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Source Rock
Migration Path
Reservoir Rock
Seal (Cap Rock)

Petroleum System Section

The formation of hydrocarbon liquids from an
organic rich source rock with kerogen and bitumen
to accumulates as oil or gas.

Generation depends on three main factors:
the presence of organic matter rich enough to
yield hydrocarbons

adequate temperature

and sufficient time to bring the source rock to

pressure and the presence of bacteria and
catalysts also affect generation

generation is a critical phase in the
development of a petroleum system

Fine grained sediments, usually shale or
limestone, rarely coal

Must contain sufficient amounts of organic
matter (>0.5 % TOC, generally 2-15 %)

Organic matter must be relatively rich in
hydrogen rich = oil prone
hydrogen lean = gas prone

Rocks must be buried deep enough to
thermally transform organic matter to
liquid or gas

Generated petroleum must migrate out of the
source rock

Terrestrial material

The type of material is difficult to determine but
several apparent patterns have been noticed.
Ocean or lake material often meet kerogen type III
or IV classifications.
Ocean or lake material deposited under anoxic
conditions often form kerogens of type I or II.
Most higher land plants produce kerogens of type III
or IV.
Some coal contains type II kerogen.

Extraterrestrial material

Carbonaceous chondrite meteorites contain
kerogen-like components. Such material is
believed to have formed the terrestrial
Kerogen materials have been detected in
interstellar clouds and dust around stars.

Generally Type I is strongly oil prone,
Type II is oil and condensate prone while
Type III is gas prone. Type IV is generally
non productive.


The movement of hydrocarbons from their source into reservoir

The movement of newly generated hydrocarbons out of their
source rock is primary migration, also called expulsion.

The further movement of the hydrocarbons into reservoir
rock in a hydrocarbon trap or other area of accumulation
is secondary migration.

Migration typically occurs from a structurally low area to
a higher area in the subsurface because of the relative
buoyancy of hydrocarbons in comparison to the surrounding
Migration can be local or can occur along distances of
hundreds of kilometers in large sedimentary basins, and is
critical to the formation of a viable petroleum system
Definitions Of Primary and Secondary
(After Tissot and Welte, 1984)

The phase in the development of a
petroleum system during which

hydrocarbons migrate into and remain
trapped in a reservoir.

A subsurface body of rock having
sufficient porosity and permeability to
store and transmit fluids.
Sedimentary rocks are the most
common reservoir rocks because they
have more porosity than most igneous
and metamorphic rocks and
they form under temperature
conditions at which hydrocarbons can
be preserved.
A reservoir is a critical component
of a complete petroleum system.

An impermeable rock that acts as a barrier to
further migration of hydrocarbon liquids.

Rocks that forms a barrier or cap above and
around reservoir rock forming a trap such
that fluids cannot migrate beyond the
The permeability of a seal capable of
retaining fluids through geologic time is ~
10-6 to 10-8 darcies. commonly:
shale, mudstone
A seal is a critical component of a
complete petroleum system.

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