either barriers to flow within the reservoir (e.g., Weber,1987;Brehm, 2003; Guscott et al., 2003;Muggeridge et al., 2005; Talukdar and Brusdal,2005; Sweet and Sumpter, 2007; Underschultzet al., 2008; Bakker et al., 2009) or a hydrody-namic aquifer (e.g., Pelissier et al., 1980; Zawisza,1986, 2004; Berg et al., 1994; Thomasen andJacobsen,1994;Dennisetal.,2000;Underschultz,2005; Tozer and Borthwick, 2010), although intheGhawaroilfieldinSaudiArabia,theyhavealsobeenascribedtothermalconvection(e.g.,Stenger,1999; Stenger et al., 2001).Distinctly different oil-water contact (OWC)depths, otherwise known as perched OWCs, areassociatedwithreservoircompartmentalizationandoften occur in reservoirs in formations that haveundergonesignificantfaulting(Weber,1987;Brehm,2003; Guscott et al., 2003; Talukdar and Brusdal,2005; Bakker et al., 2009). In the Niger Delta, oilappears to have migrated into these traps via thefault system, probably during one of several fault-ing episodes (Weber, 1987). The OWCs may alsobeassociatedwithchangesinobservedoilpressuresin different wells or abnormal reservoir pressures.Continuously tiltingOWCs occurinreservoirsunderlainbyhydrodynamicaquifers (e.g., Pelissieretal.,1980;Zawisza,1986,2004;Bergetal.,1994;ThomasenandJacobsen,1994;Dennisetal.,2000;Underschultz, 2005; Tozer and Borthwick, 2010).These very slow subsurface flows are commonlynatural, resulting from meteoric waters rechargingaquifersviaoutcrops(Hubbert,1967)orexpulsionof water from porous sediments during basin sub-sidence (Hubbert, 1967; Grosjean et al., 2009),sometimes combined with aquifer discharge at sur-faceoutcrops(TozerandBorthwick,2010).Inthesecases, the reservoir is commonly normally pres-sured and the observed oil pressure is constant be-tween wells. Occasionally, tilted contacts are manmade, caused by pressure depletion in neighboringfields (e.g., Van Kirk, 1976; Coutts, 1999; Hortleet al., 2010).Stenger (1999) and Stenger et al. (2001) pro-posed that tilted contacts may be caused by lateraltemperature gradients within reservoirs. They dem-onstrated that temperature gradients within theHaradh Arab D reservoir of the Ghawar field cor-relatedwithvaryingoildensitiesacrossthefieldandhypothesizedthatthese,inturn,resultedinchangingOWCdepths.Naturalconvectionwasinvokedasamechanismforpreventinggravitationaloverturning(as described by England et al., 1995), equalizingthese horizontal density gradients. However, theydid not discuss the possibility that the lateral tem-peraturegradientsmayactuallybeanindicationof a hydrodynamic aquifer (Anderson, 2005).Being able to distinguish between these pos-sibilities during appraisal is important becausethey will result in a different topology of the con-tact depth across the prospect (and thus different values of estimated hydrocarbons in place) aswell as different models of the reservoir connec-tivity. Undiagnosed reservoir compartmentaliza-tion can have a significant adverse impact on oilrecovery (Dromgoole and Speers, 1997; Smalleyand Muggeridge, 2010). In contrast, it is generallypossible to mitigate the impact of such compart-mentalization on recovery provided that it is iden-tified during appraisal (e.g., Talukdar and Brusdal,2005;Bakkeretal.,2009).Aquiferhydrodynamicsand potential barriers to flow are also important considerations when designing subsurface carbondioxidestorageschemes(Bachuetal.,1994;Hortleet al., 2010; Larkin, 2010).Unfortunately, distinguishing between changesin contact depth resulting from compartmentali-zation and those resulting from a hydrodynamicaquifer can be difficult, particularly if the lateralpressuregradientscausingaquiferflowhavechangedin the recent past (e.g., Underschultz, 2005; Hortleet al., 2010). A typical signature of compartmen-talizationisassumedtobedifferentoilpressuresindifferent parts of the reservoir, but this can also beevidencethatthesystemhasnotyetreachedsteadystate (Dennis et al., 2000; Dennis et al., 2005;Underschultz, 2005). Similarly, the existence of ahorizontal pressure gradient in the aquifer but nosuchgradientintheoillegiscommonlyassumedtobe indicative of a hydrodynamic aquifer and goodlateral communication; however, it is equally pos-sible that pressures may have equilibrated througha low-permeability baffle on geologic time scalesbut would not equilibrate through such a baffleon production time scales (Dennis et al., 2000;
Hydrodynamic Aquifer or Reservoir Compartmentalization?