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Seismic Interpretation

10.5.2 Miocene Carbonate Build-ups of Central Luconia, Offshore Sarawak.

In the mid-Sixties, a large number of carbonate build-ups were seismically detected

by Sarawak Shell Berhad in the shelf area of the Central Luconia province (Figure NB-
5). Drilling activity started in 1967 and so far some 60 build-ups have been tested
(Figures SW-1 and 2). The resulting discovery of seven giant gas fields (each with
reserves of more than one trillion scf) and some 20 smaller accumulations makes this
area an important gas province.

Geological setting:

In north-west Borneo an arcuate orogenic belt developed as a result of the subduction

of the South China plate below Borneo, mainly during the Early Tertiary times. This
accretionary mountain range formed the source for up to 8 kilometres of clastic
sediments deposited in the adjacent sedimentary basins of Sarawak from late Oligocene
to Recent times.

Structurally, the Central Luconia province is located between a compressive realm in

the South and the extensional area of the South China Basin in the north. Sea-floor
spreading in the South China Basin during Oligocene to Middle Miocene times affected
the continental crust to the South. This area is characterised the by SW-NE trending
submarine plateaux and foundered elongated troughs (Figure SW-3). Seismic evidence
suggests that crustal extension in the Central Luconia area resulted in the development
of a horst-and-graben pattern. It is thought that the formation of the deep South China
Basin allowed marine currents to supply a large amounts of nutrient-rich water to the
Sarawak shelf and enabled the prolific growth of Middle to Late Miocene carbonate
build-ups. The size and distribution of these build-ups was mainly structurally
controlled. Large platform-type build-ups (see Figure SW-11) developed on highs,
whereas pinnacle-type build-ups (Figures SW-7 and SW-10) formed in areas of
stronger subsidence and closer to the source of clastic material. The SW-NE alignment
of the build-ups, especially in the central and eastern part (Figure SW-3), probably
reflects rift induced structural trends (Figure NB-5).

Seismic Interpretation

Figure SW-1. Megatectonic framework of Central Luconia Province

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Figure SW-2. Aerial distribution of major carbonate build-ups in Central


Depositional geometry and reservoir development:

Eight regressive for its sedimentary cycles have been distinguished in the Sarawak
basin (Figure SW-4). In Central Luconia carbonate deposition started during Early
Miocene Cycle III, but it was most prolific during Cycles IV and V (Middle to Late
Miocene). A four-fold sub-division was made into depositional facies: protected, reefal,
shallow marine off-reef and deep marine off-reef (Figure SW-5).

The overall architecture of build-ups is generally determined by four major processes:

the rate of skeletal carbonate production, driving subsidence, sea-level fluctuation and
the supply of clastic material (here from the Borneo deltas, Figure SW-6). The
interaction of these processes has had the following effect:

• Slow relative sea-level rises induced a vertical build-up stage;

Seismic Interpretation

• Stagnant relative sea levels caused a lateral build out stage;

• rapid relative sea-level rises either induced a build-in (submerged bank) stage, or
even a termination of carbonate accumulation;

• Falling relative sea levels led to subaerial exposure of the build-ups.

Figures SW-8a and 8b show the seismic expression of an initial build-up growth
followed by a build-out stage. During the submerged bank stage the environmental
stress caused the reefal framework to disappear and a different and diversified deeper
water fauna and flora colonised the bank. Several bank stages with excellent lateral
continuity were encountered in the E.11and the F.6 build-ups (Figure SW-10 and SW-

Layering of the build-ups reflects initial depositional differences which have

subsequently been enhanced by diagenetic processes. During repeated subaerial
exposure, freshwater stabilisation of metastable carbonate minerals to calcite and
dolomitisation formed limestones and dolomites with good to excellent porosities and
permeabilities. These processes preferentially affected protected/reefoid sediments
deposited during build-up and build-out stages, whilst bank and off-reef carbonates
mainly suffered porosity destroying compactional processes. On seismic, the
impedance contrast between porous and tight intervals may be further enhanced by gas
fill, as shown on Figure SW-10a.

The areas between build-ups were filled with open marine and prodelta clastics that
onlapped the carbonate flanks. Interbedded layers of allochthonous carbonate breccias,
termed “stringers”, were derived from exposed areas of the build-ups, mainly during
sea-level low stands. These layers produce strong reflections on seismic (Figure SW-7
and SW-10).

The growth of most build-ups was terminated by a fast relative sea-level rise and/or
by a high content of clastic fines causing turbid waters. Another group of build-ups
stopped carbonate production during drastic fall in sea-level in the Late Miocene.
During the final stages of growth some of these build-ups developed steep flanks
characterised by non-deposition and erosion (Figure SW-10a).

The majority of the build-ups are now covered by some 1000 to 2000 metres of
progradational deltaic clastics (Figure SW-4). In the areas closer to the deltas the build-
ups are covered by clastic sediments belonging to Cycle V, whereas seawards the
clastic overburden becomes progressively younger. The northernmost build-up, G-10,
situated at the edge of the Sarawak shelf, has not yet been covered and is still growing.

Seismic Interpretation

Figure SW-3. Schematic stratigraphic relationship between carbonate build-

ups and depositional cycles

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Figure SW-4. Depositional environments and physiographic zones

distinguished in Central Luconia build-ups. The deep
marine off-reef deposits eventually interfinger with
holomarine neritic clastics.

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Figure SW-5. Four main stages during growth of Central Luconia build-ups.

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Figure SW-6. Pinnacle-type build-ups. Note the strongly reflecting

carbonate breccia layers embedded in deltaic clastic deposits and the
compaction-induced normal faults.

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Figure SW-7. Carbonate build-up type D-6.

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Figure SW-8a

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Figure SW-8b

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Figure SW-9a.General subdivision of E.11 build-up into carbonate growth

stages (after Epting, 1981)

Sealevel control on the Miocene build-ups (after Algner et al., 1987)

The basin modelling programme BASMOD has been used to model the gross features
of Miocene gas-bearing carbonate build-ups E.11 and F.6 of Central Luconia (Figures
SW-9 and SW-10). Assuming increasing rates of tectonic subsidence away from the
present day coastline, a reasonable carbonate growth potential and a sea-level history
this is similar to the available “eustatic curves” (see Haq et al, 1987), BASMOD is able
to reproduce the overall build-up architecture and the timing of subaerial exposure
surfaces which are often associated with secondary porosity. Sea-level changes are
known to exert a fundament control on the geometry of, and the reservoir distribution in
the carbonate system. While periods of rapidly rising sea-level often lead to partial
drowning and deposition of argillaceous, non-reservoir carbonates, sea-level lowstands
may cause subaerial exposure and leaching porosity. The reconstruction of the
carbonate features using BASMOD indicates a strong eustatic signal, which has also
been independently concluded by Hageman (1985, internal Shell report).

Seismic Interpretation

Figure SW-9b. BASMOD-generated simulation of the E.11 build-up

E.11 build-up: qualitatively comparing the well defined architecture of E.11 (Figures
SW-8b and SW-9a) with the “eustatic chart” (SW-11) suggests that the good reservoir
properties and the subaerial exposure surface recorded at the top of the middle “build-
up phase” would be consistent with a lowstand in the “eustatic chart”: subaerial
exposure evidently caused freshwater leaching and dolomitisation. A BASMOD-
generated reconstruction of E.11 is shown in Figure SW-9b. Parameters used for
modelling include uniform tectonic subsidence (30 metres/Ma), carbonate growth
potential of 450 metres/Ma lowered to 100 metres/Ma for 0.5 Ma after each sea-level
lowstand to account for increasing clastic input slowing down carbonate production
(argillaceous intervals in cores).

Seismic Interpretation

Figure SW-10a. An impedance section of the F.6 build-up. Lateral

continuity of reservoir zones is sown best in the gas-filled
upper part. The reflection configuration pattern associated
with the build-up flanks indicates platform rim deposits,
off-reef slope deposits and shedded carbonate units
(stringers). The geometry of the upper part of the carbonate
build-up suggests a build-in stage during a sea-level rise.
The carbonate growth terminates during a subsequent sea-
level fall resulting in subaerial exposure.

Seismic Interpretation

Figure SW-10b. BASMOD-generated reconstruction of the F-6 build-up,

with the sea-level curve used.

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Figure SW-10c. Density log correlation of 4 wells penetrating the upper part
of the F-6 build-up.

Seismic Interpretation

Figure SW-11. Empirical relation between build-up architecture, clastic

depositional cycles and eustatic sea-level.