The geological processes that create fluid storage capacity and connectivity in global fractured basement reservoirs are poorly understood compared to conventional hydrocarbon plays. Hosting potentially multibillion barrels of oil, the upfaulted Precambrian basement of the Rona Ridge, offshore west of Shetland, UK, gives key insights into how such reservoirs form. Oil presence is everywhere associated with sub-millimeter- to meter-thickness mineralized fracture systems cutting both basement and local preseal cover sequences. Mineral textures and fluid inclusion geothermometry suggest a low-temperature (90–220 °C), near-surface hydrothermal system, as does the preservation of clastic sediments in the same fractures. These fills act as permanent props holding fractures open, forming long-term fissures in the basement that permit oil ingress and storage. Calcite-fill U-Pb dating constrains the onset of mineralization and contemporaneous oil charge to the Late Cretaceous. The additional preservation of oil-stained injected sediment slurries and silica gels along basement faults suggests that rift-related seismogenic faulting initiated lateral oil migration from Jurassic source rocks into the adjacent upfaulted ridge. Subsidence below sea level in the latest Cretaceous sealed the ridge with shales, and buoyancy-driven migration of oil into the preexisting propped fracture systems continued long after the cessation of rifting. These new observations provide an explanation for the viability of sub-unconformity fractured basement reservoirs worldwide, and have wider implications for subsurface fluid migration processes generally.

This content is PDF only. Please click on the PDF icon to access.