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Modelling Effective Permeability for Muddy Hemipelagites and Levees

Jingsheng Ma1, Gary Couples1, Kuncho Kurtev2, Michael Drews2, Tom Praeger3 and Andy Aplin2
1
- Heriot-Watt University; 2- University of Newcastle; 3- Cardiff University

Determining the effective fluid retention capacity of muddy caprocks is of importance to


both petroleum exploration and CO2 storage in the subsurface. Thick successions of mud-
rich sediments can be comprised of a range of genetic units (GUs), including mud-
dominated hemipelagites and channel-levees. These GUs and others are deposited in
slope settings within the deep-sea environment. Based on measured properties, mud-rich
units within these GUs ought to be high-quality caprocks; with very low permeability and
high capillary entry pressure. However, these GUs also contain separate layers of much
more permeable sediments (sands and silts) which are thin, but nevertheless have lateral
continuity up to several kilometres. Moreover, they may contain deformation-related
conduits, such as sand dykes or fractures, approximately normal to the layering. This
study concerns determination of the effective flow properties of these two GUs,
accounting for the spatial arrangement of heterogeneities, for flow modelling at basin
scale.

Hemipelagites contains a small fraction, typically less than 5%, of coarser deposits in the
form layers of variable thickness; they are thought to be laterally-extensive, and well-
separated by finer deposits. Levees are similar, in that they contain dispersed layers of
coarser sediments, and possible sand-sand contacts, but these coarser layers terminate at
variable distances away from the channel axis. In both GUs, deformation-related flow
conduits can disrupt an otherwise well-layered system. In order to determine the effective
flow properties of these GUs, we have constructed stochastic models that capture the
known spatial arrangements and which also include variable distributions of vertical
connections.

For perfectly-layered hemipelagites, their across- and along-layer effective flow


properties (single phase) are easily predicted by harmonic and arithmetic averages. If
across-layer connections are introduced, the along-layer effective flow properties are
little affected, but the across-layer properties are changed. The magnitude of the change
depends on the geometry, density and the flow property of the conduits as well as their
spatial arrangements with the layers. With sub-seismic conduits being typically thin and
short relative to layer-spacing, the across-layer effective properties are only slightly
altered, unless the density of across-layer connections is extremely intense. This is
because the conduits link laterally-extensive flow units, resulting in long flow paths from
bottom to top of the model. Levees are similar, except that their across- and along-layer
effective flow properties vary depending on the rate of layer truncations. The upscaling
workflow developed here is applicable to other mud-rich GUs within caprock sequences.