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Petroleum systems of the northern Gulf of Mexico: Phase III
Mississippi Canyon and Atwater Valley

This consortium focuses on the geological setting of central and southern Mississippi Canyon and northern Atwater Valley, northern deep Gulf of Mexico. The purpose of the consortium is to study the petroleum systems of this region, by integrating sequence stratigraphic and structural analyses with thermal maturation and fluid flow modeling. The consortium is designed to expand and improve upon our previous research techniques and results, and generate new ideas and concepts for the region. Our research results will be provided in a timely fashion so that they can be integrated into our sponsors work.

Figure 1: Map showing location of our current consortium study area (Phase 3: Mississippi canyon/Atwater Valley), Phase 1 consortium area (northern Green Canyon/Ewing Bank) and bathymetry.

The initial data base used for the study consists of a sub-regional 2-D grid of seismic reflection data with a 1 by 2 mile spacing. All available well information are being integrated into our study, including biostratigraphic information. Additional detailed studies utilize a 3-D seismic data set across Thunderhorse and Mensa fields, the largest oil and gas fields, respectively, in the northern deep Gulf of Mexico.

The study integrates the results of several disciplines. Sequence stratigraphic analyses focus primarily on the Miocene to middle Pliocene sediments, i.e. the producing intervals of the area. Each of the producing sequences are being systematically described in terms of the seismic and geologic facies, lithofacies, regional sediment pathway maps, and biostratigraphy. The primary goal is to define the distribution of potential turbidite reservoir facies and the regional sediment fairways for each sequence by distinguishing the more sand-rich portions of each sequence. We are comparing how reservoir types vary through time and space as a function of their slope position in relation to the evolving salt and updip deltaic depocenters. All fields and discoveries are summarized in an atlas format. In addition, several shallow analog reservoir studies using 3-D data sets are being done. Student theses generated from the stratigraphic work include (Figure 2): Gretchen Bolchert (Area 1), Hector Gonzalez (Area 3), Todd Lapinski, John Martin (Area 5), David Pyles (Area 2), John Roesink (Area 3), Ryan Sincavage (area 6), Aaron van den Berg. Dr. Olivier Serrano, research scientist, is also working on this aspect of the project. In addition, David Pyles (Area 9) studied the petroleum potential of the deep-water DeSoto Canyon and Lloyd area. Chris Morton studied the high resolution evolution of one Mississippi Fan channel (0.6 Ma: Area 8).

Figure 2: Map showing the distribution of different student thesis areas.

Structural studies focus on the allochthonous and, where possible, autochthonous salt systems, and associated faults. Particular emphasis is being given to the distribution of salt welds and the geometry of the base salt surfaces, to determine the three-dimensional geometries of the different salt systems present within the area. Each major salt system is being studied through a series of sub-regional restored cross sections. The link between sedimentation and structural growth is being achieved by examining the development of salt systems and associated minibasins through time, using structural restorations. This work is being done by two research scientists, Drs. Renaud Bouroullec and Olivier Serrano

The eastern portion of the Mississippi Fan foldbelt in northern Atwater Valley is being studied in detail by integrating structural analyses, restorations, and the relationship of growth stratigraphy to structural development. Specific attention is being given to the development of individual folds and the sediment response. A mega-regional structural profile across the entire eastern portion of the Gulf of Mexico will be restored to link the updip to downdip structural and stratigraphic processes. Six MS theses have been generated: Peter Morris (Area 7), Hector Gonzalez (Area 3), Chris Morton (Area 8), Sean O'Connor, Gretchen Bolchert (Area 1), John Martin (Area 5).

The above studies are being integrated and modeled using BasinMod 2-D and 3-D to ultimately gain a more comprehensive understanding of the petroleum systems of the area. Both source rock maturation and fluid flow will be modeled based on the sequentially restored profiles, and tied to known oil occurrences and surface seeps. A variety of salt systems will be modeled to understand the variation in the timing of source rock maturation and migration pathways for the fields. This work is being done by Dr. Veit Matt, research scientist. A catalog of 80 surface seeps has been compiled by Todd Lapinksi, for a portion of his MS thesis.

Detailed studies of the 3-D data set investigate the stratigraphic and structural origin of the Thunderhorse and Mensa areas. This information is integrated with detailed petroleum systems modeling to explain the charge history of these two important fields. Todd Lapinski and Aaron van den Berg are receiving their MS degrees for the stratigraphic work.

David Pyles has been conducting detailed field studies in the Upper Carboniferous Ross Formation in western Ireland. This is a deep water siliciclastic turbidite system that is a good analogue for many producing intra-slope minibasins in the northern Gulf of Mexico. David will lead a five day field trip to these outcrops in September 2003 for consortium sponsors. In June 2003, we will collect ILRIS data (ground based LIDAR) with David Jennette of the Bureau of Economic Geology. These hi-resolution data will be integrated with David Pyles' outcrop measurements to produce a desktop, virtual field trip that will be available to consortium sponsors.

Our goal is to disseminate the research results to our sponsors in the most efficient and effective way. This includes the use of traditional Portable Document Format (PDF) files as well as newer technologies such as Macromedia Flash applications and stand-alone programs. Similar to our last consortium, we are distributing all results by CD-ROM. Companies can quickly load the CD-ROM onto an intranet site, so that the results can be easily distributed throughout the company. Products are being provided annually and updated throughout each year of research and comprise a fully linked suite of maps, atlases and movies that best illustrate the most important geological events that our research identifies. If you have interest in becoming a sponsor of the consortium please contact us at: webmaster@emarc.colroado.edu.

Sponsoring Companies

AEC, AGIP Petroleum, Amerada Hess, Anadarko, bp, Burlington Resources, Chevron, Conoco, Dominion, Encana, Enterprise Oil, ExxonMobil, Kerr-McGee, Marathon, Maxus, Nexen Petroleum, Norsk Hydro, Ocean Energy, Oxy, PanCanadian, PEMEX, Phillips Petroleum, Shell, Texaco Exploration, Total Exploration & Production, Unocal

Software Sponsoring Companies: A2D, GeoMark Research, Landmark Graphics, PaleoData, Inc., Paradigm Geophysical, PGS, Platte River Associates, TGS, Western Geophysical

Student Theses

MS Degrees


Pettingill, H. S., and P. Weimer

Global Deep Water Exploration: Past, Present and Future Frontiers: 21st GCSSEPM Research Conference, p. 1-22. 2001.

This paper was the keynote address at the GCSSEPM 21st Bob F. Perkins Research Conference held in Houston in December 2001. The paper addresses the past and future trends and concerns of exploration in deep and ultra deep water.

Pyles, D. R., P. Weimer, and R. Bouroullec

Stratigraphic and tectonic framework of the DeSoto Canyon and Lloyd Ridge Protraction areas, northeastern deep Gulf of Mexico: implications for the petroleum potential and potential play types: 21st GCSSEPM Research Conference, p. 285-314. 2001.

2004 GCAGS Publications

The October 2004 GCAGS Meeting in San Antonio included 17 presentations from EMARC scientists and former students. A 1-day poster session and 1/2-day oral session were dedicated to the results of this consortium. The following is a list of papers published in the GCAGS Transactions volume. About 20% of the technical program was provided by the EMARC research results.

Papers in preparation (edited books)

Atlases in Preparation

These are large data summaries that form the scientific basis for the written papers. Each atlas will consist of 75-200 pages in a linked Acrobat pdf format that allows the user to self-navigate through the document. Because the publication will be done on CD-ROMs, we will be able to have thorough documentation and supporting material for the written papers. These atlases have proven to be most popular with our industry supporters.

Computer Fly-throughs, Interactive displays, Study Area Movies

Roesink, J. G., R. J. Austin, P. Weimer, and R. Bouroullec

These will be presented in a series of .exe files so that the user can self navigate through the study area and fly along the sea-floor or move into the subsurface and study the exact nature of the structure, stratigraphy, or migration of fluids.

Director displays will allow the use to access all of the data generated from this project and view with the ability to display any set of parameters (seismic profiles, wireline logs, biostratigraphy, all maps, petroleum systems profiles).

Movies: will illustrate the 3-D distribution different data sets