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Oil & Gas

From exploration to distribution


Week 1 V06 Origin of hydrocarbon resources part 2
Jean-Pierre Deflandre

W1V6 Origin of hydrocarbon resources2 p. 1


IFPEN - IFP School 2015 / TOTAL SA 2015 / IFP Training 2015

Introduction
Last time was introduced the downward part of the story, from surface sediment deposit to
the expulsion of hydrocarbon fluids from the source rock. Our objective was to understand
how sediments generate hydrocarbon fluids.
In this lesson we will focus on the underground migration of hydrocarbon fluids, these fluids
being not so dense as water that they will aim to move upward.
Therefore, looking at migration pathways will allow us to understand and inventory the wide
spectrum of natural hydrocarbon resources.
Our main objective will be to understand the origin of the different typologies of
hydrocarbon which indeed reflect the different underground fluid flow stories.
Another objective will be to introduce very basic notions of fluid flows in porous media.

Geological scenario

For our travel in the underground, we will use this particular schematic geological section to
comment on examples of hydrocarbon migration scenarios and to illustrate where the
different typologies of hydrocarbon resources can be found.
At first we can consider four main domains: the atmosphere, the sea, the continental
basement and finally the sedimentary rock domain where hydrocarbons are generated and
displace.

If real, such a section would be a testimony of a quite complex and long geological story
during which large scale tectonics and erosion processes strongly reshape the Earth: tilting
formations, faulting them while eroding others and creating new ones in a permanent way
during hundreds of millions of years.
Faults, depending on their sealing, play an important role in fluid migration, isolating or
connecting the different compartments noted here: A, B, C and D.

W1V6 Origin of hydrocarbon resources2 p. 2


IFPEN - IFP School 2015 / TOTAL SA 2015 / IFP Training 2015

In our case we will assume the fault separating compartments A and B to be permeable
(fluids can circulate in the fault) and the two others as impermeable, being sealed by some
minerals.

Indeed in each location it is a particular story geologists will aim to understand when
addressing oil and gas production.
Let us look in detail at these sedimentary formations composed, in our specific case, of:
two source rocks, mainly shales, coal and different types of clays and sandstones. These
different kinds of rocks represent more or less porous and permeable materials where
hydrocarbon fluids can or cannot displace through or accumulate into.

W1V6 Origin of hydrocarbon resources2 p. 3


IFPEN - IFP School 2015 / TOTAL SA 2015 / IFP Training 2015

The porosity represents the amount of void in a medium such as hole volumes in a piece of
swiss cheese.
The permeability reflects the ability of a material to allow fluids to displace through it. It
represents the way pores and/ or open fracture networks are connected.
Permeability is reported in Darcies or more generally in millidarcies.
The more the compaction of the rock the less the porosity and permeability of it.

W1V6 Origin of hydrocarbon resources2 p. 4


IFPEN - IFP School 2015 / TOTAL SA 2015 / IFP Training 2015

Let us now focus on the geological sequence in compartment A.


The deepest and oldest sedimentary layer, a source rock, in brown, is first overlapped by a
tight sandstone formation, in light yellow, then a thin coal deposit, in black, a second tight
sandstone formation and a second source rock deposit. All these formations correspond to
extremely low permeability formations. Fluid migration in such formations is not easy due to
capillary pressure effects.
Above, two porous and permeable sandstone layers in yellow and orange respectively
covered by an impermeable clay formation have been more or less eroded over time from
one compartment to the other.
Such sandstones are excellent carrier systems for fluid migration, and on the contrary clay is
an efficient barrier such as the source rocks themselves.

The red line corresponds to the geological erosion limit of these oldest sediments. It is called
unconformity and delimits two main geological stages.

W1V6 Origin of hydrocarbon resources2 p. 5


IFPEN - IFP School 2015 / TOTAL SA 2015 / IFP Training 2015

Note on the left part of the figures all these sediments outcrop. This is very helpful for the
study of buried sediments.

On the right part of the figure, these sediments remain buried but they have been uplifted
during tectonics phases.

W1V6 Origin of hydrocarbon resources2 p. 6


IFPEN - IFP School 2015 / TOTAL SA 2015 / IFP Training 2015

This means they were buried deeper at a higher temperature and pressure some millions of
years ago making the maturation of organic matter possible.

Back to our geological section now. The recent sedimentary layers correspond to another
type of clay in light green and to two very different permeable and porous sandstones.

Migration of hydrocarbon fluids


Now let us consider the different scenarios of migration of the hydrocarbon fluids taking into
account petrophysical rock properties such as porosity and permeability, in situ stresses,
pressure gradients, temperature, etc and source rock maturation.

W1V6 Origin of hydrocarbon resources2 p. 7


IFPEN - IFP School 2015 / TOTAL SA 2015 / IFP Training 2015

Last time we saw that hydrocarbon fluids were expelled from the source rock if it was
mature enough.
Most fluids remain within the source rock.

Now lets start our inventory of the hydrocarbon resources.

W1V6 Origin of hydrocarbon resources2 p. 8


IFPEN - IFP School 2015 / TOTAL SA 2015 / IFP Training 2015

Typologies of hydrocarbon resources


First let us consider the HC remaining trapped within the Source rock which represents huge
resources worldwide.
They are nowadays exploited in North America delivering light oil, condensates or gas, better
known as shale oil and shale gas.

Oil or gas will penetrate the tight sandstones and will be trapped due to the very low
permeability effects.
Hydrocarbon resources present in tight formations can be disseminated in wide sedimentary
areas. They represent huge resources and can be produced in a similar way as source rocks.

W1V6 Origin of hydrocarbon resources2 p. 9


IFPEN - IFP School 2015 / TOTAL SA 2015 / IFP Training 2015

To be exhaustive we have also to consider the gas generated from another kind of source
rock: the coal beds.
Methane is trapped within the coal itself and is produced thanks to the natural fracture
system.

Hydrocarbons will also easily penetrate the high porosity high permeability sandstones
located above, starting their long-term upward migration.
At this stage, there are two main scenarios when considering migration.
-Nothing blocks the migration of hydrocarbon fluids allowing them to reach the surface.
W1V6 Origin of hydrocarbon resources2 p. 10
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-It is blocked or affected by a barrier of permeability (such as a clay formation or a sealed


fault) which will block them or will affect their pathway.

When nothing blocks the migration of hydrocarbon fluids as in compartment A, they reach
the surface as oil and gas seeps.
At shallow depths oil can be biodegraded creating tar sands and bitumen or extra heavy oil
deposits such as in Canada and Venezuela.

In another geological context, such as in compartment D, gas penetrates the shallow porous
sediments, and in presence of water, changes into solid hydrates due to specific high
pressure and low temperature conditions.
Huge amounts of gas are trapped under hydrates in large areas worldwide within artic
domains and deep offshore.
W1V6 Origin of hydrocarbon resources2 p. 11
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Now let us consider the case where hydrocarbon fluids migrate into a geological cul-de-sac.
No escape is possible and fluids will accumulate over time in this local and limited trap as
indicated here.
It is the combination of a porous and permeable rock, which we call a reservoir rock, capped
with an impermeable one: a caprock or seal by definition.
The production of hydrocarbon fluids located in structural traps is the most common way to
produce oil and gas today. In other words it is conventional.
By comparison all the other scenarios are called unconventional ones.

W1V6 Origin of hydrocarbon resources2 p. 12


IFPEN - IFP School 2015 / TOTAL SA 2015 / IFP Training 2015

Our last case corresponds to immature rich-organic source rock. This is the case in
compartment A for source rock located at shallow depths.
Producing oil from such resources is possible ex situ after mining and heating.
These huge hydrocarbon resources are known as oil shale resources.

W1V6 Origin of hydrocarbon resources2 p. 13


IFPEN - IFP School 2015 / TOTAL SA 2015 / IFP Training 2015