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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

AAPG Bulletin


Volume: 67 (1983)

Issue: 9. (September)

First Page: 1465

Last Page: 1465

Title: Use of Hydraulic Head and Hydraulic Gradient to Characterize Geopressured Sediments and Direction of Fluid Migration in Louisiana Gulf Coast: ABSTRACT

Author(s): Jeffrey S. Hanor, Janet E. Bailey

Article Type: Meeting abstract


Characterization of geopressured sediments in the Gulf Coast is commonly made on the basis of increases in pressure gradient or geostatic ratio, i. e., in-situ fluid pressure divided by total depth. Fluids and sediments having geostatic ratios > 0.47 psi/ft are usually considered "geopressured;" those with geostatic ratios > 0.70 psi/ft are considered "hard-geopressured."

An alternative and more informative way of characterizing geopressured sediments is by use of the parameter hydraulic head. Hydraulic head can be used not only to distinguish between hydropressured and geopressured sediments, but also to provide potentially quantitative information on the direction and rate of subsurface fluid flow. Hydraulic head, h (ft), is defined as h = z + Pg/^rgr, where z is depth below a reference datum, P is measured or calculated fluid pressure, g is acceleration due to gravity, and ^rgr is fluid density. In the absence of osmotic effects, the hydraulic gradient, dh/dl (dimensionless), where l is path length, can be used in conjunction with hydraulic conductivity in Darcy's Law to predict the direction and rate of fluid migration.

Variations in calculated hydraulic head have been correlated along several regional cross sections through the Tertiary sedimentary sequence of south Louisiana. Four distinct hydrodynamic zones can be distinguished with depth in the region studied.

(1) Near surface to 7,000 ft (2,100 m) in depth. Hydropressured fresh to saline waters having hydraulic heads near zero and vertical hydraulic gradients of 0.01 or less.

(2) 7,000 ft (2,100 m) to 10,000 to 14,000 ft (3,000 to 4,300 m) in depth. A transition zone of weakly geopressured sediments with hydraulic heads ranging from 0 to 3,000 ft (900 m) above sea level. Hydraulic gradients range from 0.1 to 4 and show many reversals with depth. Many commercially important hydrocarbon plays occur within this zone.

(3) 10,000 to 14,000 ft (3,000 to 4,300 m) to 12,000 to 18,000+ ft (3,600 to 5,500 m). The hard geopressured zone in which hydraulic head progressively increases with depth from values of 3,000 to 16,000+ ft (914 to 4,900 m) of head above sea level. Gradients of 4 to 5 are typical but locally can exceed 25. There are few reversals in gradient with depth.

(4) Depths below Zone 3. Suggestion, based on sparse data, that hydraulic gradients begin to decrease with depth.

In contrast to the hard geopressured zone, where hydraulic flow appears to consist of a broad, generally upward-moving front, hydraulic flow in the transition zone appears to be more strongly focused through preferred channels.

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Copyright 1997 American Association of Petroleum Geologists