gulf of Mexico basin flooded catastrophically, and the pre-existing landscape, which had been a very rugged, arid, semi-desert world, was drowned beneath an inland sea of salt water. The drowned landscape was then buried under kilometers of salt, perfectly preserving the older topography. Now, with high-quality 3D seismic data, the salt appears as a transparent layer, and the details of the drowned world can be seen in exquisite detail, providing a unique snapshot of the world on the eve of the flooding event. We can map out hills and valleys, and a system of river gullies and a large, meandering river system. These rivers in turn fed into a deep central lake, whose surface was about 750m below global sea level. This new knowledge also reveals how the Louann Salt was deposited. In contrast to published models, the salt was deposited in a deep water, hypersaline sea. We can estimate the rate of deposition, and it was very fast; we believe that the entire thickness of several kilometers of salt was laid down in a few tens of thousands of years, making it possibly the fastest sustained deposition seen so far in the geological record.
Request a visit from Frank Peel!
Climate change is not only happening in the atmosphere but also in the anthroposphere; in some ways the former could drive or exacerbate the latter, with extreme weather excursions and extreme excursions from societal norms occurring all over the earth. Accomplishing geoscience for a common goal – whether that is for successful business activities, resource assessment for public planning, mitigating the impacts of geological hazards, or for the sheer love of furthering knowledge and understanding – can and should be done by a workforce that is equitably developed and supported. Difficulty arises when the value of institutional programs to increase equity and diversity is not realized.
Request a visit from Sherilyn Williams-Stroud!
Paleozoic North America has experienced multiple mountain building events, from Ordovician to Permian, on all margins of the continent. These have had a profound effect on the resulting complex basins and their associated petroleum systems. Subsequent uplift, erosion and overprinting of these ancient systems impedes the direct observation of their tectonic history. However, the basin sedimentary records are more complete, and provide additional insights into the timing and style of the mountain building events. In this study, we employ ~90 1D basin models, ~30 inverse flexural models, isopachs, and paleogeographic maps to better understand the Paleozoic history of North America.
Request a visit from Kurt W. Rudolph!
As oil and gas exploration and production occur in deeper basins and more complex geologic settings, accurate characterization and modeling of reservoirs to improve estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) prediction, optimize well placement and maximize recovery become paramount. Existing technologies for reservoir characterization and modeling have proven inadequate for delivering detailed 3D predictions of reservoir architecture, connectivity and rock quality at scales that impact subsurface flow patterns and reservoir performance. Because of the gap between the geophysical and geologic data available (seismic, well logs, cores) and the data needed to model rock heterogeneities at the reservoir scale, constraints from external analog systems are needed. Existing stratigraphic concepts and deposition models are mostly empirical and seldom provide quantitative constraints on fine-scale reservoir heterogeneity. Current reservoir modeling tools are challenged to accurately replicate complex, nonstationary, rock heterogeneity patterns that control connectivity, such as shale layers that serve as flow baffles and barriers.
Request a visit from Tao Sun!
Production from unconventional petroleum reservoirs includes petroleum from shale, coal, tight-sand and oil-sand. These reservoirs contain enormous quantities of oil and natural gas but pose a technology challenge to both geoscientists and engineers to produce economically on a commercial scale. These reservoirs store large volumes and are widely distributed at different stratigraphic levels and basin types, offering long-term potential for energy supply. Most of these reservoirs are low permeability and porosity that need enhancement with hydraulic fracture stimulation to maximize fluid drainage. Production from these reservoirs is increasing with continued advancement in geological characterization techniques and technology for well drilling, logging, and completion with drainage enhancement. Currently, Australia, Argentina, Canada, Egypt, USA, and Venezuela are producing natural gas from low permeability reservoirs: tight-sand, shale, and coal (CBM). Canada, Russia, USA, and Venezuela are producing heavy oil from oilsand. USA is leading the development of techniques for exploring, and technology for exploiting unconventional gas resources, which can help to develop potential gas-bearing shales of Thailand.
The main focus is on source-reservoir-seal shale petroleum plays. In these tight rocks petroleum resides in the micro-pores as well as adsorbed on and in the organics. Shale has very low matrix permeability (nano-darcies) and has highly layered formations with differences in vertical and horizontal properties, vertically non-homogeneous and horizontally anisotropic with complicate natural fractures. Understanding the rocks is critical in selecting fluid drainage enhancement mechanisms; rock properties such as where shale is clay or silica rich, clay types and maturation , kerogen type and maturation, permeability, porosity, and saturation. Most of these plays require horizontal development with large numbers of wells that require an understanding of formation structure, setting and reservoir character and its lateral extension.
The quality of shale-gas resources depend on thickness of net pay (>100 m), adequate porosity (>2%), high reservoir pressure (ideally overpressure), high thermal maturity (>1.5% Ro), high organic richness (>2% TOC), low in clay (<50%), high in brittle minerals (quartz, carbonates, feldspars), and favourable in-situ stress.
During the past decade, unconventional shale and tight-sand gas plays have become an important supply of natural gas in the US, and now in shale oil as well. As a consequence, interest to assess and explore these plays is rapidly spreading worldwide. The high production potential of shale petroleum resources has contributed to a comparably favourable outlook for increased future petroleum supplies globally.
Application of 2D and 3D seismic for defining reservoirs and micro seismic for monitoring fracturing, measuring rock properties downhole (borehole imaging) and in laboratory (mineralogy, porosity, permeability), horizontal drilling (downhole GPS), and hydraulic fracture stimulation (cross-linked gel, slick-water, nitrogen or nitrogen foam) is key in improving production from these huge resources with low productivity factors.
Request a visit from Ameed Ghori!
The carbonate sequences that were deposited in the now exhumed Tethyan Ocean influence many aspects of our lives today, either by supplying the energy that warms our homes and the fuel that powers our cars or providing the stunning landscapes for both winter and summer vacations. They also represent some of the most intensely studied rock formations in the world and have provided geoscientists with a fascinating insight into the turbulent nature of 250 Million years of Earth’s history.
By combining studies from the full range of geoscience disciplines this presentation will trace the development of these carbonate sequences from their initial formation on the margins of large ancient continental masses to their present day locations in and around the Greater Mediterranean and Near East region.
The first order control on growth patterns and carbonate platform development by the regional plate-tectonic setting, underlying basin architecture and fluctuations in sea level will be illustrated. The organisms that contribute to sequence development will be revealed to be treasure troves of forensic information. Finally, these rock sequences will be shown to contain all the ingredients necessary to form and retain hydrocarbons and the manner in which major post-depositional tectonic events led to the formation of some of the largest hydrocarbon accumulations in the world will be demonstrated.
Request a visit from Keith Gerdes!
For well over a century there have been conflicting indications of the strength of the crust and of faults and what controls them. Much of our ignorance comes quite naturally from the general inaccessibility of the crust to measurement--in contrast with our understanding of the atmosphere, which is much more accessible to observation as well as more rapidly changing. Crustal strength is best understood in deforming sedimentary basins where the petroleum industry has made great contributions, particularly in deforming petroleum basins because of the practical need to predict. In this talk we take a broad look at key issues in crustal strength and deformation and what we can learn from boreholes, earthquakes, active fault systems, and toy models.
Request a visit from John Suppe!
In comparison with the known boundary conditions that promote salt deformation and flow in sedimentary basins, the processes involved with the mobilization of clay-rich detrital sediments are far less well established. This talk will use seismic examples in different tectonic settings to document the variety of shale geometries that can be formed under brittle and ductile deformations.
Request a visit from Juan I. Soto!
Local sea-level changes are not simply a function of global ocean volumes but also the interactions between the solid Earth, the Earth’s gravitational field and the loading and unloading of ice sheets. Contrasting behaviors between Antarctica and Scotland highlight how important the geologic structure beneath the former ice sheets is in determining the interactions between ice sheets and relative sea levels.
Request a visit from Alex Simms!
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