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3-D Basin Modeling of the Permian Delaware Basin: Tectonic Evolution Assessment to Improve Definition of Boundary Conditions


The Permian Delaware Basin in west Texas, a traditional conventional and increasingly important unconventional petroleum province, is a formidable challenge for modeling purposes, as it is characterized by a complex tectonic history. The multiple cycles of deposition, deformation, uplift, and erosion that have affected the Delaware Basin can be simulated in a basin model in order to improve our understanding of the basin’s evolution. However, despite being intensively applied for hydrocarbon exploration of conventional petroleum systems, the overall capabilities of basin modeling have proved challenging when it comes to the assessment of unconventional and hybrid systems. This research aims to investigate the intensity and impact of the different tectonic events that have influenced the geologic and generative history of the Delaware Basin by applying a basin modeling methodology for non-conventional petroleum systems.

Tectonically caused exhumation and erosion events, and variability of basal heat flow are fundamental factors that control thermal evolution, and thus, the organic matter maturation and hydrocarbon generation from source rocks. This study shows that rifting events related to the Borderland system and Basin and Range system, exhumed Mesozoic and Cenozoic intervals, predominant in the west side of the basin, associated to uplifted rift margins (Borderland system), and the Paleogene Laramide Orogeny have posed a strong influence in basal heat flow history across the Delaware Basin. The detailed characterization of these tectonic events and a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of the Delaware Basin have resulted in a realistic definition of the boundary conditions applied to the basin model. Therefore, the number of possible scenarios needed to be simulated and the uncertainties associated to the model were reduced, and the sensitivities, improved. The results presented in this research constitute the first stage of a new basin modeling workflow aimed to improve the prediction capabilities of this tool for the evaluation of unconventional and hybrid petroleum systems.