In this study, we provide new data to understand the groundwater flow patterns in the Llanos Basin and their impact on oil biodegradation and the geothermal regimes as well as how the structural styles and anthropogenic activities impact these patterns. Previous studies suggest an active flow of groundwater and variable salinities whose spatial pattern is apparently unrelated to topographically driven groundwater flow. These observations have led to different hypotheses regarding the influence of groundwater flow on Llanos Basin geothermal gradients and oil biodegradation.
In this contribution, we present data regarding the hydraulic heads, salinities, geothermal gradients, and structural styles of the Llanos Basin to propose hypotheses explaining these observations. Structural cross sections and subsurface stratigraphic correlations allow us to suggest that the pattern of flow is best explained by a correlation between groundwater flow and structural styles. A basement map of the Llanos Basin confirms that the most important factor controlling geothermal gradients is the type of basement, whereas the factor of groundwater flow appears to be of secondary importance. The evolution of the basin and the frequent absence of correlation between fresh water and the more biodegraded oils support the interpretation that biodegradation is controlled by an older flow of water that started as early as the Oligocene. Finally, mass balances suggest that the temporal scales and volumes of groundwater flow are much larger than the scales observed during the development of the oil fields.