Pre-drill estimates of hydrocarbon column heights are often uncertain, particularly where filling to structural spill point is questioned. Identification of locations where vertical leakage is concentrated can allow more reliable hydrocarbon column height predictions. The locations of vertical leakage were sought on seismic data over an underfilled and overpressured trap (35/10-2) in the Norwegian North Sea. It was hoped that one single location or one single narrow leakage zone coinciding with the gas–water contact would be found. If such a location or zone existed, it was expected to be in or above a fault plane, as leakage in the 35/10-area is thought to mainly result from shear failure along faults.
The investigation found a zone with pronounced dimming above a triple fault intersection bounding the 35/10-2 structure. This zone stretches further downdip and is positioned above a fault plane. The shallowest part of this zone intersects the top of the reservoir at the depth of the proven gas–water contact. These observations suggest that a discrete leakage zone, of which the shallowest part controls the column height of the structure, has been identified and that the column height is limited by leakage resulting from shear failure. The occurrence of similar seismic features over undrilled structures can lead to safer assessments of hydrocarbon column heights, especially if the observations are consistent with the general knowledge of stress state and leakage processes in the area.