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Early exploration of the Malvinas Basin (1979–1991) targeted Lower Cretaceous sandstones assuming that hydrocarbons would migrate laterally from the basin depocenter in the south to structures located in shallow water. Hydrocarbons were found, but not in large enough quantities to be commercially viable. Recently, exploration has moved closer to the depocenter and focuses on Eocene to Miocene sandstones a few thousand meters vertically above the mature Lower Cretaceous source rock. As no faults crosscut the entire section between the source rock and reservoirs, they cannot be evoked as conduits for hydrocarbon migration. Therefore, kilometer-scale vertical migration across fine-grained sediments was considered as the main process to transport hydrocarbons from source rock to reservoir.

This migration mechanism is commonly mentioned, but poorly constrained. Darcy flow and invasion percolation calculators were used to simulate hydrocarbon migration. If we consider that hydrocarbons migrate along thin stringers, the relative permeability parameters have to be upscaled to consider that not all of the rock is being saturated by petroleum. Furthermore, fine-grained sediments present a very high specific area, which gives a higher sorption capacity for water, and therefore, less petroleum is needed to reach the saturation threshold for flow. Secondary migration across fine-grained sediments takes time to initiate, but as soon as hydrocarbons invade the pore space, the migration is effective; it occurs with minimal hydrocarbon losses and is essentially controlled by the expulsion rate of petroleum from the source rock and the stratigraphic architecture. From a physics standpoint, the Darcy method looks more appropriate because it incorporates the full physics of the problem. However, under these conditions, viscous forces can be ignored and the invasion percolation method seems appropriate to simulate secondary migration of hydrocarbons across fine-grained sediments.

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