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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

AAPG Bulletin


(Begin page 1007)

AAPG Bulletin, V. 85, No. 6 (June 2001), P. 1007-1031.

Copyright ©2001. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

Stress, pore pressure, and dynamically constrained hydrocarbon columns in the South Eugene Island 330 field, northern Gulf of Mexico

Thomas Finkbeiner,1 Mark Zoback,2 Peter Flemings,3 Beth Stump4

1GeoMechanics International, 250 Cambridge Avenue, Suite 103, Palo Alto, California, 94306; email: [email protected]
2Department of Geophysics, Stanford University, Mitchell Building, Stanford, California, 94305; email: [email protected]
3Geosciences Department, Pennsylvania State University, 442 Deike, University Park, Pennsylvania, 16802; email: [email protected]
4Texaco Worldwide Exploration & Production, 400 Poydras Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70160; email: [email protected]


Thomas Finkbeiner started his career in geophysics at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany. In 1992, he enrolled in the Department of Physics at Stanford University from where he received his M.S. degree in exploration and development in 1994 and his Ph.D. in 1998. Since the fall of 1998 Thomas has been working for GeoMechanics International as a specialist in reservoir geomechanics and a consultant for the petroleum industry in wellbore stability and in-situ stress.

Mark Zoback received a B.S. degree in geophysics from the University of Arizona and his M.S. degree and Ph.D. in geophysics from Stanford University. He is a professor in the Department of Geophysics at Stanford. His previous experience includes working as a geophysicist with Amoco Production Co. and at the U.S. Geological Survey. He is also senior scientific advisor with GeoMechanics International in Palo Alto, California.

Peter B. Flemings is an associate professor with the Pennsylvania State University Department of Geosciences. He received his B.A. degree from Dartmouth College, and both an M.S. degree and Ph.D. in geology from Cornell University. Before joining Penn State, he was an associate research scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and the Crosby Distinguished Lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research focuses on the study of fluid flow in sedimentary basins.

Beth Bishop Stump received both B.S. (1993) and M.S. (1998) degrees from Pennsylvania State University. Currently, she is working as a development geoscientist with Texaco Exploration & Production. She is a member of AAPG and the New Orleans Geological Society.


This research was financed by the Gas Research Institute under contract no. 5095-260-3558 and the Stanford Rock and Borehole Geophysics (SRB) consortium. Richard Parker of the Gas Research Institute provided valuable support for this project. Martin Traugott of Amoco helped us with many useful comments and suggestions. We would like to thank Pennzoil, Shell, and Texaco for generously providing the data used in this analysis. We appreciate the careful review of this manuscript by Jim Handschy and John Leftwich.


Hydrocarbon phase pressures at the peak of two severely overpressured reservoirs in the South Eugene Island 330 field, Gulf of Mexico, converge on the minimum principal stress of the top seal. We interpret that the system is dynamically constrained by the stress field present through either fault slip or hydraulic fracturing. In two fault blocks of a shallower, moderately overpressured reservoir sand, hydrocarbon phase pressures are within a range of critical pore pressure values for slip to occur on the bounding growth faults. We interpret that pore pressures in this system are also dynamically controlled. We introduce a dynamic capacity model to describe a critical reservoir pore pressure value that corresponds to either the sealing capacity of the fault against which the sand abuts or the pressure required to hydraulically fracture the overlying shale or fault. This critical pore pressure is a function of the state of stress in the overlying shale and the pore pressure in the sand. We require that the reservoir pore pressure at the top of the structure be greater than in the overlying shale. The four remaining reservoirs studied in the field exhibit reservoir pressures well below critical values for dynamic failure and are, therefore, considered static. All reservoirs that are dynamically constrained are characterized by short oil columns, whereas the reservoirs having static conditions have very long gas and oil columns.

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