Pressure and stress at Mad Dog Field, Gulf of Mexico

Date

2012-12

Authors

Merrell, Michael Phillip

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Abstract

Hydrocarbon exploration involves drilling into or near salt deposits in the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, and the Middle East. Drilling these systems has proven to be quite dangerous, challenging, and expensive due to the pressure and stress perturbations that exist around the salt. My study focuses on characterizing the pressure and stress distribution at the Mad Dog field, which is a large oil field below an allochthonous salt body in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. The Mad Dog field lies beneath the Sigsbee Escarpment, which represents the surface and seaward-most indicator of a mobile salt in Green Canyon blocks 781, 782, 825, and 826, 190 miles southwest of New Orleans in 4,500-6,500 feet of water. I characterize the pressure distribution within the Lower Miocene sandstone reservoir which has produced over 100 million barrels to date. I map the reservoir horizon using 3D seismic data and that the reservoir is a complex regional anticlinal structure that is separated by numerous normal faults that cause it to be segmented into compartments. The in-situ pore pressures show that the compartments are not in pressure communication across the field and that multiple aquifer phase pressures are present. The in-situ pore pressure measurements are used to characterize the pressure distribution in the Miocene sediments below the salt body and in front of the mobile salt body. These measurements show that between the upper Miocene to middle Miocene there is an absolute pressure decrease and between the middle to lower Miocene there is a large pressure increase. This pressure distribution is seen both within the Miocene sediments below salt and in front of salt. A porosity and effective stress relationship from shallow Pleistocene sediments was developed to predict the pressure behavior observed within the Miocene and compare the predicted pressure with in-situ pore pressure measurements. The mudstone pressure prediction overestimates the in-situ sand pore pressure. The mudstones bounding regional sandstone have a constant porosity throughout the field, suggesting that the vertical effective stress is constant. These observations can be used to estimate the mudstone pore pressure in a new well location. If the vertical effective stress in an offset well is known and given knowledge of the total vertical stress in the new well location, the mudstone pore pressure can be estimated.

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