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Abstract

A predictive model to estimate the distribution, sealing capacity and petrophysical properties of shale seals and flow barriers will significantly reduce the risks associated with hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation. Such a sequence stratigraphy-based predictive model must be grounded in outcrop and field analogs, such as this examination of the sealing capacity, petrophysical properties and distribution of Upper Cretaceous Lewis marine shales in two wells from south-central Wyoming. The measured sealing capacity of these shales varies with textural and compositional factors that allow division of the Lewis Shale depositional sequence six argillaceous microfacies. Each microfacies displays distinctive compositional and petrophysical properties and occupies a well-defined sequence stratigraphic position including transgressive, highstand, and condensed section deposits, with characteristic seal and seismic properties. The microfacies, in order of greatest seal capacity to least, are phosphatic shales, pyritic fissile shales, silty shales, silty calcareous shales, silty calcareous mudstones, and bioturbated argillaceous siltstones. The most promising seals, the phosphatic and pyritic shales, belong to the condensed section and uppermost transgressive systems tract. The phosphatic shale is also characterized by the highest content of both total organic carbon (TOC) and authigenic minerals. Interestingly, neither of these two high sealing capacity microfacies shows more detrital clay than other microfacies. The microfacies with lower sealing capacities belong to the highstand systems tract and are generally poorer in iron-rich minerals than the better sealing microfacies. Petrophysical properties, including high bulk density, shear velocity, Young’s modulus and shear modulus, distinguish the best sealing microfacies from highstand systems tract microfacies with poorer seal capacity. This correspondence between sealing capacity and petrophysical properties suggests that seismic data may have good potential as a tool for seal evaluation.

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