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A Systematic Assessment of Fault Seal Risk to Hydrocarbon Exploration in the Penola Trough, Otway Basin, South Australia

Lyon, Paul John

PhD Geoscience 2008

University of Adelaide


A new depth-based method of seismic imaging is used to provide insights into the 3D structural geometry of faults, and to facilitate a detailed structural interpretation of the Penola Trough, Otway Basin, South Australia. The structural interpretation is used to assess fault kinematics through geological time and to evaluate across-fault juxtaposition, shale gouge and fault reactivation potential for three selected traps (Zema, Pyrus and Ladbroke Grove) thus providing a full and systematic assessment of fault seal risk for the area.

Paper 1 demonstrates how a depth-conversion method was applied to two-way time seismic data in order to redisplay the seismic in a form more closely representative of true depth, here termed ‘pseudo-depth’. Some apparently listric faults in two-way time are demonstrated to be planar and easily distinguishable from genuine listric faults on pseudo-depth sections. The insights into fault geometry provided by pseudo-depth sections have had a significant impact on the new structural interpretation of the area.

Paper 2 presents the new 3D structural interpretation of the area. The geometry of faulting is complex and reflects variable stress regimes throughout structural development and the strong influence of pre-existing basement fabrics. Some basement-rooted faults show evidence of continual reactivation throughout their structural history up to very recent times. Structural analysis of all the live and breached traps of the area demonstrate that traps associated with a basement rooted bounding fault host breached or partially breached accumulations, whereas non-basement rooted faults are associated with live hydrocarbon columns.

Papers 3 and 4 demonstrate that for all the traps analysed (Zema, Pyrus and Ladbroke Grove), initial in-place seal integrity was good. The initial seal integrity was provided by a combination of both favourable across fault juxtaposition (Ladbroke Grove) and/or sufficiently well developed shale gouge over potential leaky sand on sand juxtaposition windows to retain significant hydrocarbon columns (Zema, Pyrus). The palaeocolumns observed at Zema and Pyrus indicate that there has been subsequent post-charge breach of seal integrity of these traps while Ladbroke Grove retains a live hydrocarbon column.
Evidence of open, permeable fracture networks within the Zema Fault Zone suggest that it is likely to have recently reactivated, thus breaching the original hydrocarbon column. Analysis of the in-situ stress tensor and fault geometry demonstrates that most of the bounding faults to the selected traps are at or near optimal orientations for reactivation in the in-situ stress tensor. The main exception being the Ladbroke Grove Fault which has a NW-SE trending segment (associated with a relatively high risk of fault reactivation and possible leakage at the surface) and an E-W trending segment (associated with a relatively low risk of fault reactivation and a present day live column). The free water level of the Ladbroke Grove accumulation coincides with this change in fault orientation.

Australian School of Petroleum



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