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Learning Objectives: By the end of this Exploration chapter, the participants should be able
to recognize and explain the concept of petroleum systems and the


various exploration tools and techniques.

Keywords : plate tectonics, sedimentary basins, source rocks, maturation, migration, reservoir rocks,


traps seismic, gravity survey, magnetic survey, geochemistry, mud logs, field studies.

Introduction and Commercial Application: This section will firstly examine the conditions necessary for


the existence of a hydrocarbon accumulation. Secondly, we will see which techniques are employed


by the industry to locate oil and gas deposits.

Top of Maturity

Exploration activities are aimed at finding new volumes of hydrocarbons, to replace the volumes being
produced. The success of a companys exploration efforts determines its prospects of remaining in

Mature SRx in
'Kitchen Area'

business in the long term.

Figure 2.1a Generation, Migration and Trapping of Hydrocarbons


Petroleum System

All these, source rocks, maturation, migration, reservoir rocks, trap and seal are the elements of a
petroleum system.


Hydrocarbon accumulation will only occur when we have a complete

hydrocarbon system, i.e. the occurrence of all the elements in the right sequence and timing.

Several conditions need to be satisfied for the existence of a hydrocarbon accumulation, as indicated
in Figure 2.1. The first of these is an area in which a suitable sequence of rocks has accumulated
over geologic time, the sedimentary basin. Within that sequence there needs to be rock units with
high content of organic matter, the source rock. Through elevated temperatures, pressures and time
these rocks must have reached maturation, the condition at which hydrocarbon are generated and
expelled from the source rock.

Sedimentary Basins
One of the geo-scientific breakthroughs of the last century is the establishment of the plate tectonics
concept. It is beyond the scope of this manual to explore the underlying theories in any detail. In
summary, the plate tectonic model postulates that the positions of the oceans and continents are
gradually changing through geologic times. Like giant rafts, the continents drift over the underlying
mantle. Figure 2.1b shows the global configuration of plate boundaries.

Migration describes the process in which the generated hydrocarbons are transported into a porous
type of sediment, the reservoir rock. The hydrocarbon will continue to migrate within the reservoir
rock into a trap. Only when the reservoir is deformed in a favourable shape or if it is laterally grading
into an impermeable formation does a trap for the migrating hydrocarbons exist. The impermeable
formation that stops or reduces drastically further migration, resulting in accumulation of the
hydrocarbon, is called seal.

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Sedimentary Rocks are those rocks formed by sedimentation processes. This is evidenced by the
occurrence of sedimentary structures such as cross-bedding, ripple marks, graded bedding, etc. That
can be seen on the surface of these rocks. These features suggest that the rocks have gone through
sedimentation processes similar to those seen in modern day sedimentation system. In petroleum
geology, three general types of sedimentary rocks are most important:

1. Sandstone
Rock consisting of sand grain, usually quartz, cemented together by various substances such
as silica, calcium carbonate, iron oxide or clay.

2. Shale
Rock of fissile or laminated structure formed by the consolidation of clay or argillaceous

3. Carbonate
Rock formed by precipitation of organic or inorganic calcareous materials from an aqueous

Figure 2.1b Global Plate Configuration

solution of carbonates of calcium, magnesium, or iron.

The features created by crustily movement may be mountain chains, like the Himalayas, where
collision of continents causes extensive compression. Conversely, the depressions of the Red Sea

Sandstone and carbonate with good porosity and permeability can be a good reservoir rocks while

and East African Rift Basin are formed by extensional plate movement. Both type of movements form

shale is usually a good source rocks.

large scale depressions on the earth surface, creating a space where sediments from the surrounding
elevated areas (high) are transported and deposited. These depressions are termed sedimentary
basins (Figure 2.1c). The basin fill can attain a thickness of several kilometres of sediments and after
million of years of this deposition will form sedimentary rocks.

Figure 2.1d Formation of Sedimentary Rocks

Figure 2.1c Sedimentary Basins

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The most important factor for maturation and hydrocarbon type is therefore heat. The increase of
temperature with depth is dependent on the geothermal gradient which varies from basin to basin. An
average value is about 3 C per 100 meters of depth.




Figure 2.1e Sedimentary Rocks; From Left to right: Limestone (Ls), Coal (Cl), Sandstone (Sdst),
Shale (Sh) and Conglomerate (Cg).

Source Rocks
About 90% of all the organic matter found in sediments is contained in shale. For the deposition of
Figure 2.1f Hydrocarbon Maturation Diagram

these source rocks several conditions have to be met: Organic material must be abundant and a lack
of oxygen must prevent the decomposition of the organic remains. Continuous sedimentation over a
long period of time causes burial of the organic matter. Depending on the area of deposition, organic
matter may consist predominantly of plant remnants or of phytoplankton. These are marine algae
which live in the upper layers of the oceans and upon death sink in vast quantities onto the seabed.
Plant derived source rocks often lead to waxy crude. Most of the hydrocarbons encountered in the

The maturation of source rocks is followed by the migration of the produced hydrocarbons from the
deeper, hotter parts of the basin into suitable structure. Hydrocarbons are lighter than water and will
therefore move upwards through permeable strata.

reservoir of Sabah and Sarawak are generated by land-plant derived source rocks.
Two stages have been recognized in the migration process.
The conversion of sedimentary organic matter into petroleum is termed maturation. The resulting
products are largely controlled by the composition of the original matter.

Figure 2.1f shows the

maturation process, which starts with the conversion of mainly kerogen into petroleum: but in very

small amounts below a temperature of 50 C.

subsides within the basin framework.

During primary migration the very

process of kerogen transformation causes micro-fracturing of the impermeable and low porosity

The temperature rises as the sediment package

source rock which allows hydrocarbons to move into a more permeable strata e.g. sandstone. In the
second stage of migration the generated fluids move more freely along bedding planes and faults into
a suitable reservoir structure and this is called Secondary migration.

Migration can occur over

considerable distances of several tens of kilometres.

The peak conversion of kerogen occurs at the temperature of

about 100 C. If the temperature is raised above 130 C for even a short period of time, crude oil itself

Reservoir Rock

will give to crack and gas will start to be produced. Initially the composition of the gas will show a

Reservoir rocks are either of clastic or carbonate composition. The former are composed of silicates,

high content of C4 to C10 components (wet gas and condensate), but with further increase in

usually sandstone, and the latter of biogenetically derived detritus, such as coral or shell fragments.

temperature the mixture will tend towards the light hydrocarbons (C1 to C3, dry gas). For more detail

There are some important differences between the two rock types which affect the quality of the

on the composition of hydrocarbons, refer to Section 10.1.1.

reservoir and its interaction with fluids which flow through them.

The main component of sandstone reservoirs ("siliciclastic reservoirs") is quartz (SiO2). Chemically it
is a fairly stable mineral which is not easily altered by changes in pressure, temperature or acidity of

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pore fluids.

Sandstone reservoirs form after the sand grains have been transported over large

distances and have deposited in particular environments of deposition.

Carbonate reservoir rock is usually found at the place of formation ("in situ"). Carbonate rocks are
susceptible to alteration by the processes of diagenesis.

The pores between the rock components, e.g. the sand grains in a sandstone reservoir, will initially be
filled with the pore water. The migrating hydrocarbons will displace the water and thus gradually fill
the reservoir.

For a reservoir to be effective, the pores need to be in communication to allow

migration, and also need to allow flow towards the borehole once a well is drilled into the structure.
The pore space is referred to as porosity in oil field terms. Permeability measures the ability of a
rock to allow fluid flow through its pore system. A reservoir rock which has some porosity but too low
a permeability to allow fluid flow is termed "tight".

In Section 3.2.2 we will examine the properties and lateral distribution of reservoir rocks in detail.
Figure 2.1g Main Trapping Mechanism
Hydrocarbons are of a lower density than formation water. Thus, if no mechanism is in place to stop
their upward migration they will eventually seep to the surface, a process which easily can be
observed in the coastal swamps of Sarawak and Brunei. On seabed surveys offshore Borneo we can

Even if all of the elements described so far have been present within a sedimentary basin an
accumulation will not necessarily be encountered. One of the crucial questions in prospect evaluation
is about the timing of events. The deformation of strata into a suitable trap has to precede the

detect crater like features ("pock marks") which also bear witness to the escape of oil and gas to the

maturation and migration of petroleum. The reservoir seal must have been intact throughout geologic

surface. It is assumed that throughout the geologic past vast quantities of hydrocarbons have been

time. If a "leak" occurred sometime in the past, the exploration well will only encounter small amounts

lost in this manner from sedimentary basins.

of residual hydrocarbons. Conversely, a seal such as a fault may have developed early on in the
field's history and prevented the migration of hydrocarbon into the structure.

There are three basic forms of trap as shown in Figure 2.1g. These are:

In some cases bacteria may have "biodegraded" the oil, i.e. destroyed the light fraction. Many
Structural Trap: - Structural deformation creates the trapping.

Anticline Traps - which are the result of ductile crustal deformations

Fault Traps - which are the result of brittle crustal deformations

Dome Traps against shale or salt diapirs

shallow accumulations have been altered by, this process. An example would be the large heavy oil
accumulations in Venezuela.

Given the costs of exploration ventures it is clear that much effort will be expended to avoid failure. A

Stratigraphic Traps: - where impermeable strata seals the reservoir

variety of disciplines are drawn in such as geology, geophysics, mathematics, and geochemistry to

Pinch-out Traps Lateral change in lithology

analyse a prospective area. However, on average, even in very mature areas where exploration has

Unconformity Traps Truncated against new rock formation

been ongoing for years, only every third exploration well will encounter substantial amounts or

Lense Traps Depositional facies change

hydrocarbons. In real 'wildcat' areas, basins which have not been drilled previously, only every tenth
well is, on average, successful.

The Luconia gas province are mainly stragtigraphically trapped accumulation. Many of the Baram
Delta fields are both fault traps and anticline structure. This type trapping mechanism is called a
combination trap.

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Exploration Methods and Techniques

The objective of any exploration venture is to find new volumes of hydrocarbons at a low cost and in a
short period of time. Exploration budgets are in direct competition with acquisition opportunities. If a
company spends more money finding oil than it would have had to spend buying the equivalent
amount in the market place there is little incentive to continue exploration. Conversely, a company
which manages to find new reserves at low cost has a significant competitive edge since it can afford
more exploration, find and develop reservoirs more profitably, and can target and develop smaller

The usual sequence of activities once an area has been selected for exploration starts with the
definition of a basin. The mapping or gravity anomalies and magnetic anomalies will be the first two
methods applied. In many cases today this data will be available in the public domain or can be
bought as a "non exclusive" survey. Next, a coarse two-dimensional (2D) seismic grid, covering a
wide are, will be acquired in order to define leads, areas which show for instance a structure which
Figure 2.2a Principle of Gravity Surveys

potentially could contain an accumulation. A particular exploration concept, often the idea of an
individual or a team will emerge next. Since at this point very few hard facts are available to judge the
merit of these ideas they are often referred to as play.

More detailed investigations will be

integrated to define a prospect a subsurface structure with a reasonable probability to contain all the
elements of a petroleum accumulation as outlined above.

Magnetic Surveys
The magnetic method detects changes in the earth's magnetic field caused by variations in the
magnetic properties of rocks. In particular basement and igneous rocks are relatively highly magnetic
and if close to the surface give rise to short wavelength, high amplitude anomalies in the earth's
magnetic field (Figure 2.2b). The method is airborne (plane or satellite) which permits rapid surveying

Eventually, only the drilling of an exploration well will prove the validity of the concept. A wildcat is
drilled in a region with no prior well control. Wells may either result in discoveries of oil and gas, or

and mapping with good area coverage. Like the gravity technique this survey is often employed at the
beginning of an exploration venture.

they find the objective zone water hearing in which case they are termed dry. Exploration activities
are potentially damaging to the environment. The cutting down of trees in preparation for an onshore
seismic survey may result in severe soil erosion in years to come.

Offshore, fragile ecological

systems such as reefs can be permanently damaged by spills of crude or mud chemicals.
Responsible companies will therefore carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prior to
activity planning and draw up contingency plans should an accident occur. In Section 14.0 a more
detailed description of health safety and environmental considerations will be provided.

Gravity Surveys
The gravity method measures small (~10-6 g) variations of the earths gravity field caused by density
variations in geological structures. The sensing element is a sophisticated form of spring balance.
Variation in the earth's gravity field cause changes in the length of the spring, which are measured
(Fig 2.6). Measurements must be corrected for the elevation of the recording station.

Figure 2.2b Principle of Magnetic Surveys

Both survey methods are mainly employed to define large scale structures such as basins, based on
the resulting maps, seismic surveys are then carried out.

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Seismic Surveys
Seismic surveys are the geophysical tool most commonly used to obtain a detailed picture of
underground structures.

Figure 2.2e Vibrotruck: A truck mounted with a vibroseis system.

In area where the terrain prevents the use of vehicles, for instance in areas of dense vegetation, the
seismic lines will have to be cut by clearing the vegetation and explosives are lowered into shot
Figure 2.2c Interpreted seismic section through a sedimentary basin

holes and subsequently detonated.

For offshore acquisition, explosives are not viable; instead

airguns are used by towing behind boats.

The reflections generated by the Sound waves are picked up by receivers called geophones (or
hydrophones offshore), which work in a similar way to seismographs that register earthquakes.

On land the geophones are planted on the ground, along the survey line in patterns some 25m apart.
The sound pulses are then fired in sequence along the line. At sea, the hydrophones are trailed
behind a survey vessel.

For a 3D survey arrays of airguns are used and several streamers of

hydrophones with a length of several kilometres may be used.

For all seismic acquisition, especially in a marine survey, accurate positioning and recording of shot
points and hydrophones is essential. Compensation for currents, wave and wind is carried out by
applying the latest surveying technology such as satellite navigation.
Digitized information is transmitted along a cable and stored on magnetic tape. The information is
processed by computers and then interpreted by geophysicists. During the processing stage the raw

Figure 2.2d Principle of Seismic Surveys

signal, which is basically a recording of a sound amplitude measurement is converted into an image of
Seismic survey (Figure 2.2d) involves recording artificially generated low frequency sound waves that
are reflected from the different rock strata. Various techniques are used to generate the shock waves.
On land vibrations may be generated by using a servo-controlled hydraulic vibrator (vibroseis) or
shaker unit mounted on a truck (mobile base unit).

Other method, which is also a truck based

the subsurface rock strata and the faults which interrupt it. This is a complex and time consuming
process. As can be seen in Figure 2.2f, the seismic record measures the time it takes for the signal to
travel to the reflector and back ('two way travel time') and the resulting map is a time map. As part
of the interpretation, the time map is converted to a depth map. The time - depth conversion is a
non-linear mathematical function which may vary over the area of interest. It is always desirable to

systems, is by weight-drop.

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calibrate the seismic record with data from wells (which is depth based). Several tools are available

3D seismic has proved in many cases to drastically reduce the number of appraisal and development

to provide this calibration e.g. 'vertical seismic profiling' (VSP).

wells required and to increase the productivity of those drilled. Hence, production seismic has
become a major tool to optimize field development expenditure.

All stages -recording, processing and interpretation -have been revolutionized by computer
technology, which enables increasing amounts of information to be collected and handled. Ten years

As a result of the sophistication required for acquisition, processing and interpretation of seismic data,

ago typical two-dimensional (2D) land survey may have collected some 600,000 data samples each

it may take several months to get first results from a survey.

kilometre. In a few years time it is possible that surveys may be collecting more than 200 million
samples per kilometre.

This increasing mass of data would present great problems to geologists without the development of
new interactive, computer-based interpretation systems. In the past, interpreters worked primarily
with paper printout of seismic 'sections', plotting structural features by hand. Now, an interpreter can
use 'knowledge based' systems on a display terminal to help plot features and top map structures.

One important result of this increased capacity to generate and handle information has been
development of three-dimensional (3D) seismic. Normal 2D seismic is shot along individual lines, in
varying distances apart depending on the survey stage, to produce pictures of a series of vertical
'sections' of the earth. Skilled interpreters fill in the structural details between these sections.

By contrast, 3D seismic is acquired in a closely spaced grid pattern to give a complete, more accurate
picture of an area. A usual grid would be 12.5m x 25m as compared to several 100m between the
lines of a 2D survey. As costs and lime for acquisition, processing and interpretation continue to see
dramatic reductions, the 3D technique is nowadays the standard survey once a prospect has been
Figure 2.2f 3D Seismic Surveys
Although seismic was traditionally seen as an exploration tool, the advent of 3D has revolutionized the
role of this technique for field appraisal and development. The dramatically improve resolution and


accuracy is now used for a number of production applications:

Analyzing the distribution of elements and compounds related to petroleum occurrences has several
applications, some of which are useful for production monitoring. Geochemistry is employed for the

The definition and positioning of small scale faults

following reasons:

The visualization of subtle structures and surfaces

The prediction of reservoir continuity the prediction of' fluid contact

To detect surface anomalies caused by hydrocarbon, accumulation: often very small amounts
of petroleum compounds have leaked into the overlying strata and to the surface. On land,
these compounds, mostly gases, may be detectable in soil samples.

A technique which has become known as "4D" or "time lapse" seismic is sometimes employed in

execution of tertiary recovery methods or the location of bypassed oil. Instead of shooting only one

To assess potential yield and maturity of source rocks and classify those according to their
"vitrinite reflectance".

cases where the exact knowledge of fluid contact movements is critical e.g. for planning and

To "type" crude oils (see Figure 2.2g & 2.2h). This method uses an extremely accurate

3D survey, a repeat is carried out periodically (e.g. every two years) and the new fluid contact position

compositional analysis of crude to determine their source and possible migration route. As a

is mapped out. This method requires favourable conditions in the subsurface. It is now possible to

result of the accuracy it is possible to distinguish not only the oils of individual accumulations in

position permanent hydrophones on the seabed above a producing field and reshoot 3D at convenient

a region, but even the oils from the different drainage units within a field. If sufficient samples

intervals of time.

were taken at the exploration phase of a field, geochemistry allows one to verify cross flow and
preferential depletion of units during later production.

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Field Studies
There is only one method available that allows the study of the vertical and lateral relationship of the
different rock types of a reservoir on a scale of 1:1. This is the study of outcrops. These are areas
like quarries, road cuts, cliffs, mines, etc., which consist of a sequence known to be a reservoir in the
vicinity or the lateral equivalent thereof. Detailed investigation of a suitable outcrop can often be used
as a predictive tool to model:

Figure 2.2g Analysis of crude oil components

Presence, maturity and distribution of source rock

Porosity and permeability of a reservoir

Detailed reservoir framework, including flow units, barriers and baffles to f1uid flow

Frequency, orientation and geological history of fractures and sub-seismic faults

Lateral continuity of sands and shale

Quantitative description of all of the above for numerical reservoir simulations

Over the last decade some of the major oil companies have been using vast amounts of outcrop
derived measurements to design and calibrate powerful computer models.

These models are

employed as tools to quantitatively describe reservoir distribution and flow behaviour within individual
units, hence this technique is not only important for the exploration phase but more so for the early
assessment of production profiles.

Mud logging
The technique of mud logging is covered in this section because it is one of the first direct evaluation
methods available during the drilling of an exploration well.

As such, the mud log remains an

important and often under-used source of original information.

This first information about the reservoir is recorded, as a function of depth, in the form of several
columns. Although rather qualitative in many respects, mud logging is an important data gathering
technique. It is of importance as a basic for operational decisions, e.g. at what depth to set casing, or
where to core a well.

Mud logging is also cheap, as data is gathered while the normal drilling

operation goes on.

The rate at which the drilling bit penetrates the formation gives qualitative information about the
lithology being drilled. For examples, in hard shale the rate of penetration (ROP) will be slower than
in porous sandstone.

The formations cutting that are chipped off by the bit travel upward with the mud and are caught and
analyzed at the surface. This provides information about the lithology and qualitative of the porosity.

If there are hydrocarbons present in the formation that is being drilled, they will show in the cuttings as
Figure 2.2h Relationship between Oil/Source peaks from Gas Chromatography

oil stains, and in the mud as traces of oil or gas. The gas in the mud is continuously monitored by
means of a gas detector. This is often a relatively simple device detecting the total combustible gas

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The detector can be supplemented by a gas chromatograph, which analyses the

composition of the gas.

Figure 2.2i shows an example of a basic mud log, including information about the drilling rate, cuttings
and hydrocarbons shows. The sands clearly show up on both the drilling rate and the cuttings
description. Oil stains were observed in the cuttings, and the gas detector gives high readings and
indicates the presence of heavy components in the gas. This example illustrates that the value of a
mud log lies in the combination of the information received from the various source.

A mud log provides only qualitative information; hence it is unsuitable for an accurate formation
evaluation. Mud logging is therefore nowadays partly replaced by logging while drilling technique
(LWD) which will be covered in Section 3.3.
In summary, exploration activities require the integration of different technique and disciplines. Clear
definition of survey objectives is needed. When planning and executing an exploration campaign the
duration of data acquisition and interpretation has to be taken into account.

Figure 2.2j Summary of exploration objectives and methods

Figure 2.2i Example of a mudlog (natural gas exploration) showing lithology, total gas, methane,
ethane, propane, butane, pentane, cuttings lithology, cored intervals, drill rates, DSTs and gas quality.

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Reservoir Geology

Depositional Environment

With few exceptions, most reservoir rocks are sedimentary rocks.

Introduction and commercial application: The success of oil and gas field development is largely
determined by the reservoir; its size, complexity, productivity and the type and quantity of fluids it
contains. To optimize a development plan, the characteristics of the reservoir must be well defined.
Often the level of information available is significantly less than that required for an accurate. It is
often difficult for surface engineers to understand the origin of the uncertainty with which the

The two main categories are

siliciclastic rocks, usually referred to as clastics or sandstones, and carbonate rocks. The
reservoirs of the Baram Delta are examples of a clastic depositional environment; while the gas field
of the Luconia Province are contained in carbonate rocks. Before looking at the significance of
depositional environments for the production process let us investigate some of the main
characteristics of both categories.

subsurface engineer must work and the ranges of possible outcomes provided by the subsurface
engineer can be frustrating. This section will describe what control the uncertainties and how data is

Preceding the deposition of a clastic rock is the weathering and transport of material. Mechanical

gathered and interpreted to try to form a model of the subsurface reservoir.

weathering will be induced if a rock is exposed to severe temperature changes or freezing of water in
The section is divided into four parts, which discuss the common reservoir types from a geological
viewpoint, the fluids which are contained within the reservoir, the principal methods of data gathering
and the ways in which this data interpreted. Each section is introduced by pointing out its commercial

pores and cracks (e.g. in some desert environments). The action of plant roots forcing their way into
bedrock is another example of mechanical weathering. Substance (e.g. acid waters) contained in
surface waters can cause chemical weathering. During this process, some minerals are dissolved
(see below) and the less stables ones, like feldspars are leached. Chemical weathering is particularly


severe in tropical climates.

Keywords: reservoir structures, faults, folds, depositional environments, diagenesis, geological
Weathering results in the breaking up of rock into smaller components which then can be transported

controls, porosity, permeability.

by agents such as water (rivers, sea current), wind (desert) and ice (glaciers). There is an important
Introduction and Commercial Application: The objective of reservoir geology is to understand and
quantify the geologically controlled reservoir parameters for the prediction of their lateral variation.

relationship between the mode of transport and the energy available for the movement of
components. Transport energy determines the size, shape and degree of sorting of sediments
grains. Sorting is an important parameter controlling properties such as porosity. Figure 2.3.1a

Three parameters broadly define the reservoir geology of a field:

shows the impact on sorting on reservoir quality.

Depositional environment



To a large extent the reservoir geology controls the reducibility of a formation, i.e. to what degree
transmissibility to fluid flow and pressure communication exists.

Knowledge of the reservoir

geological processes has to be based on extrapolation of the very limited data available to the
geologist, yet the geological model is the base on which the field development plan will be built.

In the following section we will examine the relevance of depositional environments, structure and
diagenesis for field development purposes.

Figure 2.3.1a Impact of sorting on reservoir quality

Poorly sorted sediments comprise very different particles sizes, resulting in a dense rock fabric with
low porosity. As a result the connate water saturation is high, leaving little space for the storage of
hydrocarbons. Conversely, a very well sorted sediment will have a large volume of space between

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the evenly sized components, a lower connate water saturation and hence a larger capacity to store

Depositional Process


Weathering and transportation is followed by the sedimentation or deposition of these of materials.

Thus, the depositional environment can be defined as an area with a typical set of physical, chemical

Quartz (SiO2) is one of the most stable minerals and is therefore the main constituent of sandstones

and biological processes which result in a specific type of rock. The characteristics of the resulting

which have undergone the most severe weathering and transportation over considerable distance.

sediments package are dependent on intensity and duration of these processes.

The physical,

These sediments are called mature and provide clean high quality reservoir sands. In theory,

chemical, biological and geomorphic variable show considerable differences between and within

porosity is not affected by the size of the grains but is purely a percentage of the bulk rock volume. In

particular environments. As a result, we have to expect very different behaviour of such rock during

nature however, sands with large well sorted components may have higher porosities than the

hydrocarbon production. Depositional processes control porosity, permeability, and net to gross ratio,

equivalent sand comprising small components. This is simply the result of the higher transport energy

extent and lateral variability of reservoir properties.

required to move large components, hence a low probability of fine (light) particles such as clay being

recovery of individual wells and accumulations are heavily influenced by the environment of



Very clean sands are rare and normally variable amounts of clay will be contained in the reservoir

The main environments and some production characteristics are summarized in Figure 2.3.1b.

Hence the production profile and ultimate

pore system, the clays being the weathering products of rock constituents such as feldspars. The
quantity of clay and its distribution within the reservoir exerts a major control on permeability and

Laminas of clay and clay drapes can act as vertical or horizontal baffles or barriers to fluid flow and
pressure communication. Dispersed clays occupy pore space which in clean sand would be available


(Distributary channel)

Isolated or stacked channels
with usually fine grained sand.
May or may not be in

for hydrocarbons. They also may obstruct pore throats, thus impending fluid flow. As described later
in Section 3.0, Formation Evaluation, in particulars the estimation of hydrocarbons saturations is
frequently complicated by the presence of clays.

Bioturbation, due to the burrowing action of organism may connect sand layers otherwise separated

Shallow marine /
coastal (clastic)

by clay laminae, thus enhancing vertical permeability, or they may homogenise a layered reservoir
resulting in unproducible sandy shale.

Carbonate rocks
Carbonate rocks are normally not transported over long distances and we find carbonate, and we find

Shallow water
(Reef & carbonate

Sand bars, tidal channels.

Generally coarsening upwards.
High subsidence rate results in
stacked reservoirs. Reservoir
distribution dependent on
wave and tide action.
Reservoir quality governed by
digenetic process and
structural history (fracturing).

carbonate reservoir rocks by and large at the location of origin, in situ. They are usually the products
of marine organisms. However, carbonates are often severely affected by diagenetics processes. A
more detailed description of altered carbonates and their reservoir properties is given below the
description of diagnoses.

Shelf (clastics)

Sheet-like sand bodies

resulting from storms or
transgression usually thin but
very continuous sands, well
sorted and coarse between
marine clays.

Good producers;
permeabilities of 500 5000 mD. Insufficient
communication between
channels may require infill
wells in late stage of
Prolific producers as a
result of clean and
continuous sand bodies.
Shale layers may cause
vertical barriers to fluid
Prolific production from
karstified carbonates. High
and early water production
possible. Dual porosity
systems in fractured
carbonates. Dolomites may
produce H2S.
Very high productivity but
high quality sands may act
as thief zones during
water or gas injection.
Action of sediment
burrowing organisms may
impact on reservoir quality.

Figure 2.3.1b Characteristics of selected environments

It is important to realize that knowledge of depositional processes and features in a given reservoir will
be vital for the correct sitting of the optimum number of appraisal and development wells, the sizing of
facilities and the definition of a reservoir management policy.

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To derive a reservoir geological model, various methods and techniques are employed, mainly core
analysis, wire line logs, high resolution seismic and outcrop studies. These data gathering
techniques are further discussed in Section 3.3 and 2.2.

The most valuable tools for a detailed environment analysis are cores and wire line logs. In particular
the gamma ray (GR) response is useful since it captures the changes in energy during deposition.
Figure 2.3.1c links depositional environments to GR response. The GR response measures the level
of natural gamma ray activity in the rock formation. Shale has a high GR response, while sands have
low responses.
Coarsening upward sequence: Deltaic environment

Funnel Shape

Finning upward sequence: Fluvial Channel

Bell Shape

Figure 2.3.1d Outcrops of two different depositional environment and their GR log shapes.


Figure 2.3.1c Depositional Environments, sand distribution and GR log response

Reservoir Structures

As discussed in earlier chapter (Exploration), the earths crust is part of a dynamic system and
A funnel shaped GR log is often indicative of a deltaic environment whereby clastic, increasingly
coarse sedimentation follows deposition of marine clays. Bell shaped GR logs often represent a
channel environment where a fining upwards sequence reflects decreasing energy across the

movements within the crust are accommodated partly by rock deformation. Like any other material
rocks may react to stress with an elastic, ductile or brittle response, as described in the stress-strain
diagram in Figure 2.3.2a.

vertical channel profile.

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yield point


Figure 2.3.2b Types of faulting

Figure 2.3.2a The stress - strain diagram for a reservoir rock

A secondary feature is the development of rollover anticlines which form as a result of the
downward movement close to the fault plane which decreases with increasing distance from the

It is rare that we are able to observe elastic deformations (which occur for instance during

plane. Rollover anticlines may trap considerable amounts of hydrocarbons.

earthquakes) since by definition an elastic deformation does not leave any record. However, many
subsurface or features are related to the other two modes of deformation. The composition of the

Growth faulted deltaic areas are highly prospective since they comprise of thick sections of good

material, confining pressure, rate of deformation and temperature determine which type of

quality reservoir sands.

deformation will be initiated.

structures on maturation. Examples are the Niger, Baram or Mississippi Deltas. Clays, deposited

Deltas usually overlay organic rich marine clays which can source the

within deltaic sequences may restrict the water expulsion during the rapid sedimentation / compaction.
If a rock is sufficiently stressed, the yield point will eventually be reached. If a brittle failure is initiated

This can lead to the generation of overpressures.

a plane of failure will develop which we describe as a fault. Figure 2.3.2b shows the terminology used
to describe normal, reverse and strike-slip or wrench faults.

Since faults are zones of inherent weakness they may be reactivated over geologic time. Usually,
faulting occurs well after the sediments have been deposited. An exception to this is a growth faults
(also termed syn-sedimentary faults) shown in Figure 2.3.2c. They are extensional structures and
can frequently be observed on seismic sections through deltaic sequences. The fault plane is curved
and in a three dimensional view has the shape of a spoon. This type of plane is called listric. Growth
faults can be visualized as submarine landslides caused by rapid deposition of large quantities of
water-saturated sediments and subsequent slope failure. The process is continuous and concurrent
with sediment supply; hence the sediment thickness on the downthrown (continuously downward
moving) block is expanded compared to the up thrown block.

Figure 2.3.2c Geometry of growth faulting and resulting anticline (rollover)

Faults may extend over several hundreds of kilometres or may be restricted to the deformation of
individual grains. They create vast potential traps for the accumulation of oil and gas. However, they
also very often dissect reservoirs and seal fluid and pressures in numerous individual compartments.
Each of these isolated blocks may require individual dedicated wells for production and injection.
Reservoir compartmentalization through small scale faulting can thus severely downgrade the
profitability of a field under development. In the worst case faulting is not detected until development

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execution is in an advanced stage. Early 3D seismic surveys will help to obtain a realistic assessment

pressures at a very small rate, thus effectively act as seal on a production time scale of only a

of fault density and possibly indicate the sealing potential of individual faults. However, small scale

couple of years. As a result, the simulation of reservoir behaviour in densely faulted fields is difficult

faults with a displacement (throw) of less than some 10m are not detectable using seismic alone.

and predictions should be regarded as crude approximations only.

Geostatistical techniques can then be then used to predict their density and direction.
Fault seals known to have been ruptured by excessive differential pressures created by production
Four mechanisms have been suggested to explain how faults provide seals. The most frequent case

operations, e.g. If the hydrocarbons of one block are produced while the next block is kept at original

is that of clay smear and juxtaposition (Fig. 2.3.2d)

pressure. Uncontrolled cross flow and inter-reservoir communication may be the result.

Whereas faults displace formerly connected lithologic units, fractures do not show appreciable
displacement. They also represent planes of brittle failure and affect hard or competent lithologies
rather than ductile or incompetent rocks such as claystone. Frequently fractures are oriented normal
to bedding planes (Fig. 2.3.2e).

Figure 2.3.2e Fractures in carbonate rocks

Carbonate rocks are more frequently fractured than sandstone. In many cases open fractures in
carbonate reservoirs provide high porosity / high permeability pathways for hydrocarbon production.
The fractures will be continuously re-charged from the tight (low permeable) rock matrix. During field
Figure 2.3.2d Fault seal as a result of clay smear and juxtaposition

development wells need to be planned to intersect natural fractures as possible, e.g. By drilling
horizontal wells.

Clays smear: soft clay, often of marine origin, is smeared into the fault plane during
movement and provides an effective seal.

Fractures in igneous (such as granite or diorite) and metamorphic rocks can create a very good

Juxtaposition: soft faulting has resulted in an impermeable rock juxtaposed against a

porosity and permeability in otherwise a very poor porosity rocks.

reservoir rock.

metamorphic rocks could be a good reservoir rocks. Figure 2.3.2f shows example of highly fractured

Other, less frequent fault seals are created by:

igneous rock that could be a reservoir rock. Some of our oil in Vietnam is produced from fractured

Digenetic Healing: late precipitation of minerals on or near the fault plane has created

granite reservoir.

Cataclasis: the fault movement has destroyed the rock matrix close to the fault plane.

Thus fractured igneous and

sealing surface (see diagenesis for more detail).

Individual quartz grains have been destroyed creating a seal comprising of rock flour.

In many cases faults will only restrict fluid flow, or they may be open i.e. Non-sealing. Despite
considerable efforts to predict the probability of fault sealing potential a reliable method to do so has
not yet emerged. Fault seal modelling is further complicated by the fact some faults may leak fluids or

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The term diagenesis describes all chemical and physical processes affecting sediment after
deposition. Processes related to sub-aerial weathering and those which happen under very high
pressure and temperatures are excluded from this category. The latter are grouped under the term
metamorphosis. Diagenesis will alter the geometry and chemistry of the pore space as well as the
composition of the rock. Many of these changes are controlled by the oxidizing potential (eH) and the
acidity/alkalinity (pH) of the pore-water which circulates through the formation. Consequently, the
migration of hydrocarbons and the displacement of water out of the pore system may end or at least
retard diagenetic processes.

Diagenesis will either increase or decrease porosity and permeability and cause a marked change of
reservoir compared to an unaltered sequence.

The diagenetic processes relevant to field

development are compaction, cementation, dissolution and replacement.

Compaction occurs when continuous sedimentation results in an increase of overburden which

expels pore water from a sediment package. Pore space will be reduced and the grains will become
Figure 2.3.2f A highly fractured and weathered igneous rock (diorite) can be a good reservoir rock

packed more tightly together. Compaction is particularly severe in clays which have an extremely
high porosity of some 80% when freshly deposited.

Folds are features related to compressional, ductile deformation (Figure 2.3.2g). They form some of
the largest reservoir structures known on earth. A fold pair consists of anticline and syncline.

In rare cases compaction may be artificially initiated by the withdrawal of oil, gas or water from the
reservoir. The pressure exerted by the overburden may actually help production by squeezing out
the hydrocarbons. This process is known as compaction drive and some shallow accumulations in
Venezuela are produced in this manner in combination with EOR schemes like steam injection.

If compaction occurs as a result of production, careful monitoring is required. The Ekofisk Field in the
Norwegian North Sea made headlines when, as a result of hydrocarbon production, the pores of the
fine- grained carbonate reservoir collapsed and the platforms on the seabed started to sink. The
situation was later remedied by inserting steel sections into the platform legs. Compaction effects are
also an issue in the Groningen field in Holland where subsidence in the order of one meter is
expected at the surface.
Figure 2.3.2g Fold terminology

Compaction reduces porosity and permeability. A mentioned earlier during the introduction of growth
faults; if the expulsion of pore water is prevented overpressures may develop.

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Cementation describes the gluing together of components. The glue often consists of material
like quartz or various carbonate minerals. They may be introduced to the system by either percolating
pore water and / or by precipitation of minerals as a result of changes in pressure and temperature.
Compaction may for instance lead to quartz dissolution at the contact point of individual grains where
pressure is highest. In areas of slightly lower pressure, e.g. space between the pores, precipitation of
quartz may result (Figure 2.3.3a).

Figure 2.3.3b Relative chemical stability of carbonate minerals

Rainwater for instance will pick up atmospheric CO2 and react with calcium carbonate (limestone) to
form a soluble substance, calcium bicarbonate. This reaction gives water its natural hardness
Figure 2.3.3a Destruction of porosity by cementation

CaCO3 + H2O + CO2 -----> Ca(HCO3)2

This kind of pressure solution / precipitation is active over prolonged periods of time and may almost
totally destroy the original porosity. Precipitation of material may also occur in a similar way on the
surface of fault planes thus creating an effective seal via a process introduced earlier as diagenetic

Surface water is usually undersaturated in calcium ions (Ca2+). Where (even saturated) surface water
mixes with sea water, mixing zone corrosion will dissolve calcium carbonate. Evidence of this
occurring may be seen on islands.


Dissolution and replacement. Some minerals, in particular carbonates are not chemically stable
over a range of pressures, temperatures and pH. Therefore there will be a tendency over geologic
time to change to a more stable variety as shown in Figure 2.3.3b.

The dissolution of carbonates can create spectacular features like the Niah and Mulu caves. The
process is termed karstification. Some reservoirs are related to Karst. Examples are the Bohai Bay
Field in China or the Nang Nuan discovery in the Gulf of Thailand. These reservoirs are characterized
by high initial production from the large open system.

However, since the Karst features are connected down dip to the water leg this is usually followed by
rapid and substantial water breakthrough.
A further important reaction is the replacement of the Ca2+ ion in calcium carbonate by a magnesium

The latter is smaller, hence space or porosity is created in the mineral lattice by the

replacement. The resulting mineral is dolomite and the increase in effective porosity can be as high
as 13%. The process can be expressed as

2 CaCO3 + Mg2+ ------> CaMg(CaCO3)2 + Ca2+

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The magnesium ion is made available by migrating pore waters. If the process is continuous geologic
time scale more and more Mg2+ is introduced to the system and the porosity reduces again. The rock
has been over-dolomitize.

Figure 2.3.3c shows the complete reversal of reservoir properties in a typical Luconia reef as result of
severe diagenetic overprint. Note that the rock type with the best initial reservoir potential has been
changed to a marginal reservoir.

Quality rating

Physical parameters
(expected range)
Perm. (mD)
log(%BV )

Main lithology



Sucrosic Dolomite





Secondary limestone outside

zone of intensive early



Non reservoir

Argillaceous limestone affected

by pressure solution

Figure 2.3.3c Diagenesis in a reef (Luconia gas province)

Carbonate reservoirs are usually affected to varying degree by diagenesis. However the process of
dissolution and replacement is not limited to carbonates. Feldspar for instance is another family of
minerals prone to early alterations.

During drilling and production operations the chemical equilibrium in the reservoir pore system may be
disturbed. This is particularly true if drilling mud or injection water enter the formation. The resulting
reaction can lead to the precipitation of minerals around the borehole or in the reservoir and may
severely damage productivity.

The compatibility of formation water with fluids introduced during

drilling and production therefore has to be investigated at an early stage.

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