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Pressuredetection

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Normalreservoirpressureisthepressureinthe
reservoirfluidsnecessarytosustainacolumnofwater
tothesurface.[1]Normalpressuresrangebetween
0.43and0.50psi/ft.Normaldrillingmudsweigh
about9ppg(poundspergallon)andexertabottom
holepressureofapproximately0.47psi/ftofdepth.

DevelopmentGeologyReference
Manual

Byconventioninthepetroleumindustry,
overpressurereferstopressureshigherthannormal
thatrequireheavydrillingmudtokeepformation
fluidsfromenteringtheborehole.Pressureslower
thannormalarecalledsubnormal.

Contents
1Overpressuredreservoirs
1.1Drillingproblemswith
overpressuredreservoirs
1.2Geologicalcauseofoverpressured
reservoirs
1.2.1Arrestedcompactionofshale
1.2.2Aquathermaleffects
1.2.3Tectonicphenomena
1.2.4Thermalcrackingoforganic
matter
1.2.5Othercauses

Series

MethodsinExploration

Part

Wellsitemethods

Chapter Pressuredetection
Author ParkeA.Dickey
Link

Webpage
(http://archives.datapages.com/data/alt
browse/aapgspecialvolumes/me10.htm)

Store

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1.3Predictionofoverpressurebeforedrilling:seismicdetection
1.4Detectionofoverpressurewhiledrilling
1.4.1Drillingrate
1.4.2Mudtanklevel
1.5Delayedindications
1.6Detectionofoverpressurewithwelllogs
2Subnormallypressuredreservoirs
2.1Drillingproblemswithsubnormallypressuredreservoirs
3Seealso
4References
5Externallinks

Overpressuredreservoirs
Drillingproblemswithoverpressuredreservoirs

Notableeffectsofoverpressuredreservoirsthatarecostlyincludethefollowing:
Blowoutsuncontrolledproductionof
formationfluids
Cavinghighporepressureinlow
permeabilityrockscausesthemtostress
relieveorcaveintotheborehole
Stuckpipethedrillpipeadherestotheside
oftheboreholeduetotheswelling(stress
relief)oftheboreholewallsbehindthebit
Lostcirculationbyraisingthemudweight
tocontroltheformationpressureatthebit,the
formationmayrupture.Themudwillthenrun
outintoacavityofitsownmaking.

Figure1Schematicdiagramshowingthelocation
ofabnormalpressuresinsouthernLouisiana.The
continentalanddeltaicfaciescontainssandybeds.
Thenerltic(nearshore)faclescontainsafewsilty
andsandybedsthatconnectlaterallytothedeltaic
facies.Theoutershelffaciescontainsalmostno
sandybeds,andtheporefluidscannotescape.The
growthfaultsaresealsthatstopthelateralflowof
porewatertowardtheneriticfacies. [2]

Whendrillinginareaswhereoverpressuredzones
areknowntooccur,itisnecessarytobeawareof
boththepressureofthefluidsintheporesandthe
pressureatwhichtheformationswillfracture.Itis
notenoughsimplytodrillwithheaviermudto
preventblowouts.Ifthemudistooheavy,the
formationwillruptureandlostcirculationwillresult.Itisusuallyimpossibletodeterminethesecritical
pressuresinanewareainadvanceofdrilling.

Geologicalcauseofoverpressuredreservoirs
Thereisconsiderabledebateandliteratureonthecausesofoverpressure.Thissectionoutlinessome
commonexplanations.
Arrestedcompactionofshale
Themostcommonlyacceptedcauseofoverpressureisarrestedcompactionofshale.Compaction
requirestheexpulsionofporewater.Whenclaysfirststarttocompact,theyarequitepermeableand
mostofthewatermovesupward.Ascompactioncontinues,however,theclayflakesbecomeparallel,
reducingverticalpermeability.Sandsandsiltscompactlessthanclaysandshalesandcanmaintain
permeabilitytogreaterdepths.
Aslongasthereisasiltyorsandybedwithinafewfeetoftheshales,theshalescontinueonanormal
compactiontrend.However,ifnosandybedsarepresent,thewaterremainsintheshalepores.As
additionaloverburdenisdeposited,theshalethenhastosustainallorpartoftheadditionalweight.This
resultsinhighpressureintheshaleporewater.Ifthereisasmall,isolatedsandbodyenclosedbythe
shale,whateverfluiditcontains(water,oil,orgas),willsharethesamepressure.Thefactthat
overpressureshavebeenmaintainedforhundredsofmillionsofyearsoversmallverticalintervals
indicatesthatthepermeabilityoftheenclosingshalescanbevirtuallyzero.
Thedistributionofreservoirsandoverpressuringisstronglycontrolledbythedepositionalenvironment
(Figure1).Overpressuredreservoirsarecommonlyfoundwheretherearethickdepositsofshaly
sediments.
Aquathermaleffects

Aquathermaleffectsalsocauseoverpressure.Thetemperatureincreasesassedimentisburied,causing
anincreaseinthevolumeofwater.Thisinturnresultsinanincreaseinpressureifthesedimentissealed
byanimpermeablelayer.[4].Forexample,ifashaleistotallysealedandthereisnodilationtoincrease
theporevolume,andifthegeothermalgradientis
25Cper1000m,thenthepressureincreaseisabout
1.8psiperft.Thisismorethantheincreasein
weightoftheoverburden.Consequently,this
aquathermalpressuringwillcauseanincreaseof
pressureuptothepressureatwhichtherocks
fracture(Figure2).
PressuredatafromsomeU.S.Gulfcoastwells
suggestthattheaquathermaleffectisimportant.
Tectonicphenomena
Tectonicphenomenaalsoproduceoverpressures.In
theGulfofAlaska,fluidporepressuresupto0.85
psiperftwerefoundduetohorizontalcompressive
stressintherocks.InWesternAlberta,large
thicknessesofPaleozoiccarbonateshavebeenthrust
oversoftCretaceousshales,resultingin
overpressuringofthelenticularoilbearing
sandstonesthatextendundertheoverthrust(suchas
LeaflandandPembina).
Thermalcrackingoforganicmatter
Thethermalcrackingoforganicmattermaycause
anincreaseinthevolumeoffluids,whichwouldin
turncauseanincreaseinpressure.
Othercauses
Othersuggestedcausesofoverpressuringincludethe
lossofwaterinsmectiteclayasitchangestoillite,
osmoticpressuresduetosalinityvariationsinthe
water,andeffectsofcementation.

Figure2Commonpatternsofincreasingpressure
withdepth.InthecaseillustratedbylineA,the
pressureincreasesnormallytoacertaindepth,then
increasesabruptlytoalmosttheweightofthe
overburden,whichitthenparallels.Inthecaseof
lineB,theincreaseofpressureabovenormal
followstheaquathermalgradient(constantwater
density)andthenfollowsthefracturegradient. [3]

Predictionofoverpressurebeforedrilling:seismicdetection
Asshalescompact,thevelocityofseismicwavesincreasessothatseismicwavevelocitynormally
increaseswithdepth.Iftheshaleshavenotbeenabletocompact,theseismicvelocitywillbeless.
Intervalvelocitycanbedeterminedfromthesurfacebythecommondepthpointmethodofseismic
acquisition.Ifintervalvelocityincreasesnormallywithdepthandthendecreases,itispossiblethata
zoneofoverpressureexists.Thismethodofpredictingthedepthtoanoverpressuredzonehasbeen
widelyused,especiallyintheoffshoreGulfcoastoftheUnitedStates.

Detectionofoverpressurewhiledrilling

Drillingrate
Whendrillingshales,thedrillingratenormallydecreaseswithdepthastheshalesbecomemore
compact.Ifthedrillingrateincreases,itcanbeinferredthatanoverpressuredzoneisbeingencountered.
Therateincreasesbecausebottomholeconditionschangefromoverbalancedtounderbalanced.
Becauselithology,rotaryspeed,andweightonthebitalsoaffectdrillingrate,acorrecteddrillingrate
calleddexponentshouldbeused(Equation1).Thismethodcanbeoneofthemostreliableindicators
thatthedrillispenetratingazoneofabnormallyhighpressure.

where
R=rateofpenetrationinfeetperhour,
N=rotaryspeedinrevolutionsperminute,
W=weightonbitinpounds,and
D=holediameterininches[5].
Mudtanklevel
Arisinglevelofmudinthetanksindicatesthatmoremudiscomingoutoftheholethanisgoingin.
Thisiscalledakick.Thishappensbecauseformationfluidsareenteringtheholeandthewellis
threateningtoblowout.Thesituationisextremelyserious,andproperstepsmustbetakentogetthegas,
oil,orwateroutofthehole.Themostcommonmethodistoclosetheblowoutpreventersandstopthe
pumps.Afterafewminutes,thepressureatthetopofthedrillpipewillequalthepressureinthe
formationminustheweightofthecolumnofmud.Thisistheexcesspressurethatmustbebalancedby
increasingthemudweight.Thepumpsarethenstartedtocirculatetheextraneousfluidoutofthehole.
Thedrillpipepressureiscarefullycontrolledwiththechoke.Iftheequilibriumdrillpipepressureis
exceeded,thewellmaylosecirculation,andifitistoolow,thewellwillblowout.

Delayedindications
Severalotherindicationsofoverpressuremayoccurafterthelagtimenecessaryforthemudtoreturnto
thesurfacefromthebottomofthehole.Theyaremuchlessreliablethanthedrillingrate,butcanbe
monitoredbymudloggingequipment.Theseindicatorsincludethefollowing:
DrillingmudgasGasinthedrillingmudoftenincreasesbecausemethaneisdissolvedinthe
porewaterofsomeoverpressuredshales.Asthecuttingsandcavingscomeupthehole,thegas
escapesandcanbedetectedinthemud.Gasinthemudisalsocausedbyoilorgasbearing
formationsandbyorganicrichshales.
ShaledensityUndercompactedshales,characteristicofoverpressuredzones,havealower
density(becauseofabnormallyhighporosity)thannormalshalesatagivendepth.Thedensityof
shalecuttingscanbemeasuredbyseveralmethods.Also,theshapeofdrillcuttingsfrom
undercompactedshalesmaybedifferentthanthosefromnormallycompactedshales.
TemperatureTheremaybeanincreaseinthetemperatureofthemudreturns.Althoughithas
beenwidelyclaimedthatthegeothermalgradientishigherinoverpressuredshalesbecauseof
theirabnormallyhighporosityandlowerthermalconductivity,adoublingofshaleporosityfrom
10to20%shouldcauseadecreaseinconductivityofonlyabout1%(withacorrespondinglysmall

increaseingeothermalgradient).Thus,theincreaseintemperatureisprobablyduetofaster
drillingandincreasedcavingsinundercompactedshales.

Detectionofoverpressurewithwelllogs

Figure3Electriclogsoftwowells
offshoreLouisiana.WellAhad
normalpressure.WellB,2000ft
awayandacrossagrowthfault,
showedasuddendecreasein
resistivityofshale(increasein
conductivity)atabout11,100ft.
Shortlythereafter,thewellshowed
indicationsofanimpending
blowout.[6]

Figure4Shaleresistivityparameter,resistivity
ofnormallypressuredshaledividedby
observedresistivityofabnormallypressured
shale,plottedagainstformationpressure
gradient(FPG)andequivalentmudweight.[7]
bypermissionofSPE

Undercompactedshalesassociatedwithoverpressuredzoneshaveamuchlowerelectricalresistivity
thannormallycompactedshales(Figure3).AccordingtotheArchieformula,doublingtheporosityofa
shalefrom10to20%shouldcauseitsresistivitytodroptoonefourth.Asaresult,itispossibleto
determineaccuratelythedegreeofundercompactionofashalefromitsresistivityandtoestimatethe
porepressure(Figure4).[7]
Becauseundercompactedshalehasslowseismicvelocityandlowdensity,ahighpressurezonecanalso
beidentifiedfromsonicanddensitylogs.[8]
Notethatasisalwaysthecasewithwelllogs,therearepitfallsininterpretation,andthelocalgeology
andholeconditionsmustbetakenintoaccount.

Subnormallypressuredreservoirs
Subnormalreservoirpressures,thatis,pressureslessthan0.43psiperftofdepth,areverycommon.[9]
Thecauseofabnormallylowreservoirpressuresisnotwellunderstood.Ifareservoircontainingeither
gasoroilisisolatedandthensubjectedtoupliftanderosion,theremovalofoverburdencausesanelastic

reboundofthesolidsandanincreaseinvolumeofthepores.Theelasticdilationofsandstonesisabout7
106volumesperpsi.Waterexpandsonly3106volumesperpsi,sothatthepressureofthepore
waterintheaquiferandtheenclosingshaleswilldrop,possiblysuckingsomeofthewateroutofthe
aquifer.Mostlowpressurereservoirsareinareaswheretherehasbeenupliftanderosionsincethe
sedimentsformingthereservoirweredepositedandlithified.

Drillingproblemswithsubnormallypressuredreservoirs
Muchlessattentionhasbeenpaidtosubnormallypressuredreservoirsthantooverpressuredreservoirs.
Thisisprobablybecausetherearefewerspectaculardrillingproblemsassociatedwithsubnormal
pressuresandunderpressures.However,problemsexistthatcanbeserious.
Ifthereservoirpressureismuchlowerthanthepressureinthedrillingfluid,severeformationdamage
canoccur.Thedrillingmudfiltratepenetratesthereservoir,causingswellingandmigrationofclays,
whichmayplugtheporethroats.Evenalittlewaterintheholecankillalowpressureproducinggas
well.Thewaterisdrawnintotheporesbycapillarityandruinstherelativepermeabilitytogas.Inthe
caseoflowpressuregassandstonereservoirs,itisdesirabletosetcasingatthetopofthereservoir
intervalanddrillwithgas,saltwater,oroilbasedmudtominimizeformationdamage.
Also,ifthegasreservoirhasalowpressure,theremaybenoindicationofgasonthemudlog.Thelogs
ofmanyabandoneddryholesshouldbereexaminedtolookforbypassedgaszones.

Seealso
Drillingproblems
Introductiontowellsitemethods
Drillingfluid
Wellsitemath
Wellsitesafety
Rateofpenetration
Wellplanning
Measurementwhiledrilling

References
1. Fertl,W.H.,1976,Abnormalformationpressures:NewYork,ElsevierScientificPublishing
Company,382p.
2. Dickey,P.A.,C.R.Shriram,andW.R.Paine,1968,Abnormalpressuresindeepwellsof
southwesternLouisiana:Science,May10,v.160,p.609615.,10.,1126/science.,160.,3828.,
609
3. Barker,C.,andB.Horsfeld,1982,Mechanicalversusthermalcauseofabnormallyhighpore
pressuresinshalesdiscussion(http://archives.datapages.com/data/bulletns/1982
83/data/pg/0066/0001/0050/0099.htm):AAPGBulletin,v.66,n.1,p.99100.
4. Barker,C.,1972,Aquathermalpressuringroleoftemperatureindevelopmentofabnormal
pressurezones(http://archives.datapages.com/data/bulletns/1971
73/data/pg/0056/0010/2050/2068.htm):AAPGBulletin,v.56,n.10,p.20682071.
5. Jorden,J.R.,Shirley,O.J.,1966,Applicationofdrillingperformancetooverpressuredetection:
JournalofPetroleumTechnology,v.18,p.13871394.,10.,2118/1407PA
6. Wallace,W.E.,1965,Abnormalsubsurfacepressuresmeasuredfromconductivityorresistivity
logs:TheLogAnalyst,v.6,p.2638.
7. 7.07.1Hottman,C.E.,Johnson,R.K.,1965,Estimationofformationpressuresfromlogderived

shaleproperties:JournalofPetroleumTechnology,v.17,p.717723.,10.,2118/1110PA
8. Magara,K.,1978,Compactionandfluidmigration:NewYork,ElsevierScientificPublishing
Company,319p.
9. Dickey,P.A.,Cox,W.C.,1977,Oilandgasreservoirswithsubnormalpressures
(http://archives.datapages.com/data/bulletns/197779/data/pg/0061/0012/2100/2134.htm):AAPG
Bulletin,v.61,n.12,p.21342142.

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