Simulations of the origin of fluid pressure, fracture gen­ eration, and the movement of fluids in the Uinta Basin, Utah

AAPG Bulletin
By: , and 



The Altamont oil field in the deep Uinta basin is known to have reservoir fluid pressures that approach lithostatic. One explanation for this high pore-fluid pressure is the generation of oil from kerogen in the Green River oil shale at depth. A three-dimensional simulation of flow in the basin was done to test this hypothesis.

In the flow simulation, oil generation is included as a fluid source. The kinetics of oil generation from oil shale is a function of temperature. The temperature is controlled by (1) the depth of sediment burial and (2) the geothermal gradient.

Using this conceptual model, the pressure buildup results from the trade-off between the rate of oil generation and the flow away from the source volume. The pressure increase depends primarily on (1) the rate of the oil-generation reaction and (2) the permeability of the reservoir rocks. A sensitivity analysis was performed in which both of these parameters were systematically varied. The reservoir permeability must be lower than most of the observed data for the pressure to build up to near lithostatic.

The results of the simulations indicated that once oil generation was initiated, the pore pressure built up rapidly to near lithostatic. We simulated hydrofractures in that part of the system in which the pressures approach lithostatic by increasing both the horizontal and the vertical permeability by an order of magnitude. Because the simulated hydrofractures were produced by the high pore pressure, they were restricted to the Altamont field. A new flow system was established in the vicinity of the reservoir; the maximum pore pressure was limited by the least principal stress. Fluids moved vertically up and down and laterally outward away from the source of oil generation. The analysis indicated that, assuming that one is willing to accept the low values of permeability, oil generati n can account for the observed high pressures at Altamont field.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Simulations of the origin of fluid pressure, fracture gen­ eration, and the movement of fluids in the Uinta Basin, Utah
Series title AAPG Bulletin
DOI 10.1306/A25FF279-171B-11D7-8645000102C1865D
Volume 78
Issue 11
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher Datapages, Inc.
Description 19 p.
First page 1729
Last page 1747