Development of Sediment Overpressure and Its Effect on Thermal Maturation: Mathematical Formulation and Application to the Gulf of Mexico Basin

        High sedimentation rates can potentially lead to overpressuring and sediment undercompaction within basins. Sediments with anomalously high porosity, in turn, induce low thermal conductivities and so tend to act as a thermal insulator to the flow of heat. In the Gulf of Mexico basin (Gulf basin), the generation of overpressure is caused mainly by the inability of pore pressure fluids to escape at a rate commensurate with sedimentation. We modeled the generation and dissipation of abnormal sediment pore pressure due to variations in sdimentation rate, facies, formation porosity, and permeability within the Gulf basin using finite-element techniques to solve the differntial equations of both heat and fluid transport within compacting sediments. We assume that the porosity-effective stress relationship within the sediment follows a negative exponential steady-state form when the pore-pressure is hydrostatic. An important feature of our modeling appraoch is the assumption that sediments are incapable of significant expansion in response to increasing pore pressure. Sediments are assumed to hydrofracture when the pore pressure approaches the lithostatic pressure rather than a common assumption of porosity expansion even in lithified sediments. From our modeling, we conclude that significant overpressures have been created (and dissipated) at various times within the Gulf basin and track, in general, the west to east migration of sediment loads deposited since the Cretaceous. Although predicted overpressures >0.75 kpsi....

By: Ulisses T. Mello and Garry D. Karner (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory)

Published in: RC20458 in 1996

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