Representative compaction curves for the principle lithologies are essential input for reliable models of basin history. Compaction curves influence estimates of maximum burial and erosion. Different compaction curves may produce significantly different thermal histories. Default compaction curves provided by basin modeling packages may or may not be a good proxy for the compaction properties in a given area. Compaction curves in the published literature span a wide range, even within one lithology, e.g., sandstone (see Panel 3). An abundance of geophysical well data for the North Slope, from both government and private sources, provides us with an unusually good opportunity to develop compaction curves for the Cretaceous-Tertiary Brookian sandstones, siltstones, and shales. We examined the sonic and gamma ray logs from 19 offshore wells (see map), where significant erosion is least likely to have occurred. Our data are primarily from the Cretaceous-Tertiary Brookian sequence and are less complete for older sequences.
For each well, the fraction of shale (Vsh) at a given depth was estimated from the gamma ray log, and porosity was computed from sonic travel time. By compositing porosities for the near-pure sand (Vsh<1%) and shale (Vsh>99%)from many individual wells we obtained data over sufficient depth intervals to define sandstone and shale 'master' compaction curves. A siltstone curve was defined using the sonic-derived porosities for Vsh values of 50%. These compaction curves generally match most of the sonic porosities with an error of 5% or less.
Onshore, the curves are used to estimate the depth of maximum burial at the end of Brookian sedimentation. The depth of sonic-derived porosity profiles is adjusted to give the best match with the 'master' compaction curves. The amount of the depth adjustment is the erosion estimate. Using our compaction curves, erosion estimates on the North Slope range from zero in much of the offshore, to as much as 1500 ft along the coast, and to more than 10,000 ft in the foothills (Panel 3). Compaction curves provide an alternative to vitrinite reflectance for estimating erosion. Vitrinite reflectance data are often very sparse in contrast to well log data and are subject to inconsistencies when measurements are made by different labs. The phenomenon of 'recycling' can also make the reflectance values of dispersed vitrinite problematic for quantifying erosion. Recycling is suspected in dispersed vitrinite in North Slope rocks, particularly in the younger, Cretaceous-Tertiary section. The compaction curves defined here are being integrated into our burial history and thermal models to determine the timing of source rock maturation. An example on Panel 3 shows the results of calculating the maturity of the Shublik Fm. at the Tulaga well using two different sets of shale and siltstone compaction curves. Finally, accurate compaction curves improve a model's ability to realistically simulate the pressure regime during burial, including overpressures.