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Abstract

As we stated in Chapter 1, several reservoir elements have now been recognized by various workers and are used routinely in industry: channel-fill, levee (thin beds), sheets (amalgamated and layered), and mass-transport deposits (slides). We describe each of these elements in a systematic manner in Chapter 6 through Chapter 9. A series of three unusual deepwater elements (remobilized sands, chalk turbidites, and carbonate debris aprons) are described in Chapter 10. Pitfalls in the interpretation of different elements are briefly summarized in Chapter 11.

The discussion of each reservoir element is organized by scales of observation. We first describe regional aspects of each element using data sets at the exploration scale (seismic: surface and shallow subsurface; buried elements at exploration and development scale). We then describe more development-scale data sets: outcrops, cores, conventional, and borehole image logs.

The purpose of this chapter is to give an overview to the following five chapters. We will: (1) describe the elements and try to equate different terminologies that have been used by different workers (a non-trivial issue); (2) discuss which data sets we use to describe deepwa-ter elements and their resolution; (3) discuss how deepwater systems vary in grain size and sediment-delivery systems; (4) describe the hierarchy of deepwater deposits and how these different elements stack stratigraphically through time; (5) discuss shallow analog studies and their importance, and (6) address how production from various elements varies between different basins, and within the same basin, in systems of differing age.

Introduction

As we stated in Chapter 1, several reservoir elements have now been recognized by various workers and are used routinely in industry: channel-fill, levee (thin beds), sheets (amalgamated and layered), and mass-transport deposits (slides). We describe each of these elements in a systematic manner in Chapter 6 through Chapter 9. A series of three unusual deepwater elements (remobilized sands, chalk turbidites, and carbonate debris aprons) are described in Chapter 10. Pitfalls in the interpretation of different elements are briefly summarized in Chapter 11.

The discussion of each reservoir element is organized by scales of observation. We first describe regional aspects of each element using data sets at the exploration scale (seismic: surface and shallow subsurface; buried elements at exploration and development scale). We then describe more development-scale data sets: outcrops, cores, conventional, and borehole image logs.

The purpose of this chapter is to give an overview to the following five chapters. We will: (1) describe the elements and try to equate different terminologies that have been used by different workers (a non-trivial issue); (2) discuss which data sets we use to describe deepwa-ter elements and their resolution; (3) discuss how deepwater systems vary in grain size and sediment-delivery systems; (4) describe the hierarchy of deepwater deposits and how these different elements stack stratigraphically through time; (5) discuss shallow analog studies and their importance, and (6) address how production from various elements varies between different basins, and within the same basin, in systems of differing age.

Elements and Nomenclature Issues

The study of deepwater systems evolved from several separate disciplines that eventually merged (outcrop geology, marine geology and geophysics, oceanography, subsurface geology and geophysics). As a consequence, different terminology was used to describe these features based on different data sets (Chapter 1; Figure 1-8). In addition, different disciplines also used their own terms. Below, we define how we used these terms and equated them in this book.

Sequence stratigraphic terms

Sequence stratigraphic terminology was developed to describe all of those sediments that were deposited within certain positions of a relative cycle of sea level (Chapter 3). Architectural terms are used within a sea-level context.

Within the lowstand-systems tract, three elements are recognized (Figure 3-4): basin-floor fans, slope fans, and prograding complex. The downdip portion of basin-floor fans are equivalent to sheet sands (lobes) (Chapter 8); the updip portion are equivalent to amalgamated channels (Chapter 6). These are usually the highest net:gross of the deepwater system.

The slope fan is a general term used for lower net:gross systems (Brown et al., 2005) and includes several elements: channel-fill (Chapter 6), levee-overbank and their equivalent thin beds and crevasses (Chapter 7), extensive slides, debris flows and mass-transport deposits (Chapter 9). The prograding complex consists of prograding shallow-marine deposits (deltas, shorelines and related deposits), slope, and deep-marine muds. In some conditions, localized turbidites can develop, called “shingled turbidites.” These features have been characterized as high frequency basin-floor fans, composed largely of sheet deposits with minor channels (Mitchum et al., 1993). Shingled turbidites tend to be muddier and more poorly sorted than true sheets because they are associated with more muddy parts of the system.

This classification was largely based on seismic stratigraphic appearance, and strati-graphic position within a depositional sequence. The terminology was developed prior to the usage of 3-D seismic data; many of the stratigraphic boundaries between the systems are more diffuse and not as rigorously defined as is indicated by this classification.

Process/accommodation terms

The terminology for fill-and-spill literature also mixes architectural elements and timing of sedimentation (Chapter 3: Figure 3-13 to Figure 3-16; Prather et al., 1998). The ponding and fill facies (A facies) are equivalent to sheet sands; bypass facies (B facies) is equivalent to channel-levee systems, and drape facies (D facies) is equivalent to condensed sections. The terms were developed to explain the timing of sedimentation and relate it to changes in accommodation within intraslope settings.

Architectural terms

The usage of two sets of terms for this book warrant further discussion: the use of sheet sands versus depositional lobes, and the use of thin beds for deepwater reservoirs.

We use the terms that have been used for generally similar deposits, depositional lobes and sheets. Depositional lobes were originally defined by Mutti and Ricci Lucchi (1972) and later modified by Mutti and Normark (1987, 1991). The term was originally an outcrop-based term, with interpreted 3-D geometries. In the collaborative work of Mutti and Normark (1987, 1991), the term was applied to modern-fan studies for those sediments deposited beyond the terminus of a channel. Sheet sands is an architectural term used by Chapin et al (1994) and Mahaffie (1994) to describe the geometry of sand beds in both outcrop and the subsurface.

Importantly, the extensive use of 3-D seismic has clearly imaged lobate-like bodies at the terminus of channels in confined and unconfined basins (Figure 8-1, Figure 8-6, Figure 8-8, Figure 8-10, and Figure 8-14). The term now is applied to those sedimentary bodies in deep-water that have a lobate shape. Chapin et al. (1994) suggested that amalgamated sheet sands are equivalent to proximal lobes and layered sheet sands are equivalent to medial and distal lobes.

We use the terms synonymously throughout the book, with the architectural term sheets more commonly. Richards et al. (1998) distinguish between the two terms in their classification (Figure 1-3), noting that lobes are more common in sand-rich systems and sheets more common in mud-rich systems. We do not use the terms in that fashion.

The term thin beds also has two general uses. In general, thin beds refers to interbedded to interlaminated sandstones and shale, both of which are up to a few cm thick. Thin beds can occur in many depositional settings, ranging from continental to deepwater, and reflect variations in the energy of the environment. In deepwater settings, thin beds can occur in levee-overbank, channel margin, late channel fill, and in distal layered sheets (distal lobe). For this book, we use the term thin beds exclusively for those that occur as reservoir in levee–overbank settings (Chapter 7).

Sediment Grain Sizes and Delivery Systems

Several key papers in the 1990’s defined the essential controls on deepwater systems. From these publications grew a four-fold classification of fan systems based on grain sizes and delivery systems: gravel-rich, sand-rich, mixed sand-mud, and mud-rich (Reading and Richards 1994; Richards et al., 1998) (Figure 5-1). Three different end-member, sediment-delivery systems were identified: single point-fed source fans, multiple point source submarine ramp, and line-sourced submarine slope aprons. The salient characteristics for these four systems are summarized in Table 5-1 and Figures 5-2 to 5-5.

Table 5-1.

Reservoir characteristics of contrasting types of deepwater siliciclastic systems (after Reading and Richards, 1994).

Table 5-1.

(Cont.) Reservoir characteristics of contrasting types of deepwater siliciclastic systems (after Reading and Richards, 1994).

Figure 5-1.

Principal architectural elements of deepwater clastic systems. After Reading and Richards (1994). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-1.

Principal architectural elements of deepwater clastic systems. After Reading and Richards (1994). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-2.

Schematic block diagram and wireline logs showing the distribution of a gravel-rich fan system: (a) apron, (b) submarine fan, and (c) submarine ramp. Modified from Reading and Richards (1994) and Richards et al. (1998). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-2.

Schematic block diagram and wireline logs showing the distribution of a gravel-rich fan system: (a) apron, (b) submarine fan, and (c) submarine ramp. Modified from Reading and Richards (1994) and Richards et al. (1998). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-3.

Schematic block diagram and wireline logs showing the distribution of a sand-rich fan system: (a) apron, (b) submarine fan, and (c) submarine ramp. Modified from Reading and Richards (1994) and Richards et al. (1998). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-3.

Schematic block diagram and wireline logs showing the distribution of a sand-rich fan system: (a) apron, (b) submarine fan, and (c) submarine ramp. Modified from Reading and Richards (1994) and Richards et al. (1998). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-4.

Schematic block diagram and wireline logs showing the distribution of a mixed mud-sand fan system: (a) slope apron, (b) submarine fan, and (c) submarine ramp. Modified from Reading and Richards (1994) and Richards et al. (1998). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-4.

Schematic block diagram and wireline logs showing the distribution of a mixed mud-sand fan system: (a) slope apron, (b) submarine fan, and (c) submarine ramp. Modified from Reading and Richards (1994) and Richards et al. (1998). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-5.

Schematic block diagram showing the distribution of a mud-rich fan system: (a) apron, (b) submarine fan, and (c) submarine ramp. Modified from Reading and Richards (1994) and Richards et al. (1998). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-5.

Schematic block diagram showing the distribution of a mud-rich fan system: (a) apron, (b) submarine fan, and (c) submarine ramp. Modified from Reading and Richards (1994) and Richards et al. (1998). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Chapter 6 through Chapter 9 are subdivided by major architectural elements. However, within any element, there can be a wide range of grain sizes and variations in delivery systems as the element evolves.

Hierarchy and Scales of Heterogeneity Within Architectural Elements

The concept of scales of heterogeneity is one of the more difficult to define and grasp. Although there is a clear hierarchy of scales in deepwater depositional systems, as there is in many naturally ordered systems, it is not uncommon to use the improper terminology when describing a feature. For example, the following deposits might all be defined as becoming ‘finer-grained upward’: (a) an individual Bouma Ta bed 5 cm (2 in) thick; (b) a 10 m (33 ft) thick channel-fill; and (c) a 100 m (330 ft) thick lowstand-systems tract of a depositional sequence. Because of the same descriptor for these deposits of differing scale, a similar set of processes may be erroneously inferred.

Examples that are discussed in separate chapters include (1) different lithologies and facies, and associated processes (Chapter 4); (2) hierachy of channel-fill deposits (Chapter 6); different stacking patterns related to the time-frequency of stratigraphic cyclicity (Chapter 3); inner and outer levees, master channels and internal channel-fill in leveed-channel deposits (Chapter 6 and Chapter 7); hierarchy of sheet sands and sandstones (Chapter 8); and small- to large-scale slides and mass-transport deposits (Chapter 9). Also, a hierarchy of shales affects reservoir performance; for example, a shale layer lining a concave-upward scour surface will have much less influence on vertical flow of reservoir fluids than will a shale layer that is laterally continuous across an entire reservoir.

It is also important to remember that different tools and techniques measure or image reservoir heterogeneities at different scales (Figure 5-6), for example: microscopic (pore and grain scale), mesoscopic (vertical sequence in core or outcrop), macroscopic (interwell) and megascopic (field-wide) scales (Krause et al., 1993). The filtering of seismic reflection data to a more limited bandwidth of frequencies (spectral decomposition) allows one to image features of varying thicknesses. Finally, stratigraphic modeling for reservoir simulation (Chapter 14) is scale-dependent because computing limitations often require the scaling up or averaging of the smaller scale properties to accommodate a limited or pre-determined number of simulation cells.

Figure 5-6.

Log-plot showing the relative scales of observation and resolution of different data sets used in studying deepwater settings. SSS=side scan sonar. Figure modified from Minken (2004, personal communication).

Figure 5-6.

Log-plot showing the relative scales of observation and resolution of different data sets used in studying deepwater settings. SSS=side scan sonar. Figure modified from Minken (2004, personal communication).

In Chapter 6 through Chapter 10, we begin our discussion of each element at the exploration (regional) scale, then characterize it at the development (reservoir) scale, combining the various techniques and data sets listed above.

Integration of Data Sets

One of the main themes of Chapter 6 through Chapter 10 is the need for geoscientists working in teams to integrate multiple data sets that have different scales of resolution. To emphasize this challenge, we have constructed a series of figures that compare: the areal extent of outcrops (Figure 5-7) with seismic data from two intraslope minibasins (Figure 5-8); wireline logs from the minibasin (Figure 5-9) with outcrop photographs (Figure 5-10) showing stratal architecture; and, high-resolution seismic data (Figure 5-11) with outcrop information (Figure 5-12).

Figure 5-7.

Map view outline of three deepwater outcrops commonly used by companies for reservoir and stratigraphic analog studies: (a) Brushy Canyon, Permian, western Texas, USA (Beaubouef et al., 1999), (b) Tanqua-Karoo, Permian, South Africa (Morris et al., 2000) and (c) Ross Formation, Upper Carboniferous (lower Pennsylvanian) western Ireland (Martinsen et al., 2000), (d) outline of the Mensa and Thunder Horse minibasins in northern Gulf of Mexico (adapted from Lapinski, 2003; van den Berg, 2004). Location of shallow, allochthonous salt is shown in pink. Locations for Figure 5-8 and wells are shown. Note that the areal distribution of these outcrops is about the same scale as 1-3 mini-basins.

Figure 5-7.

Map view outline of three deepwater outcrops commonly used by companies for reservoir and stratigraphic analog studies: (a) Brushy Canyon, Permian, western Texas, USA (Beaubouef et al., 1999), (b) Tanqua-Karoo, Permian, South Africa (Morris et al., 2000) and (c) Ross Formation, Upper Carboniferous (lower Pennsylvanian) western Ireland (Martinsen et al., 2000), (d) outline of the Mensa and Thunder Horse minibasins in northern Gulf of Mexico (adapted from Lapinski, 2003; van den Berg, 2004). Location of shallow, allochthonous salt is shown in pink. Locations for Figure 5-8 and wells are shown. Note that the areal distribution of these outcrops is about the same scale as 1-3 mini-basins.

Figure 5-8.

Two sections, plotted at the same vertical and horizontal scales: illustrate that the total thickness of the Brushy Canyon Formation is about the same as one depositional sequence in the Thunder Horse Field. (a) North-northwest to south-southeast cross section across the Delaware Mountains, west Texas. Base surface is the approximate base of the Brushy Canyon Formation. Upper surface shows present surface of erosion across the Brushy Canyon Formation. Dashed line shows the approximate restored top of the Brushy Canyon Formation. BB=Brushy Bench; BM=Brushy Mesa; UCH=Upper Cmanhat; CC= Colleen Canyon; CC1=Cor-doniz Canyon. See Figure 1-1 of Beaubouef et al. (1999) for locations of topographic features. (b) Flattened seismic profile on the 14.35 Ma horizon from the Thunder Horse minibasin, northern deep Gulf of Mexico. See Figure 5-7d for location of profile, and Figure 5-9 for two nearby wells that penetrate the main reservoir interval. Modified from Lapinski (2003). Reprinted with permission of Todd Lapinski.

Figure 5-8.

Two sections, plotted at the same vertical and horizontal scales: illustrate that the total thickness of the Brushy Canyon Formation is about the same as one depositional sequence in the Thunder Horse Field. (a) North-northwest to south-southeast cross section across the Delaware Mountains, west Texas. Base surface is the approximate base of the Brushy Canyon Formation. Upper surface shows present surface of erosion across the Brushy Canyon Formation. Dashed line shows the approximate restored top of the Brushy Canyon Formation. BB=Brushy Bench; BM=Brushy Mesa; UCH=Upper Cmanhat; CC= Colleen Canyon; CC1=Cor-doniz Canyon. See Figure 1-1 of Beaubouef et al. (1999) for locations of topographic features. (b) Flattened seismic profile on the 14.35 Ma horizon from the Thunder Horse minibasin, northern deep Gulf of Mexico. See Figure 5-7d for location of profile, and Figure 5-9 for two nearby wells that penetrate the main reservoir interval. Modified from Lapinski (2003). Reprinted with permission of Todd Lapinski.

Figure 5-9.

Two wireline logs from the main reservoir in the Thunder Horse Field: (a) MC 778#1, (b) MC 822#1. Location of wells are shown in Figures 5-7d and 5-8. Total thickness of the 15.3 Ma-14.35 Ma sequence is about 650 m thick (2200 feet); total sand thickness is about 250 m thick (800 feet). Compare these wells with the thickness and lateral continuity of channel-fill strata in the Brushy Canyon Formation (Figure 5-10b). Wireline logs are from Lapinski (2003). Reprinted with permission of Todd Lapinski.

Figure 5-9.

Two wireline logs from the main reservoir in the Thunder Horse Field: (a) MC 778#1, (b) MC 822#1. Location of wells are shown in Figures 5-7d and 5-8. Total thickness of the 15.3 Ma-14.35 Ma sequence is about 650 m thick (2200 feet); total sand thickness is about 250 m thick (800 feet). Compare these wells with the thickness and lateral continuity of channel-fill strata in the Brushy Canyon Formation (Figure 5-10b). Wireline logs are from Lapinski (2003). Reprinted with permission of Todd Lapinski.

Three of the better visited deepwater outcrops in the world are shown in Figure 5-7a-c: the Permian Tanqua-Karoo strata of South Africa, the Permian Brushy Canyon Formation of western Texas, USA, and the Upper Carboniferous (lower Pennsylvanian) Ross Formation of western Ireland. The outline of the entire outcrop is shown in Figure 5-7a-c. Plotted at the same scale are adjacent intraslope basins in the northern deep Gulf of Mexico, the Mensa and Thunder Horse basins (Figure 5-7d).

Several key things can be observed. First, even the best exposures of outcrops are only the size of one or two intraslope minibasins, typically the scale that geoscientists work at in exploration. Second, the orientation of the outcrops is similar to those orientations of random vertical profiles through a 3-D seismic data set. In Figure 5-8, the ground profile of the Brushy Canyon outcrop is superposed on a seismic profile across the reservoir level (14.3-13.05 Ma) in the Thunder Horse minibasin and field. The seismic profile illustrates that the outcrop is about three to four seismic wavelets, and is slightly less thick than the reservoir intervals at Thunder Horse Field. Two wireline logs from the field are shown in Figure 5-9. An outcrop photograph of the Brushy Canyon shows the strata are similar in thickness to the producing interval at Thunder Horse (Figure 5-10). Thus, both the log and outcrops are quite comparable in scale.

Figure 5-10(a)

Regional photograph looking northwest of the Brushy Canyon Formation in the Guadalupe and Delaware Mountains, west Texas, USA. Photograph includes the northern portion of the area shown in Figure 5-7a.

Figure 5-10(a)

Regional photograph looking northwest of the Brushy Canyon Formation in the Guadalupe and Delaware Mountains, west Texas, USA. Photograph includes the northern portion of the area shown in Figure 5-7a.

Figure 5-10(b)

Outcrop photograph of the Brushy Canyon showing three high-frequency sequences. Basal sequence consist primarily of sheet deposits with some channels, and the amount of channelization increases in the upper two sequences. Note the scale of the deposits is similar to those shown in the wireline logs in Figure 5-9. After Beaubouef et al. (1999). Reprinted with permission of the AAPG.

Figure 5-10(b)

Outcrop photograph of the Brushy Canyon showing three high-frequency sequences. Basal sequence consist primarily of sheet deposits with some channels, and the amount of channelization increases in the upper two sequences. Note the scale of the deposits is similar to those shown in the wireline logs in Figure 5-9. After Beaubouef et al. (1999). Reprinted with permission of the AAPG.

These displays illustrate the kinds of details that can not be recognized on regional seismic profiles, and why these two additional data sets begin to help address the gap in scale between seismic and wireline logs. Only the thicker stratigraphic features can be seen at both scales in the seismic.

The recent trend of interpreting shallow subsurface 3-D seismic hazard surveys has clearly demonstrated the potential for further bridging this scale gap. The shallower 3-D seismic data can give far better resolution than deeper seismic data (120 vs. 40 Hz), providing the opportunity for more detailed analog studies, especially when integrated with outcrops (Figures 5-11, 5-12). In Chapter 6 through Chapter 10, we show 3-D seismic images from the shallow sedimentary section, which are crucial for illustrating key features of each reservoir element.

Figure 5-11.

High-frequency seismic images (250 Hz) of the near-surface deepwater sediments (a, b) that are similar in scale to outcrops (Figure 5-12). (a) Seismic horizon slice taken 20 ms below seafloor in one intraslope basin, late Quaternary, northern deep Gulf of Mexico. Two distinct upfan channel belts (A, B) to the right (north) change downfan to channel mouth lobes. Also present are basin margins, mud volcano, and a “slump.” Location of Figure 5-11b is shown. (b) Seismic profile across the distal portion of (a). Note that the lobes A and B have slightly mounded appearance amongst the laterally continuous sheet-like reflections that lapout against the side of the basin. The deposits are up to 50 ms in twtt. See Figure 5-11a for location of profile. After Beaubouef et al. (2003). Reprinted with permission of the Gulf Coast Section SEPM Foundation. See Chapter 8 for further discussion of the figure.

Figure 5-11.

High-frequency seismic images (250 Hz) of the near-surface deepwater sediments (a, b) that are similar in scale to outcrops (Figure 5-12). (a) Seismic horizon slice taken 20 ms below seafloor in one intraslope basin, late Quaternary, northern deep Gulf of Mexico. Two distinct upfan channel belts (A, B) to the right (north) change downfan to channel mouth lobes. Also present are basin margins, mud volcano, and a “slump.” Location of Figure 5-11b is shown. (b) Seismic profile across the distal portion of (a). Note that the lobes A and B have slightly mounded appearance amongst the laterally continuous sheet-like reflections that lapout against the side of the basin. The deposits are up to 50 ms in twtt. See Figure 5-11a for location of profile. After Beaubouef et al. (2003). Reprinted with permission of the Gulf Coast Section SEPM Foundation. See Chapter 8 for further discussion of the figure.

Figure 5-12.

Outcrop photograph of sheet sandstones, Grootvontein section, Permian Skoorsteenberg Formation, South Africa. Underlying correlation panel with measured sections show lithofacies and degree of amalgamation within the sheets. Photograph shows a portion of the outcrops described in the correlation panel. Photograph shows sheet sands at the same scale as the seismic profile in Figure 5-11b. Amalgamated massive sandstones are most similar to the channel mouth lobes shown in Figure 5-11a, b. After Sullivan et al. (2000). Reprinted with permission of Gulf Coast Section SEPM Foundation. See Chapter 8 for further discussion of the figure.

Figure 5-12.

Outcrop photograph of sheet sandstones, Grootvontein section, Permian Skoorsteenberg Formation, South Africa. Underlying correlation panel with measured sections show lithofacies and degree of amalgamation within the sheets. Photograph shows a portion of the outcrops described in the correlation panel. Photograph shows sheet sands at the same scale as the seismic profile in Figure 5-11b. Amalgamated massive sandstones are most similar to the channel mouth lobes shown in Figure 5-11a, b. After Sullivan et al. (2000). Reprinted with permission of Gulf Coast Section SEPM Foundation. See Chapter 8 for further discussion of the figure.

Steffens et al. (2004) reviewed the significance of using shallow analog studies in deep-water systems, citing three primary applications: (1) understanding depositional processes, (2) building architectural models for deeper buried images, and (3) for addressing shallow hazards problems.

  1. 1.

    As we review in Chapter 1 and Chapter 4, the integration and routine usage of 3-D seismic data were essential to causing geoscientists to re-evaluate many of their assumptions about sedimentary processes in deepwater. Key images that are observed on shallow 3-D seismic data include: wide ranges of channel evolution from straight to sinuous in plan-form (Chapter 7 and Chapter 8), facies variabilities and distribution of mass-transport deposits (MTDs) (Chapter 9), and fill- and spill processes between intraslope basins (Chapter 3).

  2. 2.

    Shallow 3-D seismic data allow the opportunity to image recurring depositional elements and their stacking patterns (channels and their fill, levee-overbank, sheets, and MTDs), with the ultimate goal of constructing accurate 3-D architectural models. A spectrum of morphologies of different elements can be imaged, which can then be used for analogs to deeper, buried units, and for outcrop analog studies (Figures 5-11, 5-12). Important dimensional data can be compiled (e.g., channel widths and morphologies, thickness of different elements). These data can also be used to study the multitude of well-imaged stratigraphic trap geometries at the edge of intraslope basins. Abundant calibration is needed for these studies to have high ultimate impact on exploration and development. Another important aspect of shallow 3-D studies is that many companies use these to calibrate their deeper seismic data for exploration. Because the physical properties of the sediments of each deepwater basin differ, interpretation of the near-surface section can be an important technique for understanding the seismic response of different sediments. An important step in exploration in any new basin is to understand the seismic reflection response of different sediments in the basin.

  3. 3.

    The use of 3-D seismic data imaging of the shallow section has become increasingly important in drilling hazards assessment and seafloor features. In the early 1980’s, 2-D seismic surveys were used to study shallow gas problems in the North Sea that affected bottom-founded rigs. More recently, 3-D data are now used to evaluate the regional structural and stratigraphic trends to help in well-site assessment. For example, three specific problems have been described: (a) shallow flow problems, (b) drilling through MTDs, and (c) possible pipeline ruptures over the relief created by shallow MTDs.

    1. (a)

      While drilling in the shallow subsurface interval, many companies have penetrated shallow sand bodies (primarily late Pleistocene slope channels) that are overpres- sured in relation to the underlying and overlying stratigraphic section (Bruce et al., 2000; Ostermeier et al., 2000). Drilling has been done using one mud weight; when the overpressured sands are penetrated, fluid leaks into the hole causing many unex pected problems. The delays in drilling and problems associated with these sands can cause significant increases in drilling costs.

    2. A good example of this is the development of the Ursa field in northern deep Gulf of Mexico (Eaton, 1999). A subsea production template was placed on the seafloor. While drilling the template for development wells, a shallow, overpressured sand was penetrated, ultimately causing buckling of casing of the wells that had already been drilled and cemented. The ultimate cost to replace the subsea template by the four companies operating the field was about $100 million. Clearly, recognition of these potential shallow flow features is essential to reducing well costs.

    3. (b)

      A second drilling hazard is the occurrence of shallow mass-transport deposits (Chapter 9). MTDs commonly are overcompacted in the shallow subsurface (< 100 m; 330 feet), so that jetting or pile driving operations through them can significantly decrease penetration rates (Shipp et al., 2004).

    4. (c)

      Latest Pleistocene MTDs are common in many deepwater settings where they occur in the upper tens of meters of sediments. They are commonly covered with a thin drape of Holocene sediments. For proper design of subsea infrastructure (pipelines, production manifolds), it is important that we understand the distribution of shallow MTDs. When pipes are laid on the seafloor, differential compaction can occur, where the MTDs are more stable and the sediments consisting of hemipelagic drape com pacts more (Kaluza et al., 2004). With this compaction, pipes can rupture. Thus, understanding their distribution is critical to avoid these kinds of engineering prob lems.

Several other issues in shallow hazard studies are of major concern. For surficial problems, the general issue of sea-floor stability is of critical concern for production facilities. One issue is the proximity of rigs to sea-floor expulsion features or active faults. In the subsurface, a key issue is the prediction of lithologies; for example, when drilling and setting casing points, there is a real need to avoid setting a casing point in a sand body, which can give rise to a bad cement job. Other concerns are the avoidance of drilling (a) across faults, (b) through shallow gas pockets, and (c) through any sands (channel- fill or proximal levee). Finally, there is a growing need to understand the distribution of hydrates in near surface sediments and the effects of long-term development facilities overlying hydrates, and their possible responses.

Reservoir Elements and Production

Deepwater reservoir systems produce from different architectural elements. The percent of production from these architectural elements varies greatly from basin to basin. For example, Lawrence and Bosmin-Smits (2000) estimated that 60% of the production in the northern deep Gulf of Mexico is from sheet sands, about 25% from channel-fill deposits, and 15% are from thin beds in levees. In contrast, Pacht et al. (1992) characterize the production in a small area in current shallow water depths. They noted that about 15% of the production is from sheet sands (basin-floor fans), 43% is from levee-thin beds and channel-fill sediments, 30% from deltaic–related strata, and 7% is undeterminable. The differences in statistics between these two studies are due to different portions of a basin being studied.

Furthermore, in offshore Angola, primary production is from amalgamated channel-fill reservoirs and some sheets sands. In the western Nile, reservoirs occur primarily in amalgamated channel-fill deposits and in thin levee beds. Channel-fill deposits are the reservoirs in offshore Mauritania (Vear, 2005) and Kutei (Fowler et al., 2004; Saller et al., 2004). In offshore Brazil, reservoirs are primarily in channel-fill and sheets (lobes) deposited in a variety of settings (Bruhn, 1998; 2001; Bruhn et al. 2003).

In addition, in some basins, different age deposits produce from different deepwater elements. For example, in the North Sea, there is a distinct evolution in the architecture and net:gross in the producing systems (Hurst et al., 2005). The Upper Jurassic systems are gravel-rich, the Lower Cretaceous systems are sand-rich, Paleocene into Oligocene reflect sand-rich changing upward into more mud-rich systems. Reservoir architecture changes from areally widespread, amalgamated channels (upper Paleocene) to relatively narrow incised channels (upper Eocene). Abundant remobilized sands occur in the upper section of the North Sea (Chapter 10). The upward change in grain size reflect two tectonic events of northwestern Europe: Late Jurassic rifting, and the Paleocene uplift of the Scottish Highlands.

Examples of Producing Reservoirs in this Book

In each of the following five chapters, we include a series of systematic summaries of representative deepwater fields. These examples were selected based on a variety of factors, primarily those with thorough documentation, and ones that are representative of a variety of challenges that companies may experience in development of certain reservoir elements. Most of the examples that we cite in Chapter 6 through Chapter 10 occur in > 500m of water today.

Interestingly, some of the older, onshore petroleum-producing basins in the world are from deepwater reservoirs. Examples include many of the California reservoirs (Midway-Sunset, Ventura Avenue, Elk Hills, Santa Fe Springs, Wilmington) discovered between 1894 and 1930. However, we did not include many of these “classic” deepwater fields, such as those in California, in our discussions because of a lack of critical information for complete analyses.

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Figures & Tables

Figure 5-1.

Principal architectural elements of deepwater clastic systems. After Reading and Richards (1994). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-1.

Principal architectural elements of deepwater clastic systems. After Reading and Richards (1994). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-2.

Schematic block diagram and wireline logs showing the distribution of a gravel-rich fan system: (a) apron, (b) submarine fan, and (c) submarine ramp. Modified from Reading and Richards (1994) and Richards et al. (1998). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-2.

Schematic block diagram and wireline logs showing the distribution of a gravel-rich fan system: (a) apron, (b) submarine fan, and (c) submarine ramp. Modified from Reading and Richards (1994) and Richards et al. (1998). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-3.

Schematic block diagram and wireline logs showing the distribution of a sand-rich fan system: (a) apron, (b) submarine fan, and (c) submarine ramp. Modified from Reading and Richards (1994) and Richards et al. (1998). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-3.

Schematic block diagram and wireline logs showing the distribution of a sand-rich fan system: (a) apron, (b) submarine fan, and (c) submarine ramp. Modified from Reading and Richards (1994) and Richards et al. (1998). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-4.

Schematic block diagram and wireline logs showing the distribution of a mixed mud-sand fan system: (a) slope apron, (b) submarine fan, and (c) submarine ramp. Modified from Reading and Richards (1994) and Richards et al. (1998). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-4.

Schematic block diagram and wireline logs showing the distribution of a mixed mud-sand fan system: (a) slope apron, (b) submarine fan, and (c) submarine ramp. Modified from Reading and Richards (1994) and Richards et al. (1998). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-5.

Schematic block diagram showing the distribution of a mud-rich fan system: (a) apron, (b) submarine fan, and (c) submarine ramp. Modified from Reading and Richards (1994) and Richards et al. (1998). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-5.

Schematic block diagram showing the distribution of a mud-rich fan system: (a) apron, (b) submarine fan, and (c) submarine ramp. Modified from Reading and Richards (1994) and Richards et al. (1998). Reprinted with permission of AAPG.

Figure 5-6.

Log-plot showing the relative scales of observation and resolution of different data sets used in studying deepwater settings. SSS=side scan sonar. Figure modified from Minken (2004, personal communication).

Figure 5-6.

Log-plot showing the relative scales of observation and resolution of different data sets used in studying deepwater settings. SSS=side scan sonar. Figure modified from Minken (2004, personal communication).

Figure 5-7.

Map view outline of three deepwater outcrops commonly used by companies for reservoir and stratigraphic analog studies: (a) Brushy Canyon, Permian, western Texas, USA (Beaubouef et al., 1999), (b) Tanqua-Karoo, Permian, South Africa (Morris et al., 2000) and (c) Ross Formation, Upper Carboniferous (lower Pennsylvanian) western Ireland (Martinsen et al., 2000), (d) outline of the Mensa and Thunder Horse minibasins in northern Gulf of Mexico (adapted from Lapinski, 2003; van den Berg, 2004). Location of shallow, allochthonous salt is shown in pink. Locations for Figure 5-8 and wells are shown. Note that the areal distribution of these outcrops is about the same scale as 1-3 mini-basins.

Figure 5-7.

Map view outline of three deepwater outcrops commonly used by companies for reservoir and stratigraphic analog studies: (a) Brushy Canyon, Permian, western Texas, USA (Beaubouef et al., 1999), (b) Tanqua-Karoo, Permian, South Africa (Morris et al., 2000) and (c) Ross Formation, Upper Carboniferous (lower Pennsylvanian) western Ireland (Martinsen et al., 2000), (d) outline of the Mensa and Thunder Horse minibasins in northern Gulf of Mexico (adapted from Lapinski, 2003; van den Berg, 2004). Location of shallow, allochthonous salt is shown in pink. Locations for Figure 5-8 and wells are shown. Note that the areal distribution of these outcrops is about the same scale as 1-3 mini-basins.

Figure 5-8.

Two sections, plotted at the same vertical and horizontal scales: illustrate that the total thickness of the Brushy Canyon Formation is about the same as one depositional sequence in the Thunder Horse Field. (a) North-northwest to south-southeast cross section across the Delaware Mountains, west Texas. Base surface is the approximate base of the Brushy Canyon Formation. Upper surface shows present surface of erosion across the Brushy Canyon Formation. Dashed line shows the approximate restored top of the Brushy Canyon Formation. BB=Brushy Bench; BM=Brushy Mesa; UCH=Upper Cmanhat; CC= Colleen Canyon; CC1=Cor-doniz Canyon. See Figure 1-1 of Beaubouef et al. (1999) for locations of topographic features. (b) Flattened seismic profile on the 14.35 Ma horizon from the Thunder Horse minibasin, northern deep Gulf of Mexico. See Figure 5-7d for location of profile, and Figure 5-9 for two nearby wells that penetrate the main reservoir interval. Modified from Lapinski (2003). Reprinted with permission of Todd Lapinski.

Figure 5-8.

Two sections, plotted at the same vertical and horizontal scales: illustrate that the total thickness of the Brushy Canyon Formation is about the same as one depositional sequence in the Thunder Horse Field. (a) North-northwest to south-southeast cross section across the Delaware Mountains, west Texas. Base surface is the approximate base of the Brushy Canyon Formation. Upper surface shows present surface of erosion across the Brushy Canyon Formation. Dashed line shows the approximate restored top of the Brushy Canyon Formation. BB=Brushy Bench; BM=Brushy Mesa; UCH=Upper Cmanhat; CC= Colleen Canyon; CC1=Cor-doniz Canyon. See Figure 1-1 of Beaubouef et al. (1999) for locations of topographic features. (b) Flattened seismic profile on the 14.35 Ma horizon from the Thunder Horse minibasin, northern deep Gulf of Mexico. See Figure 5-7d for location of profile, and Figure 5-9 for two nearby wells that penetrate the main reservoir interval. Modified from Lapinski (2003). Reprinted with permission of Todd Lapinski.

Figure 5-9.

Two wireline logs from the main reservoir in the Thunder Horse Field: (a) MC 778#1, (b) MC 822#1. Location of wells are shown in Figures 5-7d and 5-8. Total thickness of the 15.3 Ma-14.35 Ma sequence is about 650 m thick (2200 feet); total sand thickness is about 250 m thick (800 feet). Compare these wells with the thickness and lateral continuity of channel-fill strata in the Brushy Canyon Formation (Figure 5-10b). Wireline logs are from Lapinski (2003). Reprinted with permission of Todd Lapinski.

Figure 5-9.

Two wireline logs from the main reservoir in the Thunder Horse Field: (a) MC 778#1, (b) MC 822#1. Location of wells are shown in Figures 5-7d and 5-8. Total thickness of the 15.3 Ma-14.35 Ma sequence is about 650 m thick (2200 feet); total sand thickness is about 250 m thick (800 feet). Compare these wells with the thickness and lateral continuity of channel-fill strata in the Brushy Canyon Formation (Figure 5-10b). Wireline logs are from Lapinski (2003). Reprinted with permission of Todd Lapinski.

Figure 5-10(a)

Regional photograph looking northwest of the Brushy Canyon Formation in the Guadalupe and Delaware Mountains, west Texas, USA. Photograph includes the northern portion of the area shown in Figure 5-7a.

Figure 5-10(a)

Regional photograph looking northwest of the Brushy Canyon Formation in the Guadalupe and Delaware Mountains, west Texas, USA. Photograph includes the northern portion of the area shown in Figure 5-7a.

Figure 5-10(b)

Outcrop photograph of the Brushy Canyon showing three high-frequency sequences. Basal sequence consist primarily of sheet deposits with some channels, and the amount of channelization increases in the upper two sequences. Note the scale of the deposits is similar to those shown in the wireline logs in Figure 5-9. After Beaubouef et al. (1999). Reprinted with permission of the AAPG.

Figure 5-10(b)

Outcrop photograph of the Brushy Canyon showing three high-frequency sequences. Basal sequence consist primarily of sheet deposits with some channels, and the amount of channelization increases in the upper two sequences. Note the scale of the deposits is similar to those shown in the wireline logs in Figure 5-9. After Beaubouef et al. (1999). Reprinted with permission of the AAPG.

Figure 5-11.

High-frequency seismic images (250 Hz) of the near-surface deepwater sediments (a, b) that are similar in scale to outcrops (Figure 5-12). (a) Seismic horizon slice taken 20 ms below seafloor in one intraslope basin, late Quaternary, northern deep Gulf of Mexico. Two distinct upfan channel belts (A, B) to the right (north) change downfan to channel mouth lobes. Also present are basin margins, mud volcano, and a “slump.” Location of Figure 5-11b is shown. (b) Seismic profile across the distal portion of (a). Note that the lobes A and B have slightly mounded appearance amongst the laterally continuous sheet-like reflections that lapout against the side of the basin. The deposits are up to 50 ms in twtt. See Figure 5-11a for location of profile. After Beaubouef et al. (2003). Reprinted with permission of the Gulf Coast Section SEPM Foundation. See Chapter 8 for further discussion of the figure.

Figure 5-11.

High-frequency seismic images (250 Hz) of the near-surface deepwater sediments (a, b) that are similar in scale to outcrops (Figure 5-12). (a) Seismic horizon slice taken 20 ms below seafloor in one intraslope basin, late Quaternary, northern deep Gulf of Mexico. Two distinct upfan channel belts (A, B) to the right (north) change downfan to channel mouth lobes. Also present are basin margins, mud volcano, and a “slump.” Location of Figure 5-11b is shown. (b) Seismic profile across the distal portion of (a). Note that the lobes A and B have slightly mounded appearance amongst the laterally continuous sheet-like reflections that lapout against the side of the basin. The deposits are up to 50 ms in twtt. See Figure 5-11a for location of profile. After Beaubouef et al. (2003). Reprinted with permission of the Gulf Coast Section SEPM Foundation. See Chapter 8 for further discussion of the figure.

Figure 5-12.

Outcrop photograph of sheet sandstones, Grootvontein section, Permian Skoorsteenberg Formation, South Africa. Underlying correlation panel with measured sections show lithofacies and degree of amalgamation within the sheets. Photograph shows a portion of the outcrops described in the correlation panel. Photograph shows sheet sands at the same scale as the seismic profile in Figure 5-11b. Amalgamated massive sandstones are most similar to the channel mouth lobes shown in Figure 5-11a, b. After Sullivan et al. (2000). Reprinted with permission of Gulf Coast Section SEPM Foundation. See Chapter 8 for further discussion of the figure.

Figure 5-12.

Outcrop photograph of sheet sandstones, Grootvontein section, Permian Skoorsteenberg Formation, South Africa. Underlying correlation panel with measured sections show lithofacies and degree of amalgamation within the sheets. Photograph shows a portion of the outcrops described in the correlation panel. Photograph shows sheet sands at the same scale as the seismic profile in Figure 5-11b. Amalgamated massive sandstones are most similar to the channel mouth lobes shown in Figure 5-11a, b. After Sullivan et al. (2000). Reprinted with permission of Gulf Coast Section SEPM Foundation. See Chapter 8 for further discussion of the figure.

Table 5-1.

Reservoir characteristics of contrasting types of deepwater siliciclastic systems (after Reading and Richards, 1994).

Table 5-1.

(Cont.) Reservoir characteristics of contrasting types of deepwater siliciclastic systems (after Reading and Richards, 1994).

Contents

GeoRef

References

References

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