mineral grains

pore spaces
Subsurface Geology and Resource Exploration
Locating earth resources such as aluminum, copper, gold and gemstones has been an important job for
geologists for a long time. This lab deals with the exploration for oil, which is important to Louisiana, the
Gulf of Mexico area, and the whole economy of the modern world.
Hydrocarbons are the solid, liquid or gaseous material, like crude oil (petroleum) and natural gas, that
are refined for use as fuels.
When sediments are deposited, they include mineral grains, rock fragments, water with chemical
elements in solution as well as organic material. Under the increased pressure and temperature
of burial, the organic matter included in the sediments can be transformed into oil and gas through
chemical reactions. The migration and accumulation of hydrocarbons and water in a given
sedimentary rock depends on several factors:
Porosity is the percentage of void space (e.g. fractures or holes) in a rock body.
Permeability is a measure of how easily fluids can pass through a rock body.
Grains and pore spaces are easily seen in this
microscope photograph.
Impermeable rocks that impede the movement of hydrocarbons are known as confining beds (e.g.
shales), and permeable rocks that allow hydrocarbons to migrate are reservoir rocks (e.g. sandstones,
reservoir rock
confining bed
"Oil and water do not mix",
because the density of natural
gas is less than that of oil which
is less than that of water. So,
the three will separate out from
each other in hydrocarbon
!"# %%&

Hydrocarbon traps are the structures, stratigraphic differences or permeability and porosity contrasts
(e.g. unconformities, faults and folds) that force the accumulation of hydrocarbons in high
enough concentrations to be viable for extraction. The hydrocarbon accumulation is
known as apool.
Salt domes are large masses of salt (low density) that dome upward and deform the more dense
rocks around them, creating structural traps on their margins. These are very common in the Gulf
of Mexico and can be located on the seafloor by the hummocky or "bumpy" hill-like features they
cause on the seafloor surface. They are also found on land (e.g. Avery Island, Louisiana).
How do geologists decide where to drill for oil?
Using all the available data, geologists will try to find traps and assess the possibilities of oil being there.
Even if they decide oil is there, the possible amount of oil and the total cost of drilling for it and refining it
must be compared to the amount of money that will be made by selling the final product.
Well log data is the information that comes from previously drilled wells. Geologists have identified
the rocks and fossils that come up in the "cuttings" as a well is drilled.
Well A Well B
Sea Floor
Notice that the geology between the wells is inferred from the well log data.

Seismic data can be used with existing well log data to interpret the geology between the wells.
A source (like airguns,vibration plates or even explosives) sends sound wave energy down into the earth.
Receivers (called "geophones") measure the time it takes the wave energy to be reflected back off of
different layers.
The resultingseismic section is like a cross section, but the vertical axis is the two-way travel time,
the time it takes the waves to go from source to receiver. Avelocity model must be applied to
convert the time data into depth below the surface. Then a geologist can correlate seismic "reflectors"
to the geology seen in well logs.
The waves will travel at different speeds according to the different densities of the different layers.
Processing of
seismic data
Seismic section -
ready to interpret!
Seismic data
The seismic reflectors could be
depositional contacts, unconformities,
faults, contrasts in densities, or other
features. A geologist will combine all
the available data - well logs, surface
data from maps, knowledge of the
physical properties of different rocks,
etc. to then make reasonable
interpretations of what the seismic
reflectors represent. With the cross
section created on the seismic
section, evaluations can be made of
the most likely places to find

You are a geologist with Got Gas? Oil Company (GGOC). You have an
opportunity to explore for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and you have new seismic
data to interpret along with well log data.

You must tell your boss, “Big Earl” Spindletop, where the oil is and if it is
economical to recover it. In other words, if can you make money on it! Use the
well logs and seismic lines to do the job!

Remember with seismic data, a source has produced sound waves that
propogate beneath the seafloor of the Gulf. The waves travel at different speeds
through different media, and it is the density contrasts between adjacent layers
that show up as discontinuities in the seismic data.

Medium Seismic Wave Velocity [ft/sec]
Water 4950
Sandstone 9750
Limestone 16,170
Avg. Sedimentary Rocks 11,000
Salt 15,000
Granite 16,040
Basalt 18,990

The formula for converting depth to time and vice versa in seismic data is:

Z = V x T Where: Z is depth
V is wave velocity
T is time

To convert the seismic data, which are in two-way travel time into depth below
the seafloor, you must use an average velocity or velocity model that represents
the geology seen in the well logs. Then you can use the well logs, which are in
depth below seafloor, to determine which seismic discontinuities are caused by
formation contacts, faults etc.

Remember, two-way travel time is the amount of time it takes for the waves to
travel from leaving the source, bounce off a subsurface discontinuity and travel
back to the receivers. You must take this into account when calculating the

Well Logs

1. Using the well log cuttings, identify and list the rock types from each
formation on the well log data sheet.
2. Determine which seismic wave velocity should be used for two-way
travel time conversions.
Selsmlc Llne 1.

1. Accordlng Lo Lhe well logs, how deep are Lhe ShorLy Parrls and Lddle 8o wells?

2. WhaL klnd of geologlc sLrucLure lles beLween Lhe Lwo wells? ldenLlfy lL and Lrace lL
ouL on Lhe selsmlc daLa, and be sure Lo label lL.

3. 1he ShorLy Parrls well ls pumplng oll from Lhe SL. Louls lm reservolr rock. 1he pool lL
ls Lapplng ls esLlmaLed Lo have a mllllon barrels of oll ln lL. WhaL klnd of Lrap allowed
Lhe oll Lo pool Lhere?

Selsmlc Llne 2

1. WhaL does Lhe seafloor surface ln Lhe area of your selsmlc llne look llke accordlng Lo
your baLhymeLrlc map? Slnce medla wlLh relaLlvely hlgher veloclLles Lhan whaL
surrounds lL look llke ºbrlghL spoLs" on selsmlc proflles, whaL could Lhe large brlghL
sLrucLure ln Lhls proflle be?

uraw Lhe ouLllne of Lhe sLrucLure on your proflle, where Lhe sedlmenLary bed
reflecLlons end agalnsL lL, and label lL.

2. AlLhough Lhe 8everend PorLon PeaL well geLs lnLo Lhe SL. Louls lormaLlon reservolr
rock, lL ls noL produclng oll. uslng Lhe well log and selsmlc veloclLles glven ln Lhe
Lable ln Lhe packeL, draw Lhe conLacLs of Lhe dlfferenL formaLlons on Lhe selsmlc
llne. SLarL aL Lhe well, and Lhen Lrace Lhe selsmlc reflecLors ouL ln boLh dlrecLlons as
far as seems reasonable.

3. uslng your conLacL and sLrucLure lnLerpreLaLlons above, where should you
recommend LhaL º8lg Larl" drlll for oll: CpLlon 1 or CpLlon 2? Also, mark LhaL
locaLlon on your baLhymeLrlc map.

Pow deep would Lhe well have Lo be Lo Lap Lhe SL. Louls lormaLlon?

WhaL klnd of Lrap mlghL be Lhere accordlng Lo your lnLerpreLaLlons?

lf Lhe oll pool aL your proposed well ls esLlmaLed Lo be as blg as LhaL of Lhe ShorLy
Parrls well (quesLlon 4 above), and oll ls currenLly selllng for $23/barrel, how much
money can be made from lL?

?our englneers Lell you LhaL lL wlll cosL $2300 a fooL Lo drlll a well. Pow much dld lL
cosL Lo drlll Lhe unsuccessful 8everend PorLon PeaL well?

Pow much wlll your proposed well cosL?

Conslderlng Lhe cosL of drllllng for your well and Lhe unsuccessful 8everend PorLon
PeaL well, and assumlng Lhe oll pool ln your dlscovery ls as blg as LhaL of Lhe ShorLy
Parrls well, wlll CCCC make money on your well? lf so, how much? lf noL, aL leasL
how many barrels of oll musL be ln Lhe dlscovery ln order for Lhe company Lo make a
proflL aL currenL prlces? lf Lhere Lruly ls 1 mllllon barrels, whaL would Lhe prlce of
each barrel have Lo be [usL Lo break even?

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