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Marine and Petroleum Geology 27 (2010) 298306

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pT-effects of Pleistocene glacial periods on permafrost, gas hydrate stability zones and reservoir of the Mittelplate oil eld, northern Germany
S. Grassmann a, *, B. Cramer a, G. Delisle a, T. Hantschel b, J. Messner c, J. Winsemann d

Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Stilleweg 2, D-30655 Hanover, Germany Schlumberger Center of Excellence for Petroleum Systems Modeling/IES GmbH, Ritterstrae 23, D-52072 Aachen, Germany c State Authority of Mining, Energy and Geology (LBEG), Stilleweg 2, D-30655 Hanover, Germany d Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz University Hannover, Institute of Geology, Callinstrae 30, D-30167 Hanover, Germany

a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history: Received 25 November 2007 Received in revised form 31 July 2009 Accepted 1 August 2009 Available online 6 August 2009 Keywords: Glaciation Palaeo-gas hydrates Permafrost Reservoir temperature Overpressure Pleistocene Mittelplate Basin modelling

a b s t r a c t
During the past two million years low surface temperatures as well as episodically advancing ice sheets from Scandinavia acted on the subsurface pT-regime of northern Germany. Their likely effects on the petroleum system of Schleswig-Holstein were investigated. For the entire Quaternary mean annual ground temperature (MAGT) was reconstructed at a resolution of 1000 years by calibrating oxygen isotope records from ODP-site 659 to the climate of northern Germany of the past 120 kyr. The resulting MAGT trend served as input to an ice sheet model and a permafrost model along a 2D section crossing the petroleum bearing south-western part of Schleswig-Holstein. Here advances and retreats of the Scandinavian ice sheet during Saalian and Elsterian glaciation Stages were reconstructed. Maximum ice thicknesses of up to 1700 m and up to 20 periods of regional permafrost in northern Germany were reconstructed for the past 1.25 million years. Based on a basal heat ow of 50 mW/m2 permafrost thicknesses exceeded 100 m during most of these periods, temporarily extending down to depths of more than 300 m. Favourable surface temperatures and long durations of cold periods provided favourable conditions for onshore gas hydrate stability zones at Mittelplate. Implementing these glacial dynamics into 2D basin modelling (PetroMod, IES, Aachen, Germany) of the Mittelplate oil eld reveals ve phases of gas hydrate stability at depths down to 750 m. The latest of these events occurred during the Weichselian about 20 kyr ago. The effect of the ice sheets on pore pressure in the subsurface strongly depends on the hydraulic boundary conditions at the ice base (e.g. frozen vs. temperate ice sheet base). Excess pore pressure in the reservoir of more than 10 MPa during ice overriding is possible and probable. The calculated temperature effect of the Pleistocene cooling on the Mittelplate reservoir is in the range of 37  C. Even today temperature in the reservoir is still lowered by about 4  C in comparison to prePleistocene times. Despite the fact that a signicant inuence of glacial effects on petroleum generation can be ruled out at Mittelplate, we state that pT-effects in reservoirs related to glacial processes in formerly glaciated areas have been underestimated in the past. 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction 1.1. The Quaternary of Schleswig-Holstein The Quaternary is characterized by global cooling and subdivided into cycles of colder glacial and warmer interglacial periods (e.g. Ehlers, 1994). During some glacial periods, ice sheets developed on the circum-polar landmasses of Scandinavia and spread over vast areas of northern Central Europe.
* Corresponding author. Present address: ExxonMobil Production Deutschland GmbH (EMPG), Riethorst 12, D-30659 Hanover, Germany. Tel.: 49 511 641 2225. E-mail address: (S. Grassmann). 0264-8172/$ see front matter 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2009.08.002

Studies on the number and the extent of ice sheets covering Schleswig-Holstein are mainly based on the interpretation of glacial landforms and/or the distribution of glacial deposits in northwest and central Germany. It was found that the rst advance of the Scandinavian ice sheets across Schleswig-Holstein started about 350,000 years ago at the beginning of the Elsterian glaciation (e.g. Ehlers and Gibbard, 2003, 2004). Ehlers (1990, 1994) and Stephan (1995) suggested that during the Elsterian glaciation two ice sheets crossed Schleswig-Holstein. The rst one advanced from the north and the second one from the NE. The Elsterian glaciation of north-western Germany was associated with the formation of glacial channels (tunnel valleys) which were eroded by highly pressurized subglacial melt water and

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were subsequently lled with glacial deposits (Piotrowski, 1991; Piotrowski and Tulaczyk, 1999). The southern boundary of the Elsterian glaciation is not known in much detail. Most reliable data for the reconstruction of ice sheet thickness and the position of former Elsterian ice margins come from Saxony and Thuringia (Wagenbreth, 1978; Eissmann, 1995; Unger and Kahlke, 1995; Eissmann, 1997; Junge, 1998), whereas to the west the extent of the Elsterian ice sheet is poorly dened, being obscured by an overprint of the Saalian glaciation (Ehlers et al., 1984; Kaltwang, 1992; Klostermann, 1992, 1995; Caspers et al., 1995). However, all data indicate a complete ice coverage of the Schleswig-Holstein area (Ehlers, 1990, 1994; Stephan, 1995; Ehlers and Gibbard, 2003; Ehlers and Gibbard, 2004). During the Holsteinian interglacial, marine clays were deposited in Schleswig-Holsteins Tunnel Valleys. The beginning of the Saalian is characterized by a period of cold climate but without ice coverage (Ehlers, 1994). Three subsequent major ice advances are known for the Saalian glaciation in northern Germany. Tills are separated by glaciolacustrine and glaciouvial deposits, but no interglacial sediments have been found (Skupin et al., 1993; Ehlers, 1994; Caspers et al., 1995; Stephan, 1995). Ehlers (1990) suggested that the northern part of SchleswigHolstein was permanently covered by ice during the last two Saalian stages. Data from the North Sea offshore Schleswig-Holstein indicate an ice free, periglacial area towards the west (Schwarz, 1996). During the Eemian interglacial the area of the North Sea was affected by a transgression and marine sediments were deposited. In topographically higher areas of Schleswig-Holstein limnic sediments were deposited in morphological depressions (Stephan, 1995). Most authors assume that the rst advances of the Weichselian ice sheet did not occur before 25 kyr BP (Stephan and Menke, 1993; Ehlers, 1994). Therefore, during most of the Weichselian time Schleswig-Holstein was not covered by ice. The dynamics of advancing and retreating ice sheets in northern Europe during the Weichselian is summarized by Boulton et al. (2001). From 25 to about 13 kyr BP at least 3 ice advances from the northeast are known from Schleswig-Holstein, whose deposits make up most of recent landforms (Stephan, 1995). 1.2. Mittelplate petroleum system The area of Schleswig-Holstein, as part of the Central European Basin System (CEBS), is an intensely explored and developed hydrocarbon province. Extensive basin modelling was carried out in this basin (e.g. Bueker et al., 1995; Neunzert et al., 1995, 1997; Erdmann, 1999; Hertle et al., 1999; Petmecky et al., 1999). Dominating structural features are Permian (Rotliegend and Zechstein) and Triassic salt diapirs, mostly striking NNE to SSW. Halokinetic movements started during the Triassic and resulted in the formation of thick sedimentary sequences within rim synclines between the salt diapirs. The most important rim synclines on the Holstein Block are the Westholstein and the Ostholstein Troughs. The importance of these Jurassic Troughs for the petroleum geology of Schleswig-Holstein is linked to the occurrence of thick layers of the prominent Liassic Posidonia Shale source rock (Welte, 1979; Wehner et al., 1989). The Posidonia Shale also charged the reser ller et al., 2004). The overlying voirs at the Mittelplate oil eld (Mu deltaic Middle Jurassic Sandstones serve as prolic reservoir rocks (Berners et al., 1992). The two Jurassic Troughs contain the major petroleum system known so far in Schleswig-Holstein. The Mittelplate eld is the biggest oil accumulation in Germany at present and annual production is in the order of about 2.2 Mio tons of crude oil (Pasternak et al., 2006). The eld is located in the tidal at area at the south-western nearshore of Schleswig-

Holstein (Fig. 1). Because of its economic signicance, petroleum geology of the Mittelplate area is well known (Berners et al., 1992; ller et al., 2004). Junker and Dose, 2001; Langhans et al., 2003; Mu The dynamics of petroleum generation, migration and entrapment were most recently investigated by an integrated petroleum systems modelling approach using the PetroMod (IES, Aachen, Germany) software (Grassmann et al., 2005). By integrating all available geological data, the burial history and the temporal development of the temperature eld were reconstructed. 2D basin modelling included the organic geochemical analysis of maturity indicators, the reconstruction of sedimentation and the calibration of the thermal history as well as the modelling of petroleum generation and migration. The complex history of salt diapirism is the key in understanding the development of the Mittelplate eld. Maturation and petroleum generation within the Posidonia Shale were governed by temporal and spatial changes in temperature caused by extensive salt tectonics within a complex structural framework. 1.3. Inuence of cyclic glaciations on petroleum systems The most obvious impacts of ice sheets on sedimentary basins are changes in the structural and depositional settings. During ice advance glaciers may erode sediments at their base, during melting of an ice sheet glacial sediments can be deposited. In addition, the overburden of the ice leads to isostatic subsidence of the basin while unburden after ice retreat results in isostatic uplift. The spatial and temporal variations of these processes during advancing and retreating ice sheets can lead to changes in the pathways and the intensity of hydrocarbon migration and can even cause spilling of existing petroleum accumulations. For example,

Fig. 1. Study area and location of modelled 2D line intersecting the Mittelplate oil eld.


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Hermanrud et al. (1991) showed for the northern North Sea, that erosional events during the Quaternary were related to deglaciation processes. These events had an effect on the palaeo-temperature distribution and in consequence on hydrocarbon generation and distribution. Cloethingh et al. (1992) and Sales (1992) pointed out that for the Quaternary it is difcult to differentiate between uplift movements caused by glacially induced isostasy and nonglacial tectonic uplift in northwest Europe. However, the lithosphere responds to even slight changes (<10 MPa) in local stress conditions induced by mass and uid transfer associated with Quaternary ice sheets (Thorson, 2000). The deglaciation of the last Pleistocene ice sheet of Scandinavia even today leads to an isostatic uplift of up to several millimetres per year (Thoma and Wolf, 1999). Such uplift movements may have a strong effect on the petroleum systems by changing the temperature and decreasing the pore pressure within the sediments. The most important effect of uplift on hydrocarbon distribution is the release of formerly dissolved gas from the pore water leading to new accumulations of natural gas (Cramer et al., 1999, 2001). Changes in the physical and chemical habitat of a basin due to glaciation also indirectly induce processes related to the occurrence of petroleum. The large commercial gas accumulations within the Antrim Shale of the Michigan Basin, for example, are suggested to be sourced from microbial methane generation within these shales (Martini et al., 1998). This microbial activity was activated by changes in the hydro-geological setting related to the complex Pleistocene glacial history. In order to demonstrate a broader impact of cyclic glaciations on sedimentary basins, Lerche et al. (1997) conducted a modelling study along a synthetic 2D-line. The numerical experiments demonstrated that large ice sheets and their variability in cyclic glaciation frequency have a major inuence on physical and chemical properties of sedimentary basins. In this way they can lead to signicant changes in petroleum systems. Johansen et al. (1996), Solheim et al. (1996) and Cavanagh et al. (2006) showed that these processes strongly affect deep temperature and pressure elds and alter hydrodynamic conditions in sedimentary basins. In this way they can lead to signicant changes in the habitat and distribution of the petroleum. However, a direct proof of Pleistocene glacial processes effecting the deeper subsurface of northern Germany is missing so far. 1.4. Temperature related processes Surface temperature is one key parameter determining the heat ow and temperature distribution within subsurface sediments (Johansen et al., 1996; Solheim et al., 1996). The most obvious effect of reduced sediment temperatures over prolonged periods of time is the freezing of pore water leading to the development of permafrost (Delisle et al., 2007). Permafrost blocks the pore space and reduces rock permeability. In extreme cases, this may prevent upward directed migration of hydrocarbons and can lead to petroleum accumulations at the base of the permafrost. In addition, within and below the base of permafrost favourable conditions exist for the generation of gas hydrate accumulations. A discussion about the impact of permafrost and continental gas hydrates on the distribution of natural gas in the sub-arctic West Siberian Gas Province was provided by Cramer et al. (1997). In this area a direct inuence of gas hydrates on the accumulation of the giant gas reservoirs is not plausible. Only in some cases gas hydrate stability reaches down into conventional gas reservoirs, leading to the development of a secondary gas hydrate cap within the reservoir. Another important effect of reduced temperatures in a basin is a lowered rate of petroleum generation within source rocks reducing recharge rates of the reservoirs. Lerche et al. (1997)

showed that variable frequencies of glaciations can lead to spatial temperature distortions in sedimentary basins. As a result hydrocarbon generation rates vary in time and space. 1.5. Pressure related processes Large continental ice sheets also affect the pressure regime of a sedimentary basin. Riis (1992) suggested that the overburden of a thick ice cap will result in excess hydrostatic pressure below the ice. This would cause a free gas cap to contract, while it would expand when the ice melts. This so-called ice pump effect was believed to be responsible for the redistribution of oil below gas reservoirs in the North Sea area. According to Lerche et al. (1997), overpressure may also lead to fracturing of sediments, which causes leakage of water, oil and gas. However, Thorson (2000) pointed out that pore pressure beneath ice sheets can only increase, if the uid pressure fully compensates the increased vertical load of the ice. This is the case in a wet-based ice sheet when liquid water occurs near the ice/bed interface and if there is unlimited access of the water to the base in an isotropic crust. Grollimund and Zoback (2000) observed a systematic variability of horizontal stress in the northern North Sea. In this area, the pore pressure roughly follows this stress trend today. This implies high overpressure in areas with high horizontal stress and pore pressure close to hydrostatic conditions where lateral stress is decreased. Analytical and numerical models of plate exure (Grollimund and Zoback, 2000) suggest that the observed stress trends are the result of deglaciation. Overpressure appears to be caused at least partly by deglaciation and associated exure. 2. Methods 2.1. Reconstruction of annual ground temperatures and ice sheet thicknesses Our basin model requires two sets of input data to assess the impact of the Pleistocene climate on the subsurface pT-regime: the mean annual ground temperature (MAGT) and the temporal variability of the ice-sheet thickness. Temperature variations in northcentral Europe during the Weichselian have been reconstructed on the basis of proxy data such as botanical macrofossils and pollen content in Weichselian sediments by Caspers and Freund (1997). Based on their work a reconstruction of the mean annual ground temperatures (MAGT) during the Weichselian as well as an assessment of the temporal variability of permafrost development in northern Germany was presented by Delisle et al. (2003). Proxy data from pre-Eemian sub-aerial deposits tend to be too sparse to enable us to reconstruct a continuous record of the regional climate for the entire Pleistocene. Therefore, as an alternative approach, an estimate for an MAGT-curve for the Pleistocene of northern Germany based on the marine proxy record from the ODP-sites 659 was developed by Delisle et al. (2007). In the basin model the MAGT-values were integrated as upper boundary condition in the calculation of the basins heat budget, with a temporal resolution of 1000 years. As ice sheets advance or retreat MAGT-values cannot be used as an upper thermal boundary condition for sediments, but must be replaced by the calculated temperatures at the base of the glacier. The timing of glacial advance and retreat was modelled according to a computer code by Delisle (1991), which is driven a) by a function relating air temperatures to precipitation and b) by ice-rheological functions, which determine ice deformation and ow from the internal temperature eld of the modelled glacier. The surface temperatures of the modelled glaciers were obtained

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by assuming a vertical lapse rate in the atmosphere of 5.5  C/km from the ground. The deformation of the glacier was modelled based on the creep law for ice by Nye (1952, 1965):

_ A,sn e
1 1


_ creep rate (s ); A ice stiffness parameter (s kPa ); where e s driving stress (s r$g$h$sin(a)) with r density of ice; g gravitational acceleration; h height of ice column; a surface slope. Horizontal (u) and vertical (v) ice ow components are related _ by the relation e _ 0:5$du=dz and dv=dz du=dz. to e Surface slopes are in nal consequence related to differential snow precipitation, which in turn is related to air temperature above the glacier. Precipitation rates during glacial stages are not known. We chose a plausible relation for precipitation m (ice equivalent):

taken up is a key component that controls the rate of permafrost growth or decay. The freezing/melting point of ice in permafrost also depends on the soil type. The depression of the freezing point in particular in ne-grained soils is a well-known effect (see e.g. Tsytovich, 1957; Washburn, 1979). However, for most clayey to sandy soils 8597% of the pore water is frozen below a soil temperature of 0.6  C. To account for this effect, our calculations include as approximation a mean effective freezing point of 0.6  C, where upon freezing all latent heat has been released and upon melting is taken up. Finally, the thermal conductivity of rocks and heat ow density from the Earths Interior are additional controlling factors. We integrated the model of Delisle (1998b) into the existing PetroMod petroleum systems modelling technology by applying an instant shift in lithology to intervals with a calculated temperature below 0.6  C. The associated changes of thermodynamic parameters are summarized in Table 1. 3. Results and discussion 3.1. Permafrost and gas hydrates at Mittelplate The MAGT-reconstruction (Fig. 3A) combined with the reconstructed ice sheet coverage (Fig. 3B) forecasts the existence of permafrost in northern Germany during the glacial/interglacial cycles in Central Europe during the last 1 million years (Fig. 3C). Furthermore, during the early Pleistocene prolonged periods with ground temperatures below zero and phases of permafrost development existed. This is in good agreement with geological evidence of permafrost development in the Menapian, Eburonian and Tiglian stages, as has been reported by various workers. A summary of the available evidence was presented by Vandenberghe (2001), whose results appear to reect well our perception of the sequence of cold stages in northern Germany for the last 1 million years. The Weichselian, Saalian- and Elsterian-stages are clearly represented by permafrost as well as the Cromer- and Bavel-stages. According to our model, permafrost was a periodic and common feature in northern Germany during the Pleistocene, in many cases extending deeper than 100 m into the ground (Fig. 3C). The model implies climatic conditions were too warm for the formation of permafrost 21.2 Myr ago. However, the reconstruction for the whole Pleistocene predicts prolonged sub-zero ground temperature episodes and phases of permafrost development. Investigations on the permafrost depth were based on two approaches: an established algorithm for the calculation of permafrost growth and decay (Delisle, 1998a,b, 2003, 2007) was used to cross check the results of the integrated basin model. A comparison of permafrost for both models is shown in Fig. 3C. In general, good agreement was achieved in timing of permafrost development and decay. The increased heat ow above salt domes impedes the downward propagation of permafrost. Our model suggests a reduction of the maximum vertical extent of permafrost above salt domes by up to 100 m in comparison with the neighbouring rocks (Fig. 5). Differences in thickness between both models are caused by different basal heat ow scenarios. Delisle et al. (2007) applied 75 mW/m2 whereas Grassmann et al. (2005) used a calibrated basal heat input of 50 mW/m2 as. However, both results appear to reect well our perception of the sequence of cold stages in northern Germany for the last 1 million years. The Weichselian-, Saalian- and Elsterian-stages are clearly represented as well as the older stages. Also prolonged permafrost conditions in periods older than 1 million years are in agreement with available geologic evidence (Vandenberghe, 2001).

m 15 cm40 Tair =40:


0  C < T < 40  C


This approach results in a relatively massive ice shield, which might be considered to represent the upper end of plausible ice shield congurations. The resulting maximum ice thickness calculated for Mittelplate was about 1700 m at the peak of the Saalian glaciation. 2.2. 2D basin model The structural and thermal evolution along a 2D section crossing the Mittelplate eld (line OMS) was reconstructed utilizing 2D basin modelling (Grassmann et al., 2005). For modelling purposes the software suite PetroMod by IES (Integrated Exploration Systems, Aachen, Germany) was applied. In order to reconstruct the temperature development of the sedimentary sequence throughout the Mesozoic, computed vitrinite reectance values were calibrated with the measured maturity of the sedimentary organic matter. For this purpose the EASY%Ro method (Sweeney and Burnham, 1990) was applied. The match of modelled vitrinite reectance (Easy%Ro) with measured vitrinite reectance values was realized assuming a constant basal heat ow of 50 mW/m2 since the Early Jurassic. As a result of the maturity calibration, we were able to compute the temperature distribution in the sediments along the 2D-line (Fig. 2). Because of the chimney effect of diapirs (e.g. Neunzert et al., 1997; Delisle, 1998a; Cramer et al., 2005) the temperature at the base of the salt structures is signicantly lowered (about 20  C for the Mittelplate area). Obviously, the Mittelplate area is part of a region with a low increase in temperature with depth and a moderate heat ow. The thermal evolution of the area is characterized by rather uniform conditions persisting throughout the Mesozoic and Early Cenozoic. For calculating permafrost aggradation and decay throughout the Quaternary we used the numerical model described earlier (Delisle, 1998b). This model in particular includes the effect of release and uptake of latent heat during freezing and melting of permafrost but has its limitations owing to a purely heat conductive approach. The presented model calculates the time-dependent vertical extent of the permafrost zone during each cold period. In the context of the presented numerical model, the boundary denes the level, where release (freezing) or uptake (melting) of latent heat has been completed. Various soil parameters inuence permafrost growth and decay as well. Of major importance is the overall content of uids in the soil, which at the freezing point will freeze (melt) after the latent heat content has been released (taken up). The amount of latent heat (80 kcal/kgpore water) released or being


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Fig. 2. Modelled WE section crossing the Mittelplate oil eld. Figure comprises outline of Permian evaporates, West Holstein Trough and location of VR-calibration wells. Recent temperature distribution shows typical effect of distorted temperature eld owing to contrasting thermal conductivities between salt diapirs and surrounding lithologies. Below: measured vs. calculated vitrinite reectance calibration. Both after Grassmann et al., 2005.

Low surface temperatures lasted sufciently long thus leading to the development of physical conditions favourable for the formation of gas hydrates below the permafrost zone (Fig. 4). According to Fig. 3D, gas hydrates were stable down to depths of 750 m during

Table 1 Parameters used for modelling of ice sheets and permafrost within PetroMod. Ice lithology parameters for PetroMod Density [kg m3] Porosity [%] 1.000 1 Fluid permeability [logmD] 15 Thermal conductivity [W m1 K1] 2.33 Heat capacity [kcal kg1 K1] 0.49

Permafrost parameters for PetroMod Pore space lling Water non-permafrost Ice permafrost Fluid permeability [logmD] Rock specic 16 Thermal conductivity [W m1 K1] 0.6 2.33 Heat capacity [kcal kg1 K1] 1.0 0.49

Heat of crystallization: 80 kcal kg1.

ve different periods in the past 750,000 years. These results suggest that conditions for gas hydrate stability persisted several 10,000 years at Mittelplate and thicknesses were up to 500 m. The last period of gas hydrate stability ceased just recently at the beginning of the Holocene. Earlier gas hydrate stability zones existed during Cromer- and Bavel-stages due to the prolonged exposure of uncovered ground to signicantly lowered ground temperatures. Favourable conditions for gas hydrate stability were lacking during Saalian- and Elsterian glacial stages due to overlying ice sheets causing smoothed temperature at its base. Fig. 5 shows lateral variations of permafrost and depth of the gas hydrate stability zone along the modelled line. The presence of salt domes tends to reduce the maximum depth of overlying permafrost by as much as 100 m, lowering the base of the gas hydrate stability zone (GHSZ). Despite the existence of the gas hydrate stability zones during the Pleistocene it is not clear if gas hydrates have in fact formed in considerable amounts. Thermally generated natural gas was not present in sufcient quantities for the formation of actual gas hydrate layers (Grassmann et al., 2005). Microbial methane generation probably contributing to the total gas budget in the relevant depth range for gas hydrates was not considered in the

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Fig. 3. Inuence of Quaternary climate effects on the subsurface at Mittelplate: A d MAGT-curve; B d ice sheet thickness; C d permafrost depth; D d gas hydrate stability zone; E d temperature effect in the reservoir; F d possible maximum pressure effect in the reservoir. Stratigraphy according to Streif (2004).

basin model. However, even if microbial gas was periodically trapped in gas hydrate layers during the Pleistocene, no signicant effect of these gas hydrates on the Mittelplate oil eld is expected due to the different depths of gas hydrate stability zones and the existing Middle Jurassic reservoirs (Fig. 2). 3.2. Pressure and temperature effects in the Mittelplate reservoir It is known that large continental ice sheets affect the pressure regime of an underlying sedimentary basin. Riis (1992) and Solheim et al. (1996) suggested that overburden of a thick ice cap may result in hydrostatic pressure in excess below the ice. Thorson (2000) pointed out that pore pressure beneath ice sheets can only increase, if the uid pressure fully compensates the increased vertical load of the ice. This is the case in a wet-based ice sheet with uid water to near surface and unlimited access of the water to the base in an isotropic crust. In the basin model along the modelled section the

ice sheets were dened as water-saturated rock layer with lithological parameters of the solid phase (e.g. density, heat conductivity) dened as ice. Doing so, the lithostatic pressure during periods of glaciation increased according to changes in ice-sheet thickness. Fig. 6 shows this effect within the Mittelplate reservoir with an increase from about 60 MPa to more than 75 MPa during the three main phases of glaciation. In comparison to lithostatic pressure pore pressure effects are all the same difcult to reconstruct. Crucial boundary conditions at the base of the Pleistocene ice sheets are not known. To account for the largest possible effect on pore pressure an extreme case according to Thorson (2000) was assumed where partly water-saturated ice sheets are hydraulically connected to the groundwater. In this scenario only the lowering of rock permeability during periods of permafrost formation inhibits deep penetration of the uid pressure signal into the crust. With these presumptions uid pressure in the Mittelplate reservoir increased from about 25 MPa to more


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Fig. 4. Depth/temperature trends superimposed on the gas hydrates stability diagram.

than 40 MPa during ice sheet coverage (Fig. 6B). These values are consistent with excess hydraulic pressures calculated by Cavanagh et al. (2006), who used comparable but more simplied input data to calculate the effects of ice-sheet coverage for the Barents Sea Basin. Surface temperature is a key parameter to heat ow and temperature distribution within sedimentary basins. Apart from the most obvious effect of permafrost development described

above, the temperature eld in rocks below the permafrost zone can be signicantly disturbed due to the cold glacial climate. Lerche et al. (1997) showed that variable frequencies of glaciations can lead to deep spatial temperature distortions in sedimentary basins. As a result source rock maturation and hydrocarbon generation rates may vary in time and space. In order to assess the effect on temperature in the Mittelplate reservoirs, a standard scenario with constant surface temperatures of 10  C provided by the software PetroMod was compared with our glacial model including the MAGT trends for the Pleistocene (Fig. 6A). According to this, temperature in the reservoir was signicantly lower during glacial periods than predicted by standard basin modelling. This effect amounts to 7  C cooling at the beginning of the Elsterian glaciation. Even today the reservoir is still colder by about 5  C. The permafrost itself also has an inuence on the temperature in the reservoir. As the thermal conductivity of ice is higher than that of (liquid) water, heat in the sedimentary basin is more rapidly transported through permafrost. This leads to an additional cooling effect below permafrost layers. In our model this additional cooling related to permafrost reaches up to 1  C (Fig. 6B). A decrease in reservoir temperature of 7  C due to glacial cooling corresponds to ndings by Johansen et al. (1996) who modelled the same 7  C temperature drop for the Norwegian Shelf area. In contrast to the work by Lerche et al. (1997) a signicant inuence of this effect on source rock maturation can be ruled out in case of the Mittelplate petroleum system. In consequence, also petroleum generation rates were not lowered perceptibly in our model. In contrast to the work by Lerche et al. (1997) a signicant inuence of glacial conditions on source rock maturation in the Posidonia shale along the OMS line can be ruled out. The source rock is too deep and duration of glacial cooling was not sufcient to slow down maturation and petroleum generation.

Fig. 5. Lateral variation of permafrost and gas hydrate stability zone (GHSZ) depth at Weichselian and pre-Elsterian times.

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Fig. 6. Computed temperature trends in the Mittelplate reservoir for three different scenarios. Maximum cooling effect of 7  C is observed at the beginning of the Elsterian glaciation. The difference between the two SWI-T models is due to the enhanced thermal conductivity of permafrost compared to water-saturated pore volume.

4. Conclusions During the past 2 million years low surface temperatures as well as periodically advancing thick glaciers from the northeast acted on the pT-regime in the subsurface of the Mittelplate area. To account for these effects, mean annual ground temperatures at a resolution of 1000 years were reconstructed for the entire Pleistocene. This temperature trend was generated by applying oxygen isotope records from ODP-site 659 calibrated to the climate of northern Germany on the basis of previously reconstructed surface temperatures for the past 120 kyr. Ice sheets covered the area several times during the Saalian and Elsterian glaciations. According to our ice sheet model used to reconstruct ice sheet advances and retreats across the section, maximum ice thicknesses of up to 1700 m were reached. By integrating these parameters into 2D basin modelling, up to 20 periods of permafrost were reconstructed for the past 1.25 million years. At a calibrated basal heat ow of 50 mW/m2 permafrost thicknesses exceeded 100 m during most of these periods, temporarily extending down to depths of more than 300 m. Favourable surface temperatures and long durations of cold periods also provided the stability conditions of continental gas hydrates at Mittelplate during the Pleistocene. Basin modelling reveals ve periods during which gas hydrates could form at depths down to 750 m. The last permafrost and gas hydrate event ceased about 20 kyr ago. Low surface temperatures and the hydraulic system of the ice sheets also signicantly inuenced the pT-conditions in the oil reservoir of Mittelplate. The effect of the glaciers on pore pressure in the subsurface strongly depends on the hydraulic boundary conditions at the base of the glaciers (e.g. permafrost vs. unfrozen ground) which are not well known. Nevertheless, excess pore pressures in the reservoir of more than 10 MPa during glacial overburden are possible. The temperature effects of the Pleistocene

cooling on the Mittelplate reservoirs can be constrained much better and are in the order of 37  C. Even today the temperature eld in the reservoir is lowered by about 5  C compared to the early Pleistocene. A signicant inuence of these ndings on the petroleum generation potential at Mittelplate can be ruled out. Acknowledgements The work was funded by the German Research Foundation (CR139/1-1/-2 and WI1844/4-1/-2) as part of the DFG Priority Programme 1135 Dynamics of sedimentary systems under varying stress regimes: The example of the Central European Basin. The study greatly beneted from cooperation with Dr. Thomas Hantschel who implemented for the project a permafrost option into the PetroMod basin modelling software. The access to data and the interest of the two companies operating Mittelplate, RWE-Dea and Wintershall AG, is highly appreciated. References
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