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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist

B. Subsurface Mapping

B.1. Lateral Correlation of Logged Data

Using Data Points to Define Surfaces

Regional groups of well logs display distinctive thin sequences, key beds, and similar
curve configurations or kicks which are commonly called "correlation points".
Examination of cuttings and wireline curves at the same depths may or may not
satisfactorily account for the genesis of all these markers. Some of them cover only a
few hundred acres, while others can be recognized over hundreds or thousands of
square miles. Some markers are confined to linear trends, some are disposed in
roundish patches, and some are in sinuous belts. As more wells are drilled in a
province, the areal patterns of these markers become better known and inferences
about their origins are better justified.

The most significant markers

for the subsurface geologist
are those recognizable over
large portions of a petroleum
province. In the United States
Gulf Coast, for example,
marine transgressions are
typically abrupt. Sharp
vertical stratigraphic changes
are excellent regional
markers and are situated
immediately above extensive
transgressive sands, which
usually have good reservoir
potential ( Figure 1 ). A
specific example of these
widespread thin neritic shale
markers is the Bolivina perca
marker ( Figure 2 ), which can
Figure 1. be recognized extensively in
the Gulf Coast. Some
geologists claim it can be
recognized from South Texas
to South Louisiana.

Each vertical change displayed on logs

may be conceived from either an
empirical or theoretical viewpoint. The
logged change is seen either as a
boundary of a mass of strata containing
some property in common or as a tangible
trace of an abstract geological event, such
as the end of deposition of a genetic

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Figure 2.
Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist
increment. In either case the subsurface geologist takes the logged point as
belonging to a set of points that generate a surface. He calls it a rock-stratigraphic, or
more simply a lithologic, surface if he is thinking of a lithologic boundary. If he is
thinking of a basin-wide surface separating older from younger beds, he calls it a
timestratigraphic, time-lithologic, or most simply a time-rock surface.

Figure 3. Figure 4.

It follows from basic principles ( Figure 3 ), that a given time-rock surface is most
unlikely to be marked by identical logged markers throughout a depositional basin.
Lithofacies and biofacies shift laterally in space through time. As a consequence of
overlap, facies surfaces tend to step-up or step-down across a province with respect
to time-rock surfaces. For example, in the case of transgressive overlap (onlap) the
paralic facies is said to "climb the section landward," and in regressive overlap
(offlap) the paralic facies climbs seaward, as in Figure 4 (Schematic and idealized
diagram showing vertical and lateral relationships between three principal
depositional environments in Gulf Coast geosyncline) . The obliquity of facies and
time-rock surfaces assures that basin-wide correlation of time-rock surfaces in
general results in the connection of markers in one portion of a basin to dissimilar
ones in another portion. In some provinces extending a time-rock surface all over the
province involves maintaining parallel relations among many overlapping local
depositional events, or time-rock surfaces.

Using Surfaces to Delimit Units

It is clear to the subsurface geologist that operationally, log markers come first, that
the marker points generate surfaces, and that the surfaces, in turn, delimit or enclose
units. These units may be of three categories: rock units such as members,
formations, or groups; biostratigraphic zones; or time-rock units such as stages and
series; or any arbitrarily chosen subdivision of the above. The point here is that in
subsurface practice, a stratigraphic unit is a second-order entity defined by two
measured and named first-order stratigraphic surfaces. On the other hand, according
to traditional stratigraphic usage the unit is the first-order concept, and it receives
the stratigraphic name. Consequently, surfaces separating contiguous units always
have two designations: each is at once the top of one unit and the bottom of another.

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist
The subsurface geologist feels no
compulsion always to follow tradition by
employing names such as "top of the
lower middle X Stage." He or she may
name a mapping surface by a single
letter or numeral. Figure 1 illustrates the
use of marker-defined units named for
paleontological species. Reservoirs in
multi-pay fields are usually given
alphabetic or numeric designations,
although usage is not consistent; in
some cases the symbols are applied to
thickness units, in other cases to the
surfaces which delimit the thickness
units. The practice of storing digitized
subsurface data, however, has notably
standardized and improved the internal
Figure 1.
logic of stratigraphic nomenclature, and
the trend seems to be towards
acknowledging the primacy of the surface in stratigraphy. Thus a great variety of
stratigraphic units can be made to order for various purposes, each unambiguously
defined and precisely measured. It should be noted, however, that subsurface
stratigraphy is practiced in each province separately. The network of well log
correlations is internal to a province, and inter-provincial temporal correlations must
still be made with the aid of traditional paleontological inferences.

Contour Mapping

The time-consuming task of gathering subsurface information and interpreting it

leads to the contour map, the subsurface geologist's most valuable tool. It is more
than a device for displaying and relating borehole information in plan; it is a vehicle
by which knowledge is extended beyond and below control wells. Subsurface contour
mapping is exploring.

The map view of the subsurface complements the profile view given by a geological
cross section. The cross section can display a full range of vertical relationships but
cannot deal with lateral relationships apart from a single line of profile. A contour
map, however, can tie together many cross sections and can impart strikes or trends
to a large and varied body of borehole data. The essence of planned exploration is
recognizing promising trends and following them.

A contour line is the locus of holes or points in which a certain quantity is observed
to-or is presumed to-have the same value. It is an isoline or isopleth, a line of equal
value. An astonishing number of different kinds of subsurface quantities can be
contoured. The most important are: elevation of a surface (topographic, lithologic,
timelithologic, faunal, pressure, temperature, potential, etc.); thickness of an interval
bounded by surfaces; porosity or permeability of an interval; concentration gradients
of ground waters; gravity of hydrocarbon fluids; fluid production rates; and lithofacies
ratios or percentages.

The problem in drawing contour lines within arrays of boreholes (called control
points) is how to space them: that is, how to interpolate and extrapolate between,
beyond, and below control. Only within oil or gas fields do control points provide more
or less uniform samples of data, by area, elsewhere wells are scattered irregularly,

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist
and lateral rates of change of the contoured quantity must be inferred, perhaps from
knowledge of surface topography, dips, or drainage patterns, perhaps from
geophysical patterns, or perhaps from depositional models. Obviously where there is
an average of only two or three boreholes per township, right and wrong can have no
meaning with respect to contour patterns.

Mechanical & Interpretive Contouring

Computer programs are available for contouring well information stored in digital
form. For the most part, these schemes interpolate contours uniformly between
control points. Some exploration geologists believe that this style of contouring has
much to recommend it. Of course, nobody supposes that strictly linear slopes
between control wells are correct anywhere. In the first place, each of the control
wells was itself drilled at a place where a petroleum field was suspected; and
petroleum accumulations are anomalous features marked by, indeed generated by,
nonlinear conditions. The rationale for mechanical spacing of contours is not that it is
realistic but that it is done without prejudice. The equal-spacing-between-control-
points school desires primarily to discover valid prospects for drilling. A prospect
revealed by an unbiased mechanical contouring method is probably a real anomaly,
and all the more so if coincident anomalies are displayed on contour maps of several
different subsurface quantities.

Mechanical contouring has many pitfalls, to be sure. It is costly to set up and to

operate. Input data must be carefully checked by subsurface geologists. Mechanical
contouring tends to suppress small structural features which could be prospective,
and it may result in unrealistically large features. These pitfalls can be partly
overcome by using computer programs that instruct the plotter to contour the trend
surfaces and the small features (residuals) separately. The same subsurface data
may be contoured in different styles. In Figure 1 a data set is interpreted as a large
anticlinal feature, while in Figure 2 it is interpreted in terms of several transverse
high-angle faults and fairly uniform south dip. Assume that a good reservoir sand
blankets the area at the marker level and that some of the wells produce oil and gas
from this sand. The hydrocarbon saturations permit a judgement as to which
structural picture is true to more facts. The large mechanically contoured feature
seems on that evidence to be unlikely because (a) in the northern part of the area oil
is being produced at the same level as a dry hole to the northwest and higher than a
gas well to the southwest, and (b) in the southern part of the area a dry hole is level
with a gas well. The picture of several separate fields on different fault blocks is more

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist

Figure 2.
Figure 1.

Interpretive contouring is preferable to mechanical contouring for display, for

recommendations to lease or to drill, and for any presentations to management. The
interpretation should not conflict with the geological model that has been adopted for
the mapping project. It must honor all data, which will have been evaluated carefully
for accuracy and weighted accordingly. Generally the simplest interpretation that fits
the data is the best.

The best way to learn about the variety of possible types of subsurface maps is a
case method: examining selected published maps to see what subsurface problems
they were devised to solve and how well they succeeded.

B.2. Structural Contour Maps

Structural Contour Maps

The great bulk of subsurface mapping is structural contouring, in which the

configuration of a marker surface (which may or may not be a time-rock surface) is
expressed in terms of elevation with respect to a horizontal surface, normally sea
level. First the marker is identified in each well log. Next the effect of topographic
altitude is removed by
subtracting the elevation of the
derrick floor (D.F.) or the Kelly
bushing (K.B.)-the usual zero
points of well logs-from the
logged depth of the marker (
Figure 1 ). Except in High Plains
and Rocky Mountains provinces
(where altitudes are several
thousands of feet), significant
marker elevations in the United
States are minus values (i.e.,
below sea level) after reduction.
These are called "subsea

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Figure 1.
Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist

Adequacy of Contours for Depicting Structure

Structural contour maps alone are sufficient to depict the structure of many
petroleum provinces. Except for its salt domes and diapiric shale plugs, the Gulf
coastal plain has relatively simple structure, with low-relief folds associated with
oblique normal faults. The successive stages of folding in the Tom O'Connor field and
their influence on oil accumulation are adequately depicted without resorting to cross
sections ( Figure 1 , Figure 2 , Figure 3 and Figure 4 ). A rule of thumb is that
geological regions in which subsidence is the predominant motion of the basement
can usually be described by contour mapping alone.

Figure 1. Figure 2.

Figure 3. Figure 4.

On the other hand, regions in which basement blocks have been differentially uplifted
may contain structure so intense or complex that profiles together with maps are
necessary to depict it. Figure 5 alone is not a sufficient description of the trapping of

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist
petroleum in the Brentwood field, California. It must be supplemented by a cross
section, which illuminates the high-angle faulting and the truncation and sealing of
the Martinez producing sand by a channel subsequently filled with Meganos Shale.

Figure 6.
Figure 5.

In belts of low-angle overthrusts, structural contours are wholly inadequate to

describe the structure of a marker, except in local spots such as the Painter Reservoir
field proper ( Figure 6 , as of March 1979), southwestern Wyoming. Figure 7 indicates
in profile the impossibility of expressing the regional configuration of the Nugget
Sandstone by structural contours, where the Nugget is repeated two or more times as
thrust slices are stacked vertically. The study of systems of thrusts is at the forefront
of research in structural geology. Boyer et al. (1982) have classified thrust systems
into two general groups: imbricate fans and duplexes ( Figure 8 ). Major reserves in
the western overthrust belt of North America have spurred seismic surveying and
drilling, and the use of the dipmeter has helped to tie data from these two sources

In overthrust belts, each major slice

requires its own contour map.
Because of steeply plunging
anticlines, abrupt changes in axial
direction, minor thrusting, and
recumbent folding, sets of isometric
block diagrams are probably the best
way to illustrate the structural
complex as a whole.

Figure 7.

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist

Figure 8.

Detecting Faults

Most computer programs for structural contouring are not able to deal satisfactorily
with faulting without special handling by the geologist. Faulting is indicated on a
structural contour map at prospect scale by changes in both dip and strike of a
marker surface together with abrupt changes in depth to the marker. In the case of
faulting contemporaneous with deposition, there may be additional differences in
thicknesses of stratigraphic intervals, either due to additional deposition on
downthrown blocks, erosion of upthrown blocks, or both. If faulted and unfaulted well
logs are both available, comparison may reveal sections missing by normal faulting (
Figure 1 ) and sections repeated by reverse faulting ( Figure 2 ). But as a suitable
unfaulted log may be unavailable and as correlations often are uncertain near faults,
examination of borehole-scale changes in dip are helpful in identifying or confirming
the fault surface.

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist

Figure 1. Figure 2.

Abrupt increases and decreases in dip angle ( Figure 3 , Figure 4 , and Figure 5 )
commonly mark the place where a borehole crosses an oblique fault. The type of
fault may be inferred from the dip direction as indicated by the azimuths or bearings
of the "tails" of the dipmeter symbols. For example, Figure 3 shows that a
contemporaneous normal or growth fault has many dips towards the fault surface in
the downthrown block, while dip in the upthrown block is uniformly away from the
fault. Figure 4 shows that dip directions in the downthrown block of a normal fault in a
consolidated sequence exhibiting drag are generally away from the fault surface. In
the case of a reverse fault with drag ( Figure 5 ) dip direction is the same throughout,
while the dip angle increases sharply, then decreases sharply as the borehole passes
through the fault zone.

Figure 3. Figure 4.

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist

Figure 5. Figure 6.

Figure 7. Figure 8.

Fault zones in brittle rocks commonly display symptoms of increased shear strain as
the borehole approaches the fault surface. The shear zone enclosing a fault surface
may be marked by increases in fracture porosity and permeability, as indicated by
sonic logs, density logs, or dipmeter logs; oil or gas saturation, detectable by mud
logs; concentrations of uranium-bearing minerals, shown by alpha and gamma
radiation; mud gas kicks or loss of drilling mud, registered on mud logs; and other
symptoms. Shear zones of currently active faults may be marked by abrupt changes
in temperature gradient, including inversions of temperature, resulting from dilatant
expression of deeper fluids upward in fault zones, as at Rhourde el Baguel ( Figure 6 ,
Figure 7 and Figure 8 ), a horst field in Algeria.

Vertical Faults


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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist

Nomograms Used in Mapping Oblique Normal Faults

Typically, in the Paleozoic provinces of interior North America and in other cratonic
regions, the presence of faults in the subsurface is not directly evident, but must be
inferred from such evidence as steep dips, abrupt changes in strike, or geophysical
indications of faulting. As a rule, these fault surfaces are not intersected by boreholes
because they are vertical or nearly so. Vertical faults appear on structural contour
maps as linear traces which do not shift laterally with depth, and a 100 ft fault trace
looks the same as a 1000 ft fault trace. Strictly vertical faults, of course, cannot be
placed in a normal or a reverse category, and it is often a question of whether the
high block went up or the low block down.

Figure 1.
Figure 2.

Provinces in which the basement subsides continually (such as the northwestern Gulf
of Mexico region) contain oblique normal faults. These faults present no difficulty in
deciding which block went down but present two routine problems in subsurface
mapping because of their obliquity: depiction of fault breadth or cut-out, and
depiction of lateral step-out. Please refer to Figure 2 (the key for Figure 1). This
diagram illustrates an ideal oblique normal fault in cross section. The marker surface
being mapped is displaced from A to C along the fault; it is "cut out" or "faulted out."
In plan or map view the breadth of the cut-out belt (BC) is a function of the dip of the
fault plane and the displacement of the fault. Cutout belts are depicted as blank
strips containing no structural contours. What the subsurface geologist calls "fault
displacement" or "vertical throw" or "cut-out" is essentially the vertical component of
the net slip (AB in Figure 1 ). This quantity is readily measured with well logs.
Correlate a log suspected to be faulted with a nearby unfaulted log. The measured
locus of shortening is where the borehole intersected the fault, and the quantity of
shortening is AB, vertical cut-out. Two possibilities that could give rise to a less-than-
true value of vertical cut-out are: stratigraphic expansion (i.e., depositional
thickening) in the hanging block, and steep dips (i.e., rollover) in the hanging block.

On Nomogram I find the vertical cut-out (AB) on the vertical axis. From that point, a
line parallel to the fault dip intercepts the horizontal axis at a value which is the
horizontal component of net slip, or BC, or breadth of fault cut-out.

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist
In order to draw a fault cut-out belt in its proper lateral relation to faulted boreholes,
use Nomogram Il, which depicts for three fault dip values the rate of lateral step-out
(YA in Figure 1 ) in relation to depth difference between fault intersection and marker
intersection (XY in Figure 1 ). In a well cut by a 55 fault, for each 1000 ft of depth
difference between the fault and the contoured marker, the edge of the cut-out belt
steps out horizontally 700 ft from the well. Determine XY from the log of a faulted
well and apply the appropriate rate of step-out to obtain the value YA for use in
drawing the structural contour map of the

Reverse Faults


Mapping Unconformities

Unconformities are structural surfaces, and all the beds above an unconformity are
everywhere younger than any of the beds below. Every unconformity, of course, has
a conformable sequence contemporaneous with it somewhere downdip. It is possible
to make a set of paleogeomorphic maps showing the erosional and the depositional
terranes at successive points in time.

In some situations a major unconformity may be a desirable surface for contour

mapping. The significance of unconformities as avenues of secondary migration of
petroleum and as governing traps and seals for reservoirs is well-known. As well
control increases, regional unconformities are likely to appear more complex than
they seemed at first. Careful study of logs may reveal a converging of several
unconformities, with successively younger erosion surfaces truncating older ones in
the direction of regional positive areas. To determine where the products of each
erosional pulse were deposited as potential reservoir beds, give each unconformity a
sequential number and make separate paleogeomorphic maps of each erosional-
depositional surface.

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist

Figure 1.

Figure 2.

Dipmeter logs may reveal angular unconformities. Figure 1 (Northern Algeria)

illustrates two unconformities not indicated by other data. The lower unconformity
separates beds dipping 20 to 30 from an overlying sequence dipping about 10.
Immediately above the upper unconformity, beds dip very steeply, probably due to
filling of hollows on the erosional surface by the earliest post-unconformity sediment.
Angular unconformity is evident in Figure 2 (Louisiana) , where deterioration of the
underlying beds by weathering shows up as a group of dips whose azimuth is
approximately constant, but whose angle decreases with depth below the

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist
Exercise 1.

Could the subsurface geologist use electric logs in correlating (a) Cenozoic units
between coastal Texas and coastal California?

Solution 1:

Definitely no. The principle here is that electric log correlations are intraprovincial
only; areas in which deposition was contemporaneous but not in-terconnected can be
correlated stratigraphically only in respect to their fossil content. If the two areas
were interconnected during deposition, however, electric-log correlation remains a
possibility to be tried.

Exercise 2.

What are the subsea depths of Markers X, Y, and Z on Figure 1 ?

Figure 1.

Solution 2.

2873' Log depth Mkr X

- 1085' D.F.

- 1788' Subsea depth Mkr X

4120' Log depth Mkr Y

- 1085' D.F.

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist
- 3035' Subsea depth Mkr Y

6411' log depth Mkr Z

- 1085' D.F.

- 5326' Subsea depth Mkr Z

Exercise 3.

Draw a structural contour map of marker surface P, using the subsurface data on
subsea depths of markers, subsea depths of fault intersections, and magnitudes of
fault cut-outs. Assume fault surfaces dip 55 and use a contour interval of 100 ft.
( Figure 1 and Figure 2 ).

Figure 1.

Figure 2.

B.3. Isopach & Other Subsurface Maps

Isopachs of Time-Rock Intervals

The second most common type of subsurface map, after the structured contour map,
records the vertical distance between two horizontal surfaces. A contour is an
isopach line, a line of equal (Greek iso) thickness (Greek pachys). Isopach maps are
highly versatile devices. They must be distinguished from isochores. Figure 1 shows
the difference between these concepts. An isopach value, a, is the thickness of a
horizontal stratigraphic unit measured in a vertical hole. An iso-chore value, b, is the
thickness of an inclined unit measured in a vertical hole and not corrected for dip
(i.e., deviation of strata from horizontal). Again, an iso-chore value, b', is the
thickness of an inclined unit measured in a non-vertical hole and corrected for
deviation of the hole from vertical but not corrected for dip.

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist

Figure 1. Figure 2.

The isopach map shown in Figure 2 , which covers some 1200 square miles (3100
square km) of the Powder River basin. In this case, the upper surface of the thickness
interval is a bentonite marker and the lower surface is a regional unconformity at the
base of the productive Muddy Sandstone. This unconformity is marked by river
channels incised into the underlying Skull Creek Shale during a post-Skull Creek
episode of uplift. It is apparent that Figure 2 does display the structure of the buried
unconformity during the deposition of the bentonite marker; but it is also apparent,
from the relatively slight local deformation of the bentonite ( Figure 3 , structure of
bentonite marker bed, showing general homoclinal westward tilt into Powder River
basin. Contour intervals, 100 ft and 500 ft), that the structure of the surface of
unconformity is largely topographic rather than tectonic. Hence, Figure 2 is to be
taken as a paleotopographic map and is a useful indicator of the depositional trends
of Muddy Sandstone.

Figure 3. Figure 4.

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist

Figure 5. Figure 6.

In the case of Pennsylvanian Cherokee sands in Kansas, the base of the isopach
interval is an unconformity ( Figure 5 , Map, attitude of the top of the Mississippian
formation. Datum sea level. Contour interval is 25 ft. Depicts the bedrock
paleotopography of a former land surface now buried 4400 ft deep, as modified by
tilting and by later folding including post-Cretaceous folding) and the top is the Fort
Scott Limestone ( Figure 4 ), deposited horizontally but subsequently locally folded
and regionally tilted. By contouring the interval between these surfaces, the effect of
post-Pennsylvanian deformation is eliminated, and the isopach map ( Figure 6 , Note
the association of oil wells producing from Cherokee sandstones (large filled circles)
with the buried paleo valley system delineated by the 125 ft thickness contour lines)
depicts a buried paleo valley system. Figure 7 displays three Cherokee sand
reservoirs deposited by rivers flowing in this ancient valley.

Figure 7.

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist

Isopachs of Rock (Lithologic) Units

In addition to representing time-rock units, thickness maps also lend themselves to

the depiction of the volume of productive reservoirs ( Figure 1 ) or of simply-shaped
masses of relatively uniform lithology. Figure 2 and Figure 3 illustrate a productive
deltaic sand body in the Marchand trend of the Anadarko basin of western Oklahoma.
Here the delta front sand body depicted by the isopach map is virtually coexistent
with the oil reservoir. Figure 4 shows the thickness of the "reef" limestone facies of
the Permian Horseshoe atoll in west Texas. Thickest areas mark the crest of the atoll
whose pinnacles are now producing petroleum.

Figure 1.

Figure 2.

Figure 3. Figure 4.

Isolith Maps

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist
Commonly important stratigraphic traps consist of multiple thin bodies of a particular
rock type, and it is desirable to illustrate, in map form, the trends and areas of such
composite fields. Figure 1 shows typical logged sequences of potentially productive
granite wash beds in the Palo Duro basin, Texas Panhandle. Figure 2 (Source area was
Precambrian basement exposed in Matador arch fault block) shows the thickness and
extent of a single productive granite wash lobe. It is a true isopach map. Figure 3 is
an isolith map, which depicts the net thickness of all granite wash beds in the lower
Pennsylvanian section in the Palo Duro basin. These isolith patterns indicate
thickness of megafacies units, not time-rock units, and may be useful in planning
exploration strategies

Figure 1. Figure 2.

Figure 3.

Compound Maps

Figure 1 illustrates, by contours and areal patterns, the changes in thickness and in
the ratio of sand to shale across the Rocky Mountains region during the deposition of
Upper Cretaceous rocks. It is a matter of opinion whether such summary maps of

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist
large regions and thick sequences are useful in practice. One school of thought
foresees possibly serendipitous consequences from the melding of many sets of
stratigraphic measurements on one map. On the other hand, others point out that
since facts are unable to reveal their own meanings, geologists should impose clear
meanings on sets of measurements deemed worthy of publication.

Figure 1.

Subcrop Maps

Subcrop maps are important in depicting large fields associated with unconformities.
Figure 1 shows the giant Oklahoma City field with its pattern of truncated productive
pre-Pennsylvanian units visible directly beneath the basal Pennsylvanian

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist

Figure 1.

Figure 2.

In Algeria, there is long-range migration of oil from subcropping Silurian source shales
to Cambro-Ordovician fields beneath the unconformity, such as the super-giant, Hassi
Messaoud ( Figure 2 ). If your intention is to emphasize the pattern of lateral
variations of stratigraphic units beneath an unconformity, construct a subcrop map (
Figure 3 ). If emphasis is to be placed on lateral variations of stratigraphic units lying
upon a surface of unconformity, draw a worm's eye map, in which a lithofacies
pattern is seen from below.

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist

Figure 3.

Miscellaneous Maps

Figure 1 , Figure 2 , and Figure 3 illustrate two less common types of subsurface
maps. Figure 1 is a profile of wells across Rhourde el Baguel field, Algeria.
Temperatures of fluids recovered in successions of open-hole drillstem tests show
that the Cambrian reservoir contains hot streaks resulting from water and petroleum
fluids actively invading the reservoir from Silurian source shales, which are being
thermally dehydrated currently in contiguous down-thrown blocks. The complex
configuration of the 100C isotherm cannot be depicted satisfactorily by contour lines
because of local inversions in the sequence of isotherms. Accordingly, the warm and
cool spots must be generalized in plan by colored or patterned areas ( Figure 2 ,
Dashed line indicates line of section in Figure 1 ).

Figure 1. Figure 2.

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist

Figure 3.

The cool spots appear to be genetically connected with areas of high Productivity
index ( Figure 3 ). P.I. is the ratio of the volume of petroleum produced during an
interval of time to the accompanying drop in reservoir pressure. It is likely that the
cool spots on Figure 2 are associated with downward legs of convective cells within
the reservoir. Production from wells in cool spots benefits from gravity flow, while
production from wells in warm spots dissipates some of the heat which drives
convective circulation within the reservoir. A cool spot is analogous to a floor-level
duct in a hot-air heating system, which takes in heavier cooler air and returns it to
the furnace for re-heating and subsequent dissipation of this added heat through the
building. Convective systems would not be active at all today if fresh heat were not
continually being fed into the reservoir along its flanks by the operation of a non-
convective process of fluid mass transport. The result of producing convecting fluids
is greater drops in pressure, and hence lower P.I. values, in warm areas than in cool

Figure 4. Figure 5.

There are many other types of maps which can usefully summarize or relate special
categories of subsurface data. Sometimes informal units are of real value in planning

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist
the most profitable and efficient exploitation of a field. For example, Figure 4 and
Figure 5 show contoured quantities called "hydrocarbon-feet" and "permeability-feet."
The former is the summation of porosity times hydrocarbon-saturated values
computed at 6-inch intervals. The contours in Figure 4 represent feet of 100%
hydrocarbon saturation. Contours on the "permeability-feet" map ( Figure 5 )
represent the sum of permeabilities computed at 6-inch intervals. Such composite
maps are said (Holland et al., 1976) to permit a degree of predictability of production
rates for each well which would not be possible using only the conventional net gas
isopach map ( Figure 6 ). This type of work is mostly done by production geologists.

Figure 6.

Exercise 1.

A.) Figure 1 and Figure 2 are a subcrop map of Algerian Paleozoic units beneath a
sub-Mesozoic unconformity. Does this subcrop pattern indicate Pre-Mesozoic uplift?
What is the evidence?

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist

Figure 1.

Figure 2.

B.) Given that the principal period of structural trap formation in eastern Algeria was
Cretaceous in age (Austrian orogeny), and given that the source of petroleum is
Silurian shale, are the following statements true or false: Most of the petroleum in the
eastern Algerian Sahara did not migrate from its source rock until Cretaceous or later
time. True or False?

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist
Long-distance secondary migration is evident in this province. True or False?

Solution 1:

A.) Yes. The Pre-Mesozoic uplift is proved by the fact that older strata are exposed in
the cores of local high features, which accordingly must have been uplifted before
Mesozoic strata were deposited on the regional unconformity.

B.) Both statements are true.

Exercise 2.

How can an isopach map be construed as a structure map?

Solution 2:

Assuming initial horizontality ( Figure 1 ), a thickness map can be seen as depicting

the buried structure of the older or lower surface of a unit at the time the younger or
upper surface was being deposited.

Figure 1.

Exercise 3.

Using the following rough areal values, compute the approximate volume of oil-
saturated sand sketched in Figure 1 .

Mean areas of oil saturation

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist
From OWC to 10' above OWC-1000 acres

From 10' to 20' above OWC-850 acres

From 20' to 30' above OWC-700 acres
From 30' to 40' above OWC-550 acres

Figure 1.

Solution 3:

31,000 acre-feet.


Andrichuk, John M., 1960, Facies Analysis of Upper Devonian Wabamun Group in West-Central Alberta,
Canada, Am. Assoc. Petroleum Geologists Bull., v.44, pp. 1651-1681.

Balducchi, A., and G. Pommier, 1970, Cambrian Oil Field of Hassi Messaoud, Algeria, Am. Assoc.
Petroleum Geologists Memoir 14, pp. 477-488.

Boyer, Steven E., and David Elliot, 1982, Thrust Systems, Am. Assoc. Petroleum Geologists Bull, v.66, pp.

Busch, Daniel A., 1974, Stratigraphic Traps in Sand stones Exploration Techniques, Am. Assoc. Petroleum
Geologists Memoir 21.

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist
Chenoweth, Philip A., 1979, Geological Prospecting for Mid-Continent Sandstones, in Tulsa Geological
Society Special Publication No. 1, pp. 13-34.

Ditzler, Clark C., and Richard H. Vanghan, 1968, Brentwood Oil and Gas Field, Contra Costa County,
California, Am. Assoc. Petroleum Geologists Memoir 9, v.1, pp. 104-112.

Dutton, Shirley P., 1979, Pennsylvanian Fan Delta sandstones of the Palo Duro Basin, Texas, in Tulsa
Geological Society Special Publication No. 1, pp. 235-245.

Gatewood, Lloyd F., 1970, Oklahoma City Field-Anatomy of a Giant, Am. Assoc. Petroleum Geologists
Memoir 14, pp. 223-254.

Holland, D.S., Sutley Clarke F., Berlitz R.E., and J.A. Gilreath, 1976, East Cameron Block 270, Offshore
Louisiana: A Pleistocene Field, Am. Assoc. Petroleum Geologists Memoir 24, pp. 205-228.

Krumbein, W.C., and F.G. Nagel, 1953, Am. Assoc. Petroleum Geologists Bull, v. 37, pp. 940-960.

Lafayette and New Orleans Societies, 1968, Geology of Natural Gas in South Louisiana, Am. Assoc.
Petroleum Geologists Memoir 9, v. 1, pp. 376-581.

Lamb, C.F., 1980, Am. Assoc. Petroleum Geologists Bull, V. 64, pp. 638-644.

Lindquist, Sandra J., 1977, Secondary Porosity Development and Subsequent Reduction, Over-pressured
Frio Formation Sandstone (Oligocene), South Texas, G. C.A. G.S. Trans., v. XXVII, pp. 99-107.

McPhater, Donald, and Brian MacTiernan, 1983, Well-Site Geologist's Handbook, PennWell Books, Tulsa.

Mills, Herbert G., 1970, Geology of Tom O'Connor Field, Refugio County, Texas, Am. Assoc. Petroleum
Geologists Memoir 14, pp. 292-300.

Sachs, Jules B., 1973, Pleistocene-Pliocene stratigraphy of the Louisiana Continental Shelf, in Offshore
Louisiana Oil and Gas Fields, Lafayette and New Orleans Geological Societies, pp. 1-11.

Schlumberger Limited, 1981, Dipmeter Interpretation, Volume I-Fundamentals.

Stapp, Wilford Lee, 1977, The Geology of the Fractured Austin and Buda Formations in the Subsurface of
South Texas, G. C.A. G. S. Trans.. v. XXVII. pp. 208-229.

Stephenson, E.A., 1968, Estimation of Natural Gas Reserves, in Natural Gases of North America. Am.
Assoc. Petroleum Geologists Memoir 9. vol. 2, pp. 2046-2103.

Tenneco Oil Company Staff, 1973, Vermilion Block 245 Field, Vermilion Area Offshore Louisiana. in
Offshore Louisiana Oil and Gas Fields, Lafayette and New Orleans Geological Societies. pp. 111-123.

Vest, E.L., Jr., 1970, Oil Fields of Pennsylvania Permian Horseshoe Atoll, West Texas. Am. Assoc.
Petroleum Geologists Memoir 14. pp. 185-203.

Walters, Robert F., Butru, Robert J. and Alfred James, III, 1979, Channel Sandstone Oil Reservoirs of
Pennsylvanian Age in North-Western Ness County, Kansas, in Tulsa Geological Society Special Publication
No. 1, pp. 313-326.

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Series 2 Basic Skills of The Petroleum Geologist
Winnock, F., and Y. Pontalier, 1970, Lacq Gas Field, France, Am. Assoc. Petroleum Geologists Memoir 14,
pp. 370-387.

Further Reading

Leroy, L.W., and Julian W. Low, 1954, Graphic Problems in Petroleum Geology, Harper and Row, N.Y., pp.

Moore, C.A., 1963, Handbook of Subsurface Geology, Harper and Row, N.Y.

Pirson, Sylvain J., 1977, Geologic Well Log Analysis, Gulf Publishing Co., Houston, 2nd ed.

Russell, William L., 1951, Principles of Petroleum Geology, McGraw-Hill, N.Y.

Swanson, R.G., 1981, Sample Examination Manual, Am. Assoc. Petroleum Geologists, Tulsa.

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