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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 87, No. 1 (January 2003), P. 99-119.

Copyright ©2003. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

Evolution of abnormally low pressure and its implications for the hydrocarbon system in the southeast uplift zone of Songliao basin, China

Xinong Xie,1 Jiu Jimmy Jiao,2 Zhonghua Tang,3 Chunmiao Zheng4

1College of Earth Resources, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan, 430074, Peoples' Republic of China; email: [email protected]
2Department of Earth Sciences, University of Hong Kong, Room 302, James Lee Building, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, Peoples' Republic of China; email: [email protected]
3College of Earth Resources, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan, 430074, Peoples' Republic of China; email: [email protected]
4Department of Geological Sciences, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 35487; email: [email protected]


Xinong Xie received B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees from Wuhan College of Geology and a Ph.D. (1992) from the China University of Geosciences. In 1986, he joined the Faculty of Earth Resources, China University of Geosciences, where he is presently professor of geology. His research interests are sedimentary basin analysis and fluid modeling, as well as reservoir architecture.

Jiu J. Jiao is assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong specializing in hydrogeology and engineering geology. He received his B.Eng. and M.Eng. degrees from China University of Geosciences and Ph.D. from Birmingham University (United Kingdom). His research interests include abnormal fluid pressures, groundwater-landslide relationships, modification of ground water by urbanization, and interaction between ground water and sea water.

Zhonghua Tang received B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees from Wuhan College of Geology. In 1999, he joined the Faculty of Engineering, China University of Geosciences, where he is presently associate professor of hydrogeology. His research interests include using numerical models to solve problems in hydrogeology and engineering geology.

Chunmiao Zheng is professor of hydrogeology in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Alabama. His primary research interests are in contaminant transport and groundwater management. Zheng is developer of a widely used contaminant transport model, MT3D, and coauthor of the book Applied Contaminant Transport Modeling (2d ed.).


Our study is supported by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (RGC) of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region, China. We acknowledge Jilin Natural Gas Exploration and Development Corporation for providing geological data. Thanks also are given to Haihe Xiong, Haiyan Xiao, Liming Tang, Ming Li, and Xuejun Miao for their help. We thank Craig Bethke for providing the Basin2 software for basin hydrology simulations. Chris Neuzil, Zuhair Al-Shaieb, John Doveton, and John Lorenz reviewed the manuscript and offered constructive comments.


Underpressured formations are present in the southeast uplift of the Songliao basin, northeast China. At depths between 1540 and 3000 m, the Lower Cretaceous strata in the Shiwu depression of the basin are significantly underpressured at about 50-80% of hydrostatic pressure. Exploration for oil and gas indicates that the hydrocarbon distribution in the depression has unusual characteristics: gas pools occur in the central part of the depression, whereas oil pools occur at the marginal uplift; some gas reservoirs are located at a very shallow depth of 150-450 m. We investigate the mechanism of the abnormal pressures and the characteristics of the hydrocarbon distribution. Numerical modeling indicates that the basin was dominated by overpressure through much of its history and became underpressured only in recent geological time. The earlier overpressurization appears to be essential for the occurrence of the underpressure at the present. The origin of underpressure results primarily from uplift and erosion, as well as reduction of geothermal gradients. Our study also shows that evolution of formation pressure affects not only fluid flow but also hydrocarbon migration and accumulation and gas and oil distribution. The development of underpressure is, therefore, a major factor responsible for habitats of hydrocarbons in the study area.

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