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2224204 Overpressure Prediction Challenges in Deepwater Sundaland

Continental Margin

Sarah Sausan , Zulfikar Simatupang , Adekunle Olayinka Osundina , Geovani Christopher Kaeng
Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd

Overpressure presents major challenges in deepwater drilling in Southeast Asia. It affects primary
well-design factors, such as the number of casing strings, mudweight used during drilling, and cementing
programs, which are critical in minimizing subsurface hazard and non-productive time (NPT) as a result ofkick,
loss of circulation, and wellbore stability.
Southeast Asias Sundaland geological region is the home of overpressurized sedimentary basins,
mainly owing to the relatively young and active tectonic and rapid sedimentation in the basins. The study
confirms that Sundaland continental margin deepwater environments have distinctive overpressure
characteristics from those of shelfal and onshore environments, which could be related to compaction history,
depositional facies, and structural styles of the region. They present some unique challenges in pore pressure
prediction and well design. This environments, characterized by thick water columns, fine-grained sediment
domination, and low-permeability systems, cause the overpressure to be shallow and continuous, running
relatively parallel with effective stress. The presence of deepwater thrust-fold belts in major basins, as caused
by gravity-driven and basement-driven shortening, also contributes to the regions characteristics. These
compressional forces impact the compaction characteristic further and introduce common geopressure
centroid phenomena, which in some cases have caused some serious drilling problems and failure to reach
drilling targets.
Exploration and production in deepwater (5002000 m) and ultra-deepwater (>2000 m) settings in Southeast
Asia have expanded greatly during the past 15 years to the point at which they are now major components of
the petroleum industrys upstream budgets (Algar, 2012; Weimer & Pettingill, 2007). Main discoveries in
Southeast Asia are focused on the NW Borneo and East Borneo which is one of five proven deepwater oil
regions of the world (Weimer & Pettingill, 2007). Despite of bright future in deepwater plays, drilling into the
prospects have been challenging especially in NW Borneo (Kirchner, 2005; Kaeng et al, 2014) where
subsurface hazards related to pore pressure and wellbore stability have led to failure of some wells to reach
geological targets and the drilling cost to be as high as US$100 million (as of 2014).
Deepwater Sundaland continental margin posesses unique geological setting that impacts
geopressure mechanisms and prediction strategy. This paper reviews challenges related to the overpressure
prediction in DSCM and proposes the best practices. Three wells from a deepwater field in Northwest Borneo
are used as a case study to demonstrate the distinct overpressure nature of the area.
Geology of Sundaland Continental Margin
The deepwater region of Southeast Asia is located at the perimeter of Sundaland continental margin and
referred as deepwater Sundaland continental margin (abbreviated as DSCM and thereafter called throughout
this paper) and indicated in Fig 1 as the shaded areas. Geological setting and structures structure are major
controls on the occurrence and volumes of hydrocarbons in deepwater, including the DSCM. The Borneo
deepwater margins are classified as contractional mobile-substrate by Weimer & Slatt (2004) or Type 2ai
by Morley et al (2011) where rivers with high sediment load delivers large volume of sediment into deepwater,
creating abundant deepwater reservoirs (Weimer & Slatt 2004). Borneo river complexes run across the delta
top into deepwater environments where their sediments interbed with marine sediments, primarily of shale
lithology (Hall and Nichols 2002; Hall and Morley 2004; Burrus 1998). The quality of these Cenozoic-age
reservoirs can be excellent (Ruzuar et al 2004; Morley et al 2011) and further maintained by undercompaction
resulting from overpressures (Weimer & Slatt, 2004). Connectivity and continuity of these reservoirs ranges
from poor to excellent (Weimer & Slatt, 2004).
Trapping mechanisms are both stratigraphic and structural, related to the active fold-thrust belt
systems (Morley et al 2011; Algar 2012; Ibrahim et al 2006). Two mechanisms have been proposed as the
controls of the fold-thrust belt systems in the area: basement-driven crustal shortening and gravity-related

Fig. 1Sundaland continent in SE Asia;

continental margin. A-B and C-D are
cross-section lines that will be
addressed in Fig. 2

deltaic tectonics (Hesse et al 2009; Morley et al 2001). Recent studies of the present-day stress across the
Borneo margin have identified two tectonic provinces: the extensional inner shelf and the compressional foldthrust belt (King et al 2009; Tingay et al 2009; Guritno et al 2003). These two tectonic provinces are consistent
with the gravity-driven deformation observed in a delta system, including the active deepwater fold thrust belt.
Due to local geology and tectonic variations, the amount of compressional shortening and the uplift
magnitude of the thrust-fold belt differ from place to place in each basin. In Northwest Borneo, the
southwestern part is dominated by gravity-related tectonic while the northeastern part is dominated by
basement-driven shortening due to continent collision (Hesse et al 2009). In East Borneo, although all areas
are dominantly gravity-driven in origin, the uplift magnitude of its deepwater fold thrust belt progressively
increases northward due to detachment slope and thickness variations.
Despite their active compressional state, Borneo deepwater fold-thrust belt are still undergoing rapid
deltaic deposition. This provides vertical loading that is superimposed on the tectonic compression, resulting in
a complex sediment compaction mechanism (Couzen-Schultz & Chan, 2014). Figure 2a and 2b show the
cross-section of Sundaland continental margin in NW Borneo and East Borneo, respectively.
Pore Pressure Prediction Practice
The practice of pore pressure prediction should involve consideration that most empirical prediction methods,
whether log or seismic based, estimate pore pressure in shale only (Heppard and Traugott 1998, Bowers
2001). The typical approach is to examine the shale porosity profile or its proxy (e.g. resistivity, sonic, or
density log) in a zone of known fluid pressure (i.e., the hydrostatic zone) and then use an empirical
relationship to predict pressure where it is unknown (i.e., the overpressured zone). The resulting predictions
are then compared to in situ pressure tests. This popular approach is categorized as empirical approach by
Madatov and Sereda (2005), with effective stress method being the most widely used (Bowers, 2001). This
method are based upon Terzaghi (1943) principle which states that compaction of geologic materials is
controlled by the difference between the total confining pressure and the pore fluid pressure. This difference,
termed the effective stress, represents the portion of the total stress carried by the rock or sediment grains.
The fundamental assumption underlying most pore pressure prediction methods is the concept of
gradual porosity loss due to compaction process. The compaction is normal when fluid is able to escape in
response to increasing stress as a mean to maintain hydrostatic pressure state, resulting in the proper
reduction of porosity and increase of matrix stress (effective stress). Overpressure occurs when water cannot
escape out of the system with increasing stress, resulting in the preservation of porosity. Porosity behavior is
thus used to indicate pore pressure history. According to the theory of poroelasticity, the porosity reduction




Fig. 2Regional cross-sections of basins in Sundaland continental margin running perpendicular to the basin axis from shallow
to deep water regions (see Fig 1 for sections locations): a) Northwest Borneo (modified from Hesse et al 2009) and b) East
Borneo (modified from Guritno et al 2003) show fold-thrust belt in deepwater environment. A and B in Fig 2a are individual
thrust-related fold structures, where A is a structure with drape sediments indicating more intensive vertical loading or
extensional stress condition above the fold, and B is a structure without a drape sediments indicating more intensive local
compressional stress without significant vertical sediment loading. The red line in (b) shows top of overpressure; note that the
top of overpressure in shallow water region (c) is commonly found at great depth due to course-grained sediments domination
that supports high permeability system, where the deepwater region (d) normally has shallow top of overpressure due to finegrained domination that promote low permeability system.

depends on the increase in mean effective stress (Goulty, 1998; Harrold et al, 1999). Because vertical
overburden weight is often the maximum stress controlling compaction and it is relatively easy to calculate, it
is widely assumed that porosity reduction in sediments is almost exclusively controlled by the vertical effective
stress (Couzen-Schults and Azbel, 2014).
To calculate the effective stress, Eaton (1975) formula has worked well in our study area:
(eq. 1)

(where Pf = Pore pressure of shale; Sv = Overburden Stress; Mn = Normal trend value for M; v = Effective stress (vertical);
n = Effective stress for normal fluid pressure at current depth; Mo = Observed value for M; X = Empirical calibration constant)

As indicated by Eq 1, vertical effective stress method such as Eaton (1975) requires normal effective
stress response in porosity-proxy logs as the basis of the measurement. The normal effective stress is derived
empirically from a Normal Compaction Trend (NCT) curve thus termed as trend-line method (Bowers, 2001).
NCT follows the law of compaction mechanism which is controlled by many factors such as clay mineral type,
particle size, clay properties, and total amount of clay (Dutta 1987; Mondol et al, 2008; Bjorlykke 2009).

In measuring NCT from velocity or transit time data, we do not hold to the idea that NCT physically
follows semi-log trend as proposed by several workers in the early days (Hottman and Johnson 1965; Magara
1968). A great number of compaction trends have been analyzed both in the shallow water and deepwater of
the study area and prove matrix velocity-controlled exponential trend to be more accurate (Chapman 1983;
Bell 2002; Miller 2002; Zhang 2011) following the assumption that compaction is mechanical, the sediments
are young, and overpressure mechanism is disequilibrium compaction (Swarbrick, 2001).
Miller (2002) along with Zhang (2002), KSI (2005) proposed that the sonic-derived NCT should be:

(eq. 2)

(Vnorm = velocity assuming normal pressures; Vmudline = velocity at mudline; Vmatrix = velocity of sediments matrix material,
ranging to 14,000 ft/sec to 17,000 ft/sec for most shales; norm = effective stress assuming normal pressures; = empirical
parameter that yields the best fit for the relation between velocity and effective stress for the location of interest)

This equation follows the assumption that the normal velocity decay is controlled by the overburden stress.
When vertical stress is derived from density data and velocity values at mudline, matrix velocity, and lambda
(normally 0.00025) is known, the NCT can be calculated solely from density. This Miller effective stress NCT
(after Miller, 2002) is then used alongside with Eaton method to calculate pore pressure. We found that this
approach has worked well in basins around Sundaland continental margins, both at shallow and deep water.
Challenges and Analysis of Pore Pressure Prediction in DSCM
Deepwater geopressure poses a distinct characteristic compared with shallow water and onshore,
such as shallow top of overpressure, narrow margin between pore pressure and fracture pressure, pore
pressure gradient running sub-parallel to lithostatic gradient, and limited data availability at the shallow
section. These characteristics are undoubtedly observed in the DSCM with addition of structural inclination
effect and multifaceted overpressure loading mechanism unique to the compressional basin. Madatov and
Sereda (2000) have further warned that while porosity-based empirical approach is the most popular, it is also
the weakest of all available methods, especially in deepwater contractional basins such as DSCM. Swarbrick
(2001) provided reasons for failures of such methods in which some of them can be found in this study.
Shallow Top of Overpressure
Sundaland tertiary deltas typically exhibit high sand content on shelf and delta top, leading to near
normal pressure conditions at greater depths below where an abrupt increase in overpressure (i.e. a sharp
pressure-transition zone) took place (see Fig 2c). Further seaward, and particularly down the continental
slope, the sediment becomes more mud-rich. The pressure profile in the more shale-dominated section shows
a steady increase, often with a gradient running parallel to the overburden (Swarbrick 2012; see Fig 2d).
However, the top of overpressure is very shallow and often very close to mudline.
When the shallow section of a deepwater well shows some decline in porosity in, it may be mistaken
for a normally pressured section; in this case, conventional porosity-based techniques will underestimate the
pore pressure. We found that the effective-stress NCT method (Eq. 2) is helpful in giving a starting point for
velocity-based prediction. By knowing the density to the top of mudline, overburden stress can be derived and
thus the NCT from velocity can be calculated. The calculated NCT is then compared with the velocity data.
The reason behind is the assumption that normally pressured (and overpressured) formations follow unique
relation for compaction (Eq. 5) as a function of effective stress. For a given normal pore pressure, the normal
velocity trend is solely controlled by the overburden stress (density). By deriving three parameters (matrix
velocity, mudline velocity, and lambda) from regional offset wells, this approach can give a reliable starting
point to identify the shallow top of overpressure. Once the initial velocity NCT is generated, it would then need
to be calibrated to measured pressures for more detail adjustment.
Undrained Tectonic Shearing
Fig 7a shows how the velocity-effective stress method of Miller NCT combined with Eaton (1975)
severely underpredicts the measured pressure. The sonic velocity data shows constant decrease tendency,
indicating that compaction (porosity loss) has happened even though at the rate slower than the normal trend.
To adhere to the theory of porosity-effective stress mechanical compaction, the resulting pore pressure should
follow the PP curve in Fig 7b. We interpret that the pressure mismatch must have happened because the
overpressure mechanism does not follow the rule of mechanical compaction.
The deepwater of NW and East Borneo are compressional basins accompanied with ongoing
sediment loading (Couzen-Schultz & Azbel, 2014) which result in the upper to crestal section of the fold to be



Fig.7- (a) Pore pressure (PP) from velocity-effective stress method fails to match with the measured pressures and exhibit huge
discrepancy (b) Final interpretation of field-wide shale pore pressure of DW field. Note how the sonic velocity is anomalously
decreasing while the pore pressure keeps increasing. Miller NCT is used to calculate the pore pressure above 3800 m where
vertical loading is still taking place and Semi-log NCT is used below 3800 m. The shaded region is interpreted as the effect of
undrained tectonic stress effect. We interpret this as one of two major reasons (along with centroid effect) why many velocitybased predictions in DSCM underpredict pore pressure.

dominantly extensional then changes into strike-slip and reverse fault regime in the core of the folds (CouzenSchultz & Chan, 2014). This vertical stress transfer results in complex sediment compaction history that
causes multifaceted overpressure loading mechanisms (Couzen-Schultz and Azbel, 2014). In fact, the impact
of lateral tectonic stress on overpressure has long been recognized (Yassir and Addis, 2002, Van Ruth et al.
2003; Swarbrick, 2002; Harrold et al, 1999). Lateral stresses can generate overpressure either by increasing
mean stress and thereby causing disequilibrium compaction-related overpressure (termed tectonic loading;
Goulty, 1998) or because of the process of tectonic shearing (Yassir and Addis, 2003). Van Ruth et al (2003)
and Harrold et al (1999) have used this mean stress method to explain the impact of lateral tectonic loading on
pore pressure. Our experiment with mean stress was not successful to explain the mismatch between
interpreted and measured pressures (also observed by Couzen-Schultz and Azbel, 2014).
We believe that, apart from disequilibrium compaction, the overpressure in the study area has been
influenced by tectonic shearing as supported by Couzen-Schultz and Azbel (2014). In tectonic shearing
mechanism, sediments can be compacted beyond what is expected for burial stress. This creates a less
porous, acoustically faster mudrock with depth that implies low or no overpressures by using the standard
trend line pore pressure prediction methods. Additionally, the excess pressure resulted from the shearing may
add overpressure without porosity anomaly (Yassir and Addis, 2003). In other words, the overpressure can
also be associated with abnormally low porosity, counterproductive to common prediction methods that
assume high overpressure is related to high porosity anomaly. DSCM fits to the requirement proposed by
Yassir and Addis (2003) that such mechanism can occur in a low permeability (mudrock) dominated basin.
Fig 8 shows the stress path resulted from tectonic shearing where velocity remains constant or
increasing with the departure of effective stress path to the left from the normal trend. Tectonic shearing stress
path is bounded by the upper bound of unloading curve and the normal curve. The relationship between shear
stress and pore pressure has not normally been taken into account in overpressure models. Therefore,
effective stress methods must be used with caution that it may not be a correct model for this type of
environment. We found that the shallow part still follow the mechanical compaction rule, thus standard Miller
NCT can still be used. This is consistent with the notion that vertical sediment loading is still occurring thus the
upper section still experiences extensional stress condition. At greater depth however, where stress condition
shifts to compressional condition, standard NCT will fail by underpredicting the pore pressure.
Couzen-Schultz and Azbel (2014) proposed a tectonic compaction term that modifies vertical effective
stress-based pore pressure prediction equation to account for the shearing effect. The approach utilizes two
compaction trends, assuming that the extensional upper section (called drape sediment) trend is the baseline

for vertical compaction model and the lower section is tectonically compacted. The drape compaction trend is
modified with a tectonic compaction term so that it is directly related to distance to the fault or forelimb and the
overlying drape sediment thickness in an exponential manner. Readers must note that the tectonic compaction
trend here is just an empirical modification of the normal trend in order to account for excess pressure that
cannot be detected by compaction mechanisms. We prefer to use the term undrained tectonic shearing (after
Yassir and Addis, 2003) instead. Due to the absence of direct methods, this two-trend method is arguably the
currently most reliable empirical approach for practical velocity-effective stress prediction.


Fig. 8(a) velocity vs

vertical effective
stress plot of DW field
showing the stress
path for undrained
tectonic stress
mechanism b)
conceptual drawing of
the stress path in a
velocity vs vertical
effective stress plot

We could not observe an explicit relationship between undrained tectonic shearing and the sediment
deformation as used in the tectonic compaction term model where it assumes that TectCompactTerm to be
activated right at the top of the folded structure. We have found a great number of examples where standard
NCT trend at the core of folded structures can still be used, unless Couzen-Shultz and Azbel (2014) were
mistaken by centroid effect . We still hold to common assumption that in passive margin basins, the lateral
stress influence is essentially small. This explains our observation that standard NCT trend at the upper
section (roughly first 2 km from mudline) of folded structures is still applicable. However, at greater depth
(deeper than 2 km from mudline), the undrained tectonic shearing effect is started to be observed.
Our support to Couzen-Schultz and Azbel (2014) undrained tectonic shearing argument was driven by
the fact that semi-log NCT (Hottman and Johnson 1965) has been widely used in DSCM despite its fallacious
theoretical support (Chapman,1993; KSI, 2005; Hobbart, 2001). Semi-log NCT (or even linear NCT) has also
been recorded to be commonly used in deep water basins in the Gulf of Mexico and other regions. Some
researchers (e.g. Bowers, 1995) have attributed this to an accidental success to compensate for high pore
pressures generated by mechanisms other than undercompaction. Following this line of argument, we
interpret this accidentally suitable Semi-log NCT as being compensating the undrained tectonic shearing
mechanism. Contrary to Bowers (1995), this mechanism cannot be solved with unloading techniques.
Readers are encouraged to look for other methods such as effective basin modeling (Madatov and Sereda,
2005) in order to break free from the limitation of empirical method. Nevertheless, to continue supporting
empirical method, we propose that two compaction trends strategy to be used, the upper section (apx. 2 km
below mudline) to use standard vertical effective stress NCT (Miller NCT worked well) and the deeper part
uses Semi-log NCT to account for undrained tectonic shearing. We do not suggest the use of manually drawn
linear trend (e.g. Semi-log NCT) as it does not have calibrated fitting parameters. Vertical effective stressbased (or mean stress-based whenever possible) NCT is suggested to be first built for helping the
understanding of compaction history and the tectonic shearing severity (when compared with Semi-log NCT).
Geopressure Centroid
A major challenge involving empirical pore pressure prediction method is that the resulting predicted
pore pressure, which is notably performed within shale sections only, need to be calibrated with in situ
measurements of fluid pressure in sands. This approach follows the model of sand-shale pressures
equilibrium. The difference between predicted (shale) and measured pressures (sand) thus will be interpreted
simply as a deficiency of the model.
Unfortunately, in some cases, this assumption fails (Swarbrick 2001)

Couzen-Schultz and Azbel (2014) states that many velocity-based predictions in NW Borneo deepwater have been underestimating real
measurements in the folded sediments. However, to our dismay their paper did not discuss centroid effect that may elevate pressures in
permeable rocks at the crest of inclined structure.

and much more pertinent in deepwater contractional areas such as in DSCM (Kaeng et al 2014). Fig 9
illustrate how such approach can create confusion. Pressure plot from three offset wells in a deepwater
anticlinal structure is presented. An exploration well (DW1) penetrates the crest of the structure, while
appraisal wells DW2 and DW3 are on the flanks; all three penetrate a big deepwater toe thrusting-related
anticlinal structure. It can be observed that an attempt to match the predicted pore pressure (shale) to
measured pressure (sands) will result in uncertainty of as much as a 2-Eaton exponent unit difference (Fig 9c)
that would represent a significant variation in pressure regime, which is obviously not the case here.



Fig. 9three wells (DW-1, DW-2, and DW-3) in DW field, an example of deepwater field in Southeast Asia. The field is a large 4
ways structure formed by a deepwater thrusting system. DW1 penetrates the crest of the anticline while DW2 and DW3 on the
flanks. Distance between one well and the closest neighbor is about 3 km. a) is the structure contour of top SS3 sand and b is
the seismic section showing the extent of SS3 sand (c) predicted field shale pore pressure using an empirical Eaton formula
(Eaton 1975) from the three offset wells (DW-1, DW-2, and DW-3). The shaded area is the uncertainty window of predicted pore
pressures as calibrated to measured pressures. The uncertainty window is underlain by the low case predicted pore pressure
with Eaton exponent (e) = 2 as calibrated to the lowest measured pressure points, and overlain by the high case predicted pore
pressure with Eaton exponent (e) = 4 as calibrated to the highest measured pressure points. Eaton exponent unit difference as
much as 2 represents a significant variation in pressure regimes, which is not likely in this case. This is an example of how
pressures in shale (predicted) and sands (measured) can be significantly different, thus an attempt to calibrate shale pressure to
measured pressures in sands or predicting sands pressure from shale pressure could be misleading.

It is believed that, in overpressured zones, a pressure difference in sand and shale is not uncommon in the
presence of structural inclination (Traugott 1997; Heppard and Traugott 1998; Yardley and Swabrick 2000;
Shaker 2005; Saleh & Shaker 2001). Disequilibrium compaction in shale-dominated part of the basins tends to
cause resultant pressure profile to be subparallel to the lithostatic gradient (Yardley & Swarbrick, 2000).
Therefore, deep isolated reservoirs tend to be more overpressured (Fig 10a). Where laterally extensive
inclined reservoirs exist, deeper highly overpressured regions are connected to shallower, less overpressured
regions by porous and permeable pathways. The redistribution of overpressure throughout the volume of such
reservoir incline along a water gradient and can cause pore pressure at the crest of a structure to increase
(Fig 10b). This phenomenon is larger if hydrocarbon present due its buoyancy. The depth where the reservoir
pressure and the bounding shale are in equilibrium, as illustrated in Fig 10 is termed centroid (Traugott, 1997).
The thrust-fold belt of DSCM has been the main target for exploration with markedly huge anticlinal
structures. Where basement-driven compaction is governing (such as in NW Borneo), the anticlines are even
bigger and the dip is even steeper. As a result, permeable sands filling the structures would experience
significant pressure inflation at the crest. The relatively constant effective stress of the field-wide shale

pressure and uniform structural inclination have made the centroid effect strongly evident. Indeed, we have
seen a great majority of wells in DSCM encountered pressures associated with centroid effect, such as: sand
and far-field shale pressure discrepancy even though it penetrates the same anticlinal structure; wells located
at different parts of anticlinal structure can have different casing placement depths and different number of
casing strings, with crest wells having the most number of casings and through wells having the least number
of casings; common underprediction of pre-drill velocity-based pore pressure; well problems that sometimes
leads to abandonment mostly occur while drilling through the crest of anticlinal structure.


Fig. 10a)
plot showing the
centroid effect
(after Heppard and
Traugott 2002); b)
the location of
centroid in
reservoir; note
that the centroid is
located that the
midpoint of waterfilled part of the
reservoir body

The centroid point location can be determined from offset well data, reasonably accurate structural
maps, and an estimate of sand continuity. Pressure-depth plots of various pressure measurements taken from
different wells are the best method available. In the absence of offset well data, determination of the centroid
point location is not possible. According to Saleh & Shaker (2001), variables influencing the location of the
centroid are: sand geometry, vertical and lateral permeability in the sand, relative permeability of the sands
mobile fluid, drainage distribution, type of fluid in the sand (water, oil, or gas), geological time, changes in
compaction (for both sand and shale) in high structural relief, presence of faults/fractures or other conduits that
may allow fluids to escape and/or charge another reservoir.
The centroid point may not be the volumetric centroid of the sand body. We propose that in the absence of
offset wells, centroid location is to be picked at the volumetric centroid of the sand body. When a hydrocarbon
column is expected, the centroid is at the midpoint of water column (Hobbart, 2001; Fig 10b).
Fig 11 shows the complete interpretation of sonic-based pore pressure profile in DW field with noticeable
centroid effect: pore pressure in the inclined reservoirs increases at fluid rate with increasing depth whereas
the shale pressure increases at an overburden rate. Consistent lithology profile, overburden profile corrected
to water depths, NCTs parameters and pore pressure parameters (Eaton method with exponent 3) had been
applied onto offset wells to achieve the field shale pore pressure. It was then calibrated to the shallower
measured pressure points where centroid effect is not present or less noticeable. We propose that whenever
drape sediments present, pressure points at this section are to be acquired during drilling for calibration.
At the crest of the structures, the pore pressure of the sand is higher than the bounding shale,
suggesting that the DW1 well penetrated above the centroid. Down at the structural flanks, as penetrated by
the DW3 well, the pore pressure of the sand is lower than the bounding shale. The DW1 well reached TD at
the base of SS3 sand and encountered 160 m apparent (vertical) thickness. Because of its position on the
structure flank close to centroid, DW2 had been a good choice for deeper drilling. Definitive field shale pore
pressure taking into account the centroid location at the midpoint of water leg is also shown in Fig 11.
Understanding the regional and local geological characteristics is inevitable for the accuracy of pore
pressure prediction. If possible, regional-wide shale pore pressure study should be performed in order to see
regional-scale behaviors and parameters. As it all starts from the vertical overburden stress, complete and
good density profile must be achieved. If density data length is limited, Gardner method can be used to
transform velocity to density. Density at the shallow part (500 m from mudline) should reflect the critical

Fig. 11-Field shale pore

pressure interpretation from
sonic velocity in Fig 8
accompanied by definitive
field shale pore pressure
interpretation that takes into
account centroid location at
the water leg

porosity trend and it is commonly undetected by seismic. Analytical formula can be used (Ostermeier, 1995) to
derive the near mudline density and calibrated with the data.
For normal compaction trends, shale-based vertical (or mean) compaction trends should be developed with
offset wells while achieving consistent fitting parameters. When shallow section data is not available or limited
(may be due to the shallow top of overpressure), other wells from shallow water part of the basin can be used.
Miller NCT is suitable for shallow section (2 km from mudline). In order to account for undrained tectonic
shearing at the deeper part, consider Semi-log NCT.
In accounting centroid effect, the anticline and sand body geometry should be mapped. Shale pore
pressure can be calibrated with shallow pressures where drape sediments present. Otherwise, centroid
analysis must be conducted. Vertical hydrostatic thickness of the sand body should be calculated while
assuming a complete permeability from crest to lowest point for high case scenario. If there are more than one
well in the structure penetrating different structural locations, plot all wells in the same pressure-depth plot to
see reservoir connectivity by using pressure plot instead of gradient plot (Shaker 2005).
In the absence of good calibration, the volumetric centroid can be used. When hydrocarbons present,
centroid location will ideally be located at the midpoint of water column. The upper limit of crestal pressure is
the fracture gradient. Once the centroid location of each sand structure has been determined, shale pressure
can be calibrated to centroid locations. Do not calibrate field shale pore pressure with measured pressures
until centroid effect has been analyzed (Bower, 2001; Saleh & Shaker, 2001).
For proposed wells, accurate shale pressure prediction and centroid analysis is critical to determine
whether the intended geological targets are achievable. Wells drilled in DSCM often faced with limited drilling
window, especially in deep section of NW Borneo. Real-time pressure monitoring is often required.
Deepwater Sundaland continental margin (DSCM) presents unique challenges to pore pressure
detection which has been resulting in a costly drilling operation. These challenges include shallow top of
overpressure, the failure of standard empirical compaction methods, and centroid phenomenon. Undrained
tectonic shearing has been identified as one of overpressure pressure mechanisms in DSCM where standard
empirical methods fail to function. Two-trend NCTs of Miller and Semi-log have been proposed. Miller NCT
can be used for shallow section approximately up to 2 km above mudline. Semi-log NCT is proposed for
deeper section. The presence of prominent structural inclination in this thrust-fold belt region also increases
the likelihood of centroid effect to be a major overpressure mechanism at the crest of structures. Centroid
analysis must be conducted before calibrating shale pressure with measured pressures.
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