Geothermal and Hydrocarbon Regimes, Northern Gulf of Mexico Basin

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Geothermal heat flow in the Gulf basin is primarily a function of its hydrology. Water expelled from sediments with deepening burial and increasing overburden load escapes upward and toward the basin margin. Where it moves freely in the hydropressure zone, the basin is relatively cool; but where rapid sedimentation and contemporaneous faulting have retarded water loss from compacting sediments, the interstitial fluid pressure reflects a part of the overburden load, and the formation waters are superheated and geopressured. The geopressured zone is common below depths of about 3 km (9,600 ft) in the basin, beneath an area of 375,000 km{sup ... continued below

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Jones, Paul H. January 1, 1975.

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Geothermal heat flow in the Gulf basin is primarily a function of its hydrology. Water expelled from sediments with deepening burial and increasing overburden load escapes upward and toward the basin margin. Where it moves freely in the hydropressure zone, the basin is relatively cool; but where rapid sedimentation and contemporaneous faulting have retarded water loss from compacting sediments, the interstitial fluid pressure reflects a part of the overburden load, and the formation waters are superheated and geopressured. The geopressured zone is common below depths of about 3 km (9,600 ft) in the basin, beneath an area of 375,000 km{sup 2} (150,000 mi{sup 2}), and extends downward perhaps 15 km (50,000 ft) to the base of Cenozoic deposits. The upper boundary of the geopressured zone is the most important physical interface in the basin. Across it the head of formation water increases downward from a few hundred to several thousand feet above sea level; the geothermal gradient increases downward from 20° to 40° C/km to 100°C/km or more; the salinity of formation water decreases downward, commonly by 50,000 mg/l or more; and the porosity of shale and sand increases downward by 10 to 25 percent. Petroleum matures in geopressured clay at 140° to 220°F. Montmorillonite is dehydrated at 180° to 250°F; fresh water released may equal half the volume of the mineral altered. Molecular solubility in fresh water of the hydrocarbons in Gulf basin crude, under geopressured zone conditions, could account for petroleum resources of the basin. Exsolution of petroleum hydrocarbons near the geopressured zone boundary could account for observed occurrences. This geopressured zone is a natural pressure vessel from which superheated water of moderate salinity could be produced through wells, each yielding millions of gallons a day at pressures of several thousand pounds per square inch, and temperatures above 300°F. with considerable amounts of methane gas in solution. (63 figs., 2 tabs., 73 refs.)

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  • 1. geopressured geothermal energy conference, Austin, TX, USA, 2 June 1975

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  • Report No.: CONF-750612--1
  • Grant Number: NONE
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 886581
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc892892

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

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  • January 1, 1975

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 23, 2016, 2:42 p.m.

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  • Jan. 22, 2018, 3:08 p.m.

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Jones, Paul H. Geothermal and Hydrocarbon Regimes, Northern Gulf of Mexico Basin, article, January 1, 1975; Austin, Texas. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc892892/: accessed May 26, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.