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Pore Pressure Prediction in the Niger Delta
- lessons learnt from regional analysis

NAPE 2011 | Lagos, Nigeria | 28 November-2 December 2011 | Extended Abstract


Stephen OConnor*, Richard Swarbrick*, Bitrus Pindar*, Olidapo Lucas**, Folake Adesanya**,
Adebayo Adedayo**, Kingsley Nwankwoagu**, Alexander Edwards*, Jakob Heller* and Patricia
Kelly*. *Ikon GeoPressure1, Durham, UK. **Sonar Limited, Ikeja, Nigeria.


Accurate pore pressure prediction is vital for successful and safe drilling of wells, and the Deep- and
Ultra-Deep offshore area of the Niger Delta is no exception. Kicks have been taken, for instance, in
permeable zones within the Early Miocene shales, suggesting mud-weights have been set too low as a
result of inaccurate pre-drill pressure prediction. As part of the Niger Delta Pressure Study, two typical
pore pressure profiles were observed in the Deep- and Ultra-Deep offshore area. The first occurs in
shale-rich regions (low net/gross, with isolated (i.e. un-drained) reservoirs, where sediment loading
is high, top of overpressure is shallow, and overburden-parallel trends of pore pressure with depth are
observed (Figure 1). Here standard shale-based techniques such as Eaton (1975) and Equivalent Depth
can be used to interpret pore pressure in shales, and by implication, any encased sands. A single normal
compaction curve developed for the Deep and Ultra-Deep offshore area can be used (with wireline log
- sonic, resisitivity and density and/or seismic velocity data) to predict these shale pressures accurately
to current drilling depths in the Deep and Ultra-Deep offshore, since analysis of overpressure generation
mechanisms as part of the regional study reveals only disequilibrium compaction as an active mechanism
(plus hydrocarbon buoyancy effects/lateral transfer effects, the latter typically at the crests of relatively
shallow anticlinal structures see sands in Late Miocene; Figure 1). The lack of evidence for secondary
mechanisms of overpressure generation (to present drilling depths) legitimises using under-compaction
relationships such as Eaton (1975) to interpret shale pressures.

The second typical style of profile is found in sand and silt-rich regions, where top of overpressure
tends to be deeper, followed at depth by a sharp pressure transition zone (Figure 2). These previously
mentioned techniques can also be applied to interpret these deep shale pressures in this situation,
however, they cannot be used to infer pore pressures in the sand-rich horizons above as the porosity/
effective stress relationship developed in low permeability shales and detected remotely by Eaton (1975)
and other under-compaction models can be affected, by processes such as cementation and pressure
dissipation (or lateral drainage). The pressure in these sands, however, can be measured directly by taking
pressure tests. Using these relationships and measurements therefore allows interpretation of shale
pressures throughout the Deep- and Ultra-Deep offshore area and comparison with sand pressures. In
many cases, shales have substantially higher pressures than sands.

Ikon GeoPressure is the trading name of GeoPressure Technology Ltd
Pore Pressure Prediction in the Niger Delta
- lessons learnt from regional analysis

Figure 1 Profile A : Shale-rich lithology where reservoirs and shales are in pressure equilibrium. Red (resisitivity),
brown (density) and blue (sonic) shale pressure interpretation. Red triangles are sand pressure tests, pink squares
are leak-off test results, estimating fracture strength of rock.

Figure 2 Profile B : High net/gross. Using methodology outlined in Figure 3, prediction of the shale pressures (and
hence avoidance of kicks) was possible pre-drill assuming ages of seismic markers were known (see text for
explanation). Red circle is the Fluid Retention Depth or FRD.are leak-off test results, estimating fracture strength
of rock.
Pore Pressure Prediction in the Niger Delta
- lessons learnt from regional analysis

In this paper, we describe another method to calculate these shale pressures, one based on sedimentation
rates and loading. The top of overpressure is the point at which the pore pressure starts to deviate from
the hydrostatic line. In terms of process, as fluids are inhibited from escaping as sedimentation increases,
porosity loss is slowed, and overpressure builds there is a departure from the normal compaction
curve. The depth of top of overpressure is controlled by the permeability, rock compressibility and
sedimentation rate. The Fluid Retention Depth (or FRD) is the point at which rocks completely cease
to dewater due to low sediment permeability (Swarbrick et al., 2002; Gluyas and Swarbrick, 2004).
The FRD is determined by an extrapolation from inferred shale pressures, to intersect the hydrostatic
gradient the trend should be approximately overburden parallel. Swarbrick et al. (2002) showed that
there is a correlation between sedimentation rate and FRD using data from shale dominated regions
(Figures 3 and 4). Data in Swarbrick et al. (2002) is presented from the Gulf of Mexico, Trinidad, Nile
Delta and other world-wide basins. Using this trend for pore pressure allows an assessment of shale
pressures to be made. This technique is highlighted below.

Figure 3 Methodology for prediction of shale pressure using Swarbrick et al. (2002) applied to data from Nile Delta.

Using data from Mann and Mackenzie (1990) from the Nile Delta, where sedimentation or depositional
rate is calculated to be 810m/Ma, using the relationship in Swarbrick et al. (2002) suggests an FRD
of 2,620 feet TVDbml (where bml is below mud-line or seabed). Therefore, with foreknowledge of
sedimentation rate, one can estimate the FRD depth using data compiled by Swarbrick et al. (2002).
With this in mind the pressure at any depth can be estimated on a Pressure-Depth plot by plotting a
gradient parallel to the overburden gradient, starting at the FRD. This method assumes that overpressure
is generated entirely by disequilibrium compaction which for the Niger Delta seems reasonable since
the sediments are young, shale/sand dominated and the velocity-density cross-plots reveal little or no
secondary mechanisms to be present.

In Figure 2, we present the results of testing this approach on a well taken from the East of the study
area where water depth is 2433 feet. In this well, the Late Miocene, although relatively shale-rich, has
numerous sand units present. Pressure tests in these sand record minor overpressures, with pressures
Pore Pressure Prediction in the Niger Delta
- lessons learnt from regional analysis

affected by hydrocarbon buoyancy effects. Hydrocarbons are suggested both by fluids gradients from
the pressure tests and by resistivity log response. Shales in-between the sand units are interpreted
using the under-compaction techniques mentioned previously, to have pressures above those in the
reservoirs, a common feature of the Deep- and Ultra-Deep offshore. These sands are laterally-drained
and allow horizontal pressure escape to shallower levels in the Delta and/or seabed. Supportive evidence
for this lateral drainage is seen where comparing pressures in the two deepest sands in the well i.e. the
deepest sand has pressure test data that records lower overpressures than the sand above, at shallower
stratigraphic intervals, implying differential drainage of pressures. Towards the base of the Late Miocene,
sand units are rare, and, as shale-lithology dominate, pressures increase, recorded by increases in mud-
weight. Several kicks are reported in this well at this level, taken in thin sand units, therefore suggesting
this increasing shale pressure were not predicted pre-drill. Using the pressure tests at a depth of 9850
feet TVDss (or 7417 feet TVDbml) and an age of this sand unit as approximately the Top Middle Miocene
of 11.6 Ma, and the relationship displayed in Figure 4, predicts the FRD for this sedimentation rate of 638
feet (or 194m) per Ma in this well to be 0.9 km or 2950 feet TVDbml (or 5400 TVDss). The shale pressures
at depth, using the implied pore pressure trend for shales, gives a close matches to the kick data close
to the base of the Late Miocene interval i.e. using this method alone would have successfully predicted
the shale pressures and prevented drilling problems.

Figure 4 Sedimentation Rate vs. FRD (Swarbrick et al, 2002). Green arrow represents Nile Delta data (see Figure 3).
Blue arrow is data from a Niger Delta well in the study.

As part of the Study, we analysed FRDs from 15 selected wells all with well-defined stratigraphy, gamma
ray, sonic, resistivity and density logs and pressure data to complete this analysis, all of these criteria
need to be fulfilled. The majority of these wells give a close match between extrapolating our shale-
based interpretation to intersect the hydrostatic line, and a calculation of FRD based on sedimentation
Pore Pressure Prediction in the Niger Delta
- lessons learnt from regional analysis

rates, the method outlined above. In these wells, FRDs varied between 2750 feet TVDbml and 3850 feet
TVDbml. The average calculated FRD for the selected 15 wells from both the West and east regions of
the Delta is 3270 feet TVDbml.

Using this approach defined in Swarbrick et al. (2002) provides a second, independent method to calibrate
the log and/or seismic velocity based techniques of Eaton (1975) and other algorithms to interpret shale
pressures in the deep- and Ultra-deep offshore of the Niger Delta. This method to estimate the shale
pressures, and hence magnitude of overpressure, based on sedimentation rate is linked to process
(disequilibrium compaction) although is empirical. In a pre-drill situation, seismic chrono-stratigraphic
markers can be used to establish the rate of sedimentation, with seismic facies used to provide a guide
to net/gross. Comparison of this method with analysis of shale-based pressure profiles using the full
suite of available wireline log responses provides added confidence in the regional pressure prediction.
Furthermore the comparison improves our ability to define the regional flow characteristics of the main
reservoirs which govern migration and trapping of hydrocarbons.

The authors would like to thank the Nigerian Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), in particular
Lufadeju Olugbenga, National Data Repository (NDR) and NAPIMS for their active support of the study
and their assistance in providing data. The authors are also very appreciative of the assistance provided
by representatives from the sponsor companies (SNEPCO, Addax Petroleum, Chevron Nigeria, Petrobras
Nigeria, TOTAL Nigeria and ENI/AGIP). The management of Sonar Limited is also acknowledged. The
statements made in this extended abstract represents the views expressed by the authors and not
necessarily the views held by those organisations listed above.


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