ABSTRACT

Giant petroleum accumulations worldwide with burial depths more than 7000 m (>23,000 ft) occur mostly in Mesozoic and Cenozoic reservoirs and yield predominantly natural gas. Recently, however, a giant oil accumulation with reservoir depths between 7000 m (23,000 ft) and 8000 m (26,000 ft) was discovered in the lower Paleozoic section in the southern part of the Halahatang region in the Tarim Basin, China. Petroleum sourced from lower Paleozoic rocks is contained in Ordovician karst fracture-cave reservoirs and sealed by Middle–Upper Ordovician limestones and mudstones. The newly discovered superdeep accumulation is among the deepest black single-phase oil accumulations worldwide and opens up new avenues for petroleum exploration in deep-marine carbonate reservoirs. Reservoir pressures are between 75 MPa (10,878 psi) and 85 MPa (12,328 psi), with pressure coefficients between 1.2 and 1.7 and temperatures ranging between 140°C (284°F) and 172°C (342°F). Charging and accumulation of petroleum occurred during the late Hercynian orogeny, followed by subsequent gradual deep burial, which took place before rapid subsidence beginning circa 5 Ma. Following subsidence, the thickness of overlying strata increased by more than 2000 m (>6600 ft) before finally attaining current depth. Therefore, this oil accumulation represents a well-preserved ancient petroleum system. Based on the geochemical features of oils and gases, the crude oils can be classified as mature, sourced from mixed marine organofacies of shale, marl, and carbonate, whereas the gases were cogenerated with oils. Despite very high present-day reservoir temperatures, no oil cracking has occurred because of the relatively short exposure of oils to high temperatures in a low geothermal gradient regime. Thus, there is significant exploration potential under similar conditions for liquid petroleum in superdeep strata. Faults and reservoirs are major factors controlling petroleum accumulation. Interlayer karsts with excellent fracture-cavity connectivity developed adjacent to faults, generally resulting in the enrichment of oil and gas along fault zones. High-quality reservoirs in this area are easy to identify because they exhibit strong bead-like amplitude features in seismic sections. Wells located near faults produce relatively large amounts of oil and gas. Effective karst fracture-cave reservoirs with noncracked oil may exist below 8000 m (26,000 ft) in the Tarim Basin and represent a significant exploration target in China.

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