Exploration and Production Technologies

An Advanced-Chemistry Basin Model for Petroleum Exploration


This project was selected in response to DOE's Oil Exploration and Production solicitation DE-RA26-98BC15200. The solicitation responded to a DOE request for proposals to "integrate prospecting concepts" by "modeling dynamic sedimentary hydrocarbon systems" with "programs that can be operated on 'desktop' or workstation systems" and that are "user-friendly".

Project Goal
The project proposed to produce a public domain, user-friendly, graphically intuitive basin model operating on a PC or low-end workstation that would have all the functionality of current 2-D modeling systems but also provide advanced chemical capabilities (compositional maturity indicator and petroleum maturation kinetic models, compositional petroleum property models, and gas-washing models).

California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, CA

Cornell University
Ithaca, NY

GeoGroup Inc.
Ithaca, NY

Project Results
The project produced a user-friendly conventional 2-D basin model with easy user input of section data, tools to infer heat flow and sediment thermal conductivity, maturation data bases to verify the time-temperature history calculated, compositional kinetic models for the maturation of kerogens, mixing of petroleums from up to two different source strata, and tools to determine petroleum properties and petroleum alteration by gas washing.

Benefits result from the ease of basin modeling and the ease with which advanced chemical capabilities can be applied to the basin models to constrain the timing of hydrocarbon maturation and the possible chemistry of migrated petroleums.

The project addressed the barrier to industry and science of the high cost of conventional basin models and their chemical poverty.

Project Summary
The project produced:

  • A user-friendly, conventional 2-D basin model with easy user input of section data, backstripping, decompaction, erosion, automatically inferred salt diapirism, and faulting.
  • Tools available for inferring heat flow as a function of time in rift basins and for capturing sediment thermal conductivity as a function of porosity and lithology.
  • Assessments of maturation using a data base of 7 vitrinite reflectance kinetic models and 7 biomarker kinetic models (two hopand, triaromatic steroid, methyl phenanthrene, phenanthrene alkylation, and two diamondoid).
  • A scratchpad for primary migration, including capillary expulsion (secondary migration is assumed to begin when a specified source-rock hydrocarbon saturation is exceeded).
  • Specification of maturation of up to two different-source kerogens. The macro-chemistries of these two different petroleums mix during migration.
  • Specification of macro-chemistries of the petroleums by compositional kinetic models, which can be selected for 11 kerogens that are provided with the program (three Type I, four Type II, one Type II-III, and one Type III).
  • The realization that at any point in the basin and at any time of its development, the petroleum at that point can be decomposed into a micro-component description of its chemistry and the micro-component used to determine petroleum properties such as viscosity, gas-oil ratio, phase state (one or two phases), etc.
  • The recognition of the fact that petroleum also can be washed with CO2 or methane, and its compositional changes calculated as a function of the depth and temperature and the extent of washing.

Current Status (July 2005)
The project is complete, and the program is available, with supporting manual and derivative literature, at http://ruby.wag.caltech.edu/basin and at http://www.geo.cornell.edu/eas/research/GeoModeling/BasinLAB/.

Annual and final reports submitted to DOE.

Project Start: May 11, 1999
Project End: October 10, 2003

DOE Contribution: $ 1,492,367
Performer Contribution: $373,091 (20% of total)

Contact Information

NETL - Virginia Weyland ( virginia.weyland@netl.doe.gov or 918-699-2041)
Calif. Inst. of Technology- William Goddard (wag@wag.caltech.edu or 626-395-2731)
Cornell Univ.- Lawrence M. Cathles (Cathles@geology.cornell or 607-255-2844)

A time series plot of hydrocarbon composition at the location of the main fault shown by the red outline and arrow is obtained with the Solve Equations: View Calculated Solution: t_series of the BasinLAB program.

Plotting of a gas-washing case is achieved by selecting the Plot Gas Wash Results in the Petroleum Composition form.