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Understanding and predicting the petroleum systems of deepwater settings is one of the most challenging aspects of deepwater exploration and production. Unlike reservoirs and traps, deepwater system’s source, seal, generation, timing, and migration are the least constrained scientifically. Thus, deepwater interpretations must be imaged from seismic, wireline log, petroleum seeps, or modeling.

Petroleum-systems modeling is a topic of active research in many companies, yet few results have been published because of the data, representing a major competitive advantage. One significant challenge in the modeling is that the petroleum system in each sedimentary basin is unique. Subtle changes in source-rock richness and distribution, timing of structures, and/or different pressure regimes can contribute to vastly different prospectivity. In general, deepwater basins are unique compared with other petroleum basins because (1) their petroleum was generated and migrated fairly recently (during the last 5–10 million years), and (2) all elements of their petroleum systems are constantly changing (evolving structures, changing stratal architecture, migration paths, and seal capacity).

The first two elements of petroleum systems—reservoirs and traps—are described in Chapter 5 through Chapter 10, and Chapter 15, respectively. In this chapter, we address the five remaining aspects of petroleum systems in deepwater settings: source rocks, seals, petroleum generation, migration, and timing. Some important aspects of the profitability of deepwater settings, such as oil quality, are reviewed. Due to the current confidentiality of deepwater data, we will address the conceptual aspects of deepwater systems, with fewer specific details as in reservoirs and traps.

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