The origin of overpressure in the Carnarvon Basin, Western Australia: implications for pore pressure prediction
- Peter van Ruth, Richard Hillis, Peter Tingate
A small, but significant fraction of wells drilled in the Northern Carnarvon Basin have encountered problems with overpressure: better pore pressure prediction would improve safety and economy for drilling operations. In the Northern Carnarvon Basin the occurrence of overpressure and likely mechanisms are under investigation as part of the Australian Petroleum Cooperative Research Centre (APCRC) Research Program on Pore Pressure Prediction. Previous workers have proposed a number of mechanisms as the main cause of overpressure including undercompaction, hydrocarbon generation, horizontal stress and clay reactions. A preliminary regional study was undertaken incorporating over 400 well completion reports which identified approximately 60 wells with mud weights greater than 1.25 S.G. A subset of these wells was investigated and more reliable but much scarcer pressure indicators such as kicks or direct pressure measurements were examined. Depth-pressure profiles of wells across the region are variable and commonly show pressure compartmentalisation. Using a range of indicators, it was observed that overpressured strata in the Barrow Subbasin: a) occur over a wide depth range (2,500 to 4,000+ mbsl); b) occur over a wide stratigraphic range (Late Triassic to Late Cretaceous); c) are not regionally limited by major structural boundaries; d) are associated with sequences dominated by finegrained sediments with variable clay mineralogy; and in depositionally, or structurally, isolated sandstones; and e) mainly to the west of the Barrow and Dampier Subbasins around the Alpha Arch and Rankin Trend, coinciding with thickest Tertiary deposition. Previous published work in the study area has tended to support hydrocarbon generation as the primary cause of overpressure, though more recent publications have emphasised compaction disequilibrium. The log response (DT, RHOB and NPHI) of overpressured clay-rich strata has been investigated to constrain the type of overpressure mechanism. A normal compaction trend has been derived for four stratigraphic groupings; Muderong Shale, Barrow Group, Jurassic and Triassic. All overpressure occurrences were accompanied by an increase in sonic transit time. Not all wells have suitable log data for evaluation, but all stratigraphic groups show some evidence of elevated porosity associated with overpressure consistent with disequillibrium compaction as a dominant mechanism. Overpressures in the Barrow Group in Minden-1 and the Jurassic section within Zeepaard–1 do not have accompanying porosity anomalies suggesting a different overpressure mechanism model is needed.