Petroleum Geology

Petroleum geology is the study of origin, occurrence, movement, accumulation, and exploration of hydrocarbon fuels. It refers to the specific set of geological disciplines that are applied to the search for hydrocarbons (oil exploration).

Petroleum geology is principally concerned with the evaluation of seven key elements in sedimentary basins:

A structural trap, where a fault has juxtaposed a porous and permeable reservoir  against an impermeable seal. Oil (shown in red) accumulates against the seal, to the depth of the base of the seal. Any further oil migrating in from the source will escape to the surface and seep.

Evaluation of the source uses the methods of geochemistry to quantify the nature of organic-rich rocks which contain the precursors to hydrocarbons, such that the type and quality of expelled hydrocarbon can be assessed. The reservoir is a porous and permeable lithological unit or set of units that holds the hydrocarbon reserves. Analysis of reservoirs at the simplest level requires an assessment of their porosity (to calculate the volume of in situ hydrocarbons) and their permeability (to calculate how easily hydrocarbons will flow out of them). Some of the key disciplines used in reservoir analysis are the fields of structural analysis, stratigraphy, sedimentology, and reservoir engineering. The seal, or cap rock, is a unit with low permeability that impedes the escape of hydrocarbons from the reservoir rock. Common seals include evaporites, chalks and shales. Analysis of seals involves assessment of their thickness and extent, such that their effectiveness can be quantified.

The trap is the stratigraphic or structural feature that ensures the juxtaposition of reservoir and seal such that hydrocarbons remain trapped in the subsurface, rather than escaping (due to their natural buoyancy) and being lost. Analysis of maturation involves assessing the thermal history of the source rock in order to make predictions of the amount and timing of hydrocarbon generation & expulsion.

Finally, careful studies of migration reveal information on how hydrocarbons move from source to reservoir and help quantify the source (or kitchen) of hydrocarbons in a particular area.

  • Structural Development And Basin Evolution
  • Geomechanics and Rock Physics
  • Hydrocarbon Recovery Mechanisms
  • Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
  • Seismology and Geophysics

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