Abstract

This paper discusses the migration of petroleum from its formation in a source rock to its subsequent possible entrapment in a reservoir. The chemical and physical properties of petroleum gases and liquids are stressed, particularly their phase behaviour under subsurface conditions which is shown to be a very important factor in determining migration behaviour. Engineering correlations are presented for estimating the properties of petroleum fluids under geologically realistic conditions. The directions and magnitudes of the forces acting on migrating petroleum are deduced from the combined effects of buoyancy and water flow in compacting sediments. These forces are combined, using a fluid potential description. This procedure allows the direction of migration to be denned. The rate of migration is then estimated from the properties of the sediments involved, allowing a distinction to be made between ‘lateral’ and ‘vertical’ carrier beds. This simplified approach is suitable for rapid predictive calculations in petroleum exploration. It is compared with the more complex 3-D computer modelling approaches which are currently becoming available. Migration losses are related to the cumulative pore volume employed by the petroleum in establishing a migration pathway. The petroleum migration mechanism is shown to be predominantly by bulk flow, with a small diffusive contribution for light hydrocarbons over distances less than c. 100 m. The loss factors involved in secondary migration are estimated from field evidence. The mechanism of reservoir filling is presented as a logical extension to those described for migration. This, together with the inefficiency of in-reservoir mixing by diffusion or convection, is shown to tend to cause significant lateral compostional gradients in reservoirs over and above the gravitationally induced vertical gradients described by other workers.

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