Prolific hydrocarbon discoveries in the subsalt, commonly known as the “presalt,” section of Brazil and the conjugate African margin have created a business imperative to predict reservoir quality in lacustrine carbonates. Geothermal convection is a style of groundwater flow known to occur in rift settings, which is capable of diagenetic modification of reservoir quality. We simulated variable density groundwater flow coupled with chemical reactions to evaluate the potential for diagenesis driven by convection in subsalt carbonates.

Rates of calcite diagenesis are critically controlled by temperature gradient and fluid flux following the principles of retrograde solubility. Simulations predict that convection could operate in rift carbonates prior to salt deposition, but with rates of dissolution in the reservoir interval only on the order of 0.01 vol. %/m.y., which is too low to significantly modify reservoir quality. The exception is around permeable fault zones and/or unconformities where flow is focused and dissolution rates are amplified to 1 to 10 vol. %/m.y. and could locally modify reservoir quality. After salt deposition, simulations also predict convection with a critical function for salt rugosity. The greatest potential for dissolution at rates of 0.1 to 1 vol. %/m.y. occurs where salt welds, overlying permeable carbonates thin to 500 m (1640 ft) or less. With tens of million years residence times feasible, convection under these conditions could locally result in reservoir sweet spots with porosity modification of 1% to 10% and potentially an order of magnitude or more in reservoir permeability. Integrating quantitative model-derived predictive diagenetic concepts with traditional subsurface data sets refines exploration to production scale risking of carbonate reservoir presence and quality.

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