Solid bitumen was identified within the Mississippian Chester sandstone reservoir in the Hitch field, southwest Kansas. The adjacent Etzold field has similar reservoir properties but lacks solid bitumen, although the Hitch and Etzold fields were thought to be in pressure communication and have common source rocks. Hitch and Etzold crude oils and core extracts were characterized geochemically to gain a better understanding of the reservoir-filling history and geological and geochemical controls on solid bitumen formation in the Hitch reservoir. Based on a variety of geochemical characteristics, we propose that the Hitch and Etzold oils are mixtures derived from Ordovician and Late Devonian–early Mississippian (Woodford Shale) source rocks. The solid bitumen in the Hitch reservoir probably results from mixing of oils having different geochemical compositions, which filled the reservoir over an extended period. No evidence of severe biodegradation or thermal alteration is observed. A reservoir-filling scenario is proposed in an effort to explain why the Hitch oils are geochemically more heterogeneous than Etzold oils. Furthermore, gas de-asphalting and regional pressure drops as a result of post-Laramide orogeny may have contributed to a phase change in the reservoir fluid and deposition of solid materials by disturbance of thermodynamic equilibrium.
The major significance of this study is related to improving our knowledge on the occurrence of the presence of solid bitumen in reservoirs that can introduce barriers into the reservoir, complicating waterflood operations and leading to erroneous oil-in-place calculations and subsequently lower than expected oil recovery.