Overpressure Evolution during Sedimentary Basin Diagenesis: Implications for Hydrocarbon Transport By Solitary Waves

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 9:45 AM
Ajit Joshi and Martin S Appold, University of Missouri Columbia, Department of Geological Sciences, Columbia, MO, United States
Recent research has shown solitary waves to be capable of transporting fluids through porous media at rates orders of magnitude faster than predicted from Darcy’s law. Solitary waves are expressed as regions of high fluid pressure and porosity. The waves form and propagate where permeability is a sensitive function of effective stress, fluid pressure approaches lithostatic pressure, and the rate of fluid pressure generation is rapid compared to the rate of fluid pressure diffusion. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the pressure generation rates that can develop in a sedimentary basin over a range of possible geologic conditions so that the potential for solitary wave formation can be assessed. Pressure generation rates were calculated for a generic sedimentary basin by constructing a two-dimensional numerical model that treated sediment deposition, compaction, heat flow, kerogen maturation, hydrocarbon formation, and the flow of water, oil, and gas. The results showed compaction disequilibrium and hydrocarbon formation to be the two principal causes of pressure generation, respectively. Pressure generation rates for typical sedimentary basinal conditions were found to be on the order of 1’s of Pa/year, up to a maximum of ~400 Pa/year under the most favorable pressure generating conditions. These pressure generation rates would be sufficient to form oil-saturated solitary waves but too low to form methane-saturated solitary waves because of the higher rate of methane pressure diffusion compared to oil, due to methane’s lower viscosity. To form methane-saturated solitary waves, pressure generation rates of at least ~1800 Pa/year are needed, which are unlikely to be produced by sedimentary basin diagenetic processes, but could possibly be produced by earthquakes.