The U.S. Geological Survey created a comprehensive geopressure-gradient model of the regional pressure system spanning the onshore and offshore Gulf of Mexico basin, USA. This model was used to generate ten maps that included (1) five contour maps characterizing the depth to the surface defined by the first occurrence of isopressure gradients ranging from 0.60 psi/ft to 1.00 psi/ft, in 0.10-psi/ft increments; and (2) five supporting maps illustrating the spatial density of the data used to construct the contour maps. These contour maps of isopressure-gradients at various increments enable the identification and quantification of the occurrence, magnitude, location, and depth of the subsurface pressure system, which allows for the broad characterization of regions exhibiting overpressured, underpressured, and normally pressured strata.
Identification of overpressured regions is critical for exploration and evaluation of potential undiscovered hydrocarbon accumulations based on petroleum-generation pressure signatures and pressure-retention properties of reservoir seals. Characterization of normally pressured regions is essential for field development decisions such as determining the dominant production drive mechanisms, evaluating well placement and drainage patterns, and deciding on well stimulation methods such as hydraulic fracturing. Identification of underpressured regions is essential for evaluating the feasibility of geological sequestration and long-term containment of fluids such as supercritical carbon dioxide for alternative disposal methods of greenhouse gases.
This study is the first, quantitative investigation of the regional pressure systems of one of the most important petroleum provinces in the United States. Although this methodology was developed for pressure studies in the Gulf of Mexico basin, it is applicable to any basin worldwide.