Subsurface pressures strongly influence the migration and trapping of hydrocarbons and impact the safety and efficiency of drilling operations. The pore pressure field of the northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) was analyzed at 1000-ft (305-m) depth intervals from 2500 to 17,500 ft (762 to 5334 m) below the sea floor. Two variables were mapped: 12,976 initial hydrocarbon reservoir pressure gradient values and 43,276 observations on drilling fluid (mud) weight. Because of the acute importance of assessing estimate uncertainty, ordinary kriging was employed, providing explicit evaluations of confidence surrounding mapped values. Expected values and confidence intervals for the distribution of both variables were estimated by 9mi2 (23.3km2) grid cells across the GOM for each of the 15 depth intervals. Estimation variances were also used to clip each map to specific extents, within which a uniform minimum threshold of certainty was exceeded.

Characteristic of young basins with high sedimentation rates, mean pore pressure exceeded hydrostatic pressure throughout the GOM. Four provinces of internally consistent pressure regimes were defined: three south of Louisiana and one off the Texas coast. They reflect geologic controls on pressure arising from regional patterns of sedimentation and the resultant timing and geometry of salt tectonism. One GOM-wide (shallow) vertical transition in the pressure field was found in the mud weight data, and a second vertical transition (deep) occurred in both variables. Hot spot analysis was also applied to identify specific contiguous areas of abnormally high or low rates of change in pressure gradient and mud weight between depth-adjacent intervals.

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