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The Petroleum Industry Mission: A Hunt for Buoyant Fluids in a 3D Earth

J. Steve Davis
ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company, Houston, TX, USA


The petroleum industry drills wells for only three reasons, to find hydrocarbons in the Earth's subsurface, to produce those hydrocarbons to the surface, and to inject fluids into the subsurface. In order to succeed in any of these endeavors, forward predictions must be made from interpretations of limited data. The predictions cover a range of geological and engineering issues that require three-dimensional understanding of the structural and stratigraphic frameworks, porosity and permeability distributions, fluid distributions and properties, and stress states. The three-dimensional structural and stratigraphic framework defines the sometimes very complex, upside-down bowl that contains the buoyant hydrocarbons. The three-dimensional distribution of porosity and permeability, integrated with the structural and stratigraphic framework and fluid distributions, establishes the basis for field development and production designs. A fully integrated, three-dimensional characterization of the subsurface, which includes understanding the three-dimensional stress state(s), is required for designing well-paths that allow drillers to successfully reach the desired target with minimum cost and environmental and human hazards. The continuing challenge for the petroleum industry relates to the full three-dimensional characterization of the subsurface and the native abilities of geologists and engineers to produce and understand those characterizations and their inherent uncertainties.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #120140© 2014 AAPG Hedberg Conference 3D Structural Geologic Interpretation: Earth, Mind and Machine, June 23-27, 2013, Reno, Nevada