Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM


GIANOUTSOS, Nicholas J., Central Energy Resources Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Box 25046 MS 939, Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225 and NELSON, Philip H., U.S. Geological Survey, Box 25046 Federal Center MS 939, Denver, CO 80225,

For years, hydrologists have defined potentiometric surfaces using measured hydraulic-head values in water wells from aquifers. Down-dip, the oil and gas industry is also interested in the formation pressures of many of the same geologic formations for the purpose of hydrocarbon recovery. In oil and gas exploration, drillstem tests (DSTs) provide the formation pressure for a given depth interval in a well. These DST measurements can be used to calculate hydraulic-head values in deep hydrocarbon-bearing formations in areas where water wells do not exist. Unlike hydraulic-head measurements in water wells, which have a low number of problematic data points (outliers), only a small subset of the DST data measure true formation pressures.

Using 3D imaging capabilities to view and clean the data, we have developed a process to estimate potentiometric surfaces from erratic DST data sets of hydrocarbon-bearing formations in the midcontinent of the U.S. The analysis indicates that the potentiometric surface is more readily defined through human interpretation of the chaotic DST data sets rather than through the application of filtering and geostatistical analysis. The data are viewed as a series of narrow, 400-mile-long swaths and a 2D viewer is used to select a subset of hydraulic-head values that represent the potentiometric surface. The user-selected subsets for each swath are then combined into one data set for each formation. These data are then joined with the hydraulic-head values from water wells to define the 3D potentiometric surfaces. The final product is an interactive, 3D digital display containing: (1) the subsurface structure of the formation, (2) the cluster of DST-derived hydraulic head values, (3) the user-selected subset of hydraulic-head values that define the potentiometric surface, (4) the hydraulic-head measurements from the corresponding shallow aquifer, (5) the resulting potentiometric surface encompassing both oil and gas and water wells, and (6) the land surface elevation of the region. Examples from the midcontinent of the United States, specifically Kansas, Oklahoma, and parts of adjacent states illustrate the process.

  • Gianoutsos_GSA2013_Talk301-10_Slides.pdf (2.2 MB)