Geochemical characteristics in subsurface fluid systems provide a wealth of information about fluid sources, migration, and storage conditions. Determining the extent of fluid interaction (aquifer-hydrocarbon connectivity) is important for oil and gas production and waste storage applications, but is not tractable using traditional seismic methods. Furthermore, the residence time of fluids is critical in such systems and can vary from tens of thousands to billions of years. Our understanding of the transport length scales in multiphase systems, while equally important, is more limited. Noble gas data from the Rotliegend natural gas field, northern Germany, are used here to determine the length scale and isolation age of the combined water-gas system. We show that geologically bound volume estimates (i.e., gas to water volume ratios) match closed-system noble gas model predictions, suggesting that the Rotliegend system has remained isolated as a closed system since hydrocarbon formation. Radiogenic helium data show that fluid isolation occurred 63–129 m.y. after rock and/or groundwater deposition (ca. 300 Ma), which is consistent with known hydrocarbon generation from 250 to 140 Ma, thus corroborating long-term geologic isolation. It is critical that we have the ability to distinguish between fluid systems that, despite phase separation, have remained closed to fluid loss from those that have lost oil or gas phases. These findings are the first to demonstrate that such systems remain isolated and fully gas retentive on time scales >100 m.y. over >10 km length scales, and have broad implications for saline aquifer CO2 disposal site viability and hydrocarbon resource prediction, which both require an understanding of the length and time scales of crustal fluid transport pathways.
Determining fluid migration and isolation times in multiphase crustal domains using noble gases
Peter H. Barry, M. Lawson, W.P. Meurer, D. Danabalan, D.J. Byrne, J.C. Mabry, Christopher J. Ballentine; Determining fluid migration and isolation times in multiphase crustal domains using noble gases. Geology 2017 doi: 10.1130/G38900.1
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