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Oil Hydrocarbon)

Oil Hydrocarbon)

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Published by: Jay_CRE on Oct 07, 2011
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Once hydrocarbons are expelled from the source rock in a separate hydrocarbon phase into a
secondary-migration conduit, subsequent movement of the hydrocarbons will be driven by
buoyancy. Hydrocarbons are almost all less dense than formation waters, and therefore are more
buoyant. Hydrocarbons are thus capable of displacing water downward and moving upward
themselves. The magnitude of the buoyant force is proportional both to the density difference
between water and hydrocarbon phase and to the height of the oil stringer. Coalescence of globules
of hydrocarbons after expulsion from the source rock therefore increases their ability to move
upward through water-wet rocks.

Retardatin of buoyant movement as an
oil globule
(X) is deformed to fit in to a
narrow pore throat
(Y). The upward
buoyant force
is partly or completely
by the capillary-entry pressure,
the force required to deform the oil
globule enough to enter the pore throat.
If the capillary-entry pressure exceeds
the buoyant force, secondary migration
will cease until either the capillary-entry
pressure is reduced or the buoyant force
is increased.

Opposing the buoyancy is capillary-entry pressure, which is resistance to entry of the hydrocarbon
globule or stringer into pore throats. Whenever a pore throat narrower than the globule is
encountered, the globule must deform to squeeze into the pore. The smaller the pore throat, the more
deformation is required. If the upward force of buoyancy is large enough, the globule will squeeze
into the pore throat and continue moving upward. If, however, the pore throat is very tiny or if the
buoyant force is small, the globule cannot enter, and becomes stuck until either the buoyant force or
the capillary entry pressure changes. When hydrocarbons cease moving, we say that accumulation
has occurred.
This model is very simple, requiring only the existence of two forces. Buoyancy promotes migration,
whereas capillary-entry pressure retards or stops it. A third force-namely, hydrodynamic flow, can
modify hydrocarbon movement, but it is not essential and does not change our basic model. If water
is flowing in the subsurface in the same direction as hydrocarbons are moving by buoyancy, then the
rate of hydrocarbon movement should be enhanced somewhat. In contrast, if bulk water movement
opposes the direction of buoyant movement, then the rate of hydrocarbon transport will be retarded.
These modifications to the overall scheme are probably minor.


Secondary migration occurs preferentially in the direction that offers the greatest buoyant
advantage. Thus movement within a confined migration conduit will be updip perpendicular to
structural contours whenever possible. Where faulting or facies changes create impassable barriers
(capillary-entry pressure exceeds buoyant force), migration may have to proceed at an oblique angle
to structural contours.
Within massive sandstone, secondary migration will occur both laterally and vertically. That is,
hydrocarbons entering the land from an underlying source rock will move toward the top of the
sand even as they migrate laterally updip. This fact has important implications for tracing
migration pathways through a thick conduit. Structural contours on the top of the carrier bed will

Migration - 32

in general be more useful than contours on its base, because final control on migration direction
will be exerted by the upper part of the bed (assuming that no laterally continuous shale breaks
divide the carrier bed into two or more separate systems).
Vertical migration can also occur across formations. Stacked sands in a paleodelta, for example, can
offer possible pathways (although sometimes rather tortuous ones) for vertical migration.
Unconformities also can juxtapose migration conduits, thus providing a potentially very effective
system for combined vertical and lateral migration. Faults may play an important role in vertical
migration, not only because they often juxtapose carrier beds from different stratigraphic horizons,
but also because an active fault or the brecciated zone adjacent to a fault may itself have high
The question of long-distance migration has been much discussed and disputed. There is no a priori
reason why secondary migration cannot be a very-long-distance phenomenon. Indeed, the largest
hydrocarbon deposits known, including the Athabasca Tar Sands of western Canada, the heavy oils
in the Orinoco Belt of Venezuela, and the Saudi Arabian crude oils, all must have migrated long
distances; otherwise it is impossible to account for the incredible volumes of hydrocarbons in place
The problem in discussing long-distance migration is that such cases are rare. However, they are
rare for very good geological reasons: they occur in extremely stable tectonic settings where major
but gentle downwarping has deposited and matured huge volumes of source rocks, and has provided
as carrier beds continuous blankets of sand juxtaposed with these source rocks. The absence of both
tectonic and stratigraphic barriers permits long-distance migration.
Most basins, however, are broken up tectonically and have poor lateral continuity of carrier beds, as
a result of both tectonic disruption and facies changes related to tectonic events. Lateral migration is
therefore often stymied, leading to smaller fault-bounded accumulations and vertical migration.
Drainage area is one of the most important factors influencing the size of hydrocarbon
accumulations. Long-distance migration implies, by definition, large drainage areas and chances for
very large accumulations. Lack of long-distance migration opportunities implies that supergiant and
giant accumulations are far less likely and that exploration targets will be smaller.
It is possible to have lateral migrations of as much as a few hundred kilometers in exceptional
circumstances. Much more common, however, are basins in which lateral migration distances do not
exceed a few tens of kilometers. Vertical migration distances can also be considerable, although it
should be remembered that there are two fundamentally different types of vertical migration.
Migration updip within a single stratum can accomplish a large amount of "vertical" migration
rather painlessly. Vertical migration across stratigraphic boundaries is more difficult. Nevertheless,
distances of several thousand feet are not unheard of.

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