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A feasibility study for pore-pressure

prediction using seismic velocities in

the offshore Nile Delta, Egypt
MOHAMMED A. BADRI, Schlumberger Oilfield Services, Cairo, Egypt
COLIN M. SAYERS, Schlumberger Reservoir Evaluation Seismic, Houston, Texas, U.S.
RASHAD AWAD and ARDENGHI GRAZIANO, Belayim Petroleum Company, Cairo, Egypt

O verpressure in a formation, caused

by abnormally high fluid pressures, is
a concern during all phases of oil field
operations—exploration, drilling, cas-
ing, completion, and reservoir evalu-
ation. Accurate knowledge of
formation pore pressure and fracture
pressure is essential for drilling effi-
cient and safe wells with optimum
mud weights. Furthermore, knowl-
edge of these pressures aids under-
standing of fluid migration pathways,
sealing potential, and probability of
fault leakage.
Overpressure by definition occurs
when pore pressure exceeds normal
hydrostatic pressure and is related to
Figure 1. Map of Port Fouad Field.
certain environmental conditions in a
given earth section. In the offshore Nile
Delta, for example, low permeability
shale in the Pliocene can trap fluids
and cause overpressured shale as a
result of undercompaction. Overpres-
sured sediments also can be caused by
fluid expansion mechanisms (e.g.,
heating, hydrocarbon maturation and
expulsion of intergranular water dur-
ing clay transformation). Local tectonic
compression can also generate over-
pressured sediments. Given the young
age and shallowness of overpressured
sediments in the offshore Nile Delta,
the observed pore pressure is largely
attributed to undercompaction.
Several methods for detecting/
estimating overpressured formations
are based on interpretation of drilling
data, wireline logs, and geophysical
data. Drilling and wireline log data
are obtained while the well is drilled.
They cannot, therefore, be used for
predrill pore-pressure prediction.
This paper describes a feasibility
study to predict pore pressure before
drilling and the subsequent calibra-
tion of pore pressure and seismic
velocities in a key well.
Figure 2. Stratigraphy of Port Fouad Field.
Geologic and structural settings. Port
Fouad Field was discovered in 1982 (Figure 1). characterized by high porosity and
when exploratory well Port Fouad-1 Gas is present at shallow and permeability. The deep zones, about
penetrated gas-bearing formations in deep depths. Shallow zones, less than 3500 m, belong to the Wakar
the late Miocene. The field is approx- 2200 m, belong to the Kafr El Sheikh Formation of Miocene age. The shal-
imately 35 km northeast of Port Said Formation of Pliocene age which is low gas-bearing sands tend to be small

Figure 6. Time-depth pairs recorded
during a borehole velocity survey in
Figure 3. 2-D seismic section extracted from 3-D volume containing PFM SE-2. PFM SE-2.
in area but large in thickness; the deep
zones are thinner but cover a much
larger area. The shallow gas-bearing
sands are extremely soft and uncon-
solidated. They are evident in surface
seismic data as large amplitude anom-
alies in a depositional sequence of
sand-shale formations.
As a result of tectonic activity dur-
ing the late Miocene, the turbiditic
period ended with repeated episodes
of channel levee turbidite-type
deposits embedded in finer graded,
mostly silty-shaly succession. The
channelized sands of turbidite systems
were deposited in the proximity of a
NW-SE structural high. Onlaps of the
Figure 4. 2-D seismic section extracted from 3-D volume containing PFM SW-1. basal turbidite type sands are seen.
These channels are at depths of 3200
m. Figure 2 shows a generalized
stratigraphy of the area. Several chan-
nel complexes have been encountered
by wells in the field. The extension of
the main reservoir covers approxi-
mately 25 km2. The hydrocarbon-bear-
ing net sand thickness is 21 m.
Figure 3 is a 2-D seismic section
from a 3-D volume that contains well
PFM SE-2. Note that the Rosetta evap-
orite complex (2.1 s TWT) is missing
where the well was drilled. However,
it is present away from the well to the
east and to the west at about 2.3 s
(TWT). An amplitude strength map
over the time window 2-2.1 s showed
a high amplitude associated with the
event where the well encountered an
overpressured zone. In contrast, the
Rosetta complex was observed on the
seismic data to be fairly consistent
where well PFM SW-1 was drilled
(Figure 4).

Based on recent drilling in this part of

the offshore Nile Delta, the Miocene
can be divided into:
Figure 5. Pressure gradients before and after drilling PFM SE-2. Red circles
represent measured formation pore pressure. • ABurdigalian-Langhian period with

widespread deposition of the
Qantara Formation in a deep marine
environment marked by well-
defined seismic signature.
• ALanghian-Serravallian period with
widespread deposition of a turbidite
sandstone system that tends to shale
out toward the paleohighs. These
lithologies represent the Sidi Salem
Formation which is well defined on
seismic data.
• A Tortonian period with deposition
of channelized sandstone (turbiditic
in nature). These sands are mainly
quartz, metamorphic, and volcanic
fragments and cherts in silty-shaly
fossiliferous section that comprises
Wakar Formation. The discontinuity
of the seismic expression is consis-
tent with drilling results and repre-
sents the lack of continuity of
alternated lithologies.
• A Messinian period that essentially
represents shaly sedimentation of
the Wakar Formation followed by
the evaporite complex deposition Figure 7. (a) Interval velocity obtained by inverting VSP traveltimes.
marked at the bottom by a well (b) Traveltime residuals (tmeasured - tpredicted).
defined seismic event.

Methodology. Pore pressure can be

estimated by appropriate transforma-
tion of seismic velocities. This implies
that accurate determination of seismic
interval velocity is essential for reli-
able results. The pore-pressure pre-
diction technique in this paper is based
upon predicting the effective stress
from velocity data (see Appendix A).
The technique, and the reason that
such data are needed, will be illus-
trated with an example from the off-
shore Nile Delta.
Several wells had been drilled
within the 3-D survey area without
encountering overpressure problems.
However, during drilling of an explo- Figure 8. Pore-pres-
ration well (PFM SE-2) to Miocene sure prediction
sands, a strong gas kick at 1700 m indi- compared with
cated an overpressured zone predicted formation pressure
from offset well data. This required in PFM SE-2 and
increasing the mud weight. Figure 5 the overburden
shows pressure gradients represent- stress obtained
ing fracture gradient, overburden gra- from equation A3.
dient, predrill pore-pressure gradient,
and actual (postdrill) gradient for PFM overpressure was encountered, and generate a pore-pressure 2-D section.
SE-2. Wireline log data recorded over significant fluid losses occurred where The overall objective was to test the
this interval were gamma ray, resis- the mud weight exceeded the fracture sensitivity of seismic velocity to pore
tivity, density, compressional sonic gradient. This led to a further loss of pressure.
velocities, and borehole seismic veloc- rig time. The mud weight was In order to predict pore pressure
ities. Formation pressure data were reduced, and the well was completed. accurately, reliable interval velocities
recorded at a few specific depths. This situation was dramatic evi- are required. Frequently, velocities
A second well in the region, PFM dence that predrill identification of obtained from surface seismic stacking
SW-1, was drilled with a similar pre- overpressure zones was needed to velocity data are used, but these often
dicted pressure gradient. At the depth optimize the drilling strategy in this lack the resolution for accurate pore
that PFM SE-2 encountered the over- area. Thus, we initiated a feasibility pressure prediction. However, seismic
pressured zone, the mud weight was study to examine the relation between reflection tomography can give the
significantly increased. However, no seismic velocity and pore pressure and needed resolution for more accurate

pore pressure prediction.
Borehole seismic velocities
recorded in wells PFM SE-2 and PFM
SW-2 were used. Although these wells
are deviated, data were acquired with
the source vertically above the
receivers so that vertical incidence
traveltimes could be recorded. The
borehole seismic velocities consisted of
time-depth pairs at 750-3400 m. Figure
6 shows the time-depth pairs recorded
in PFM SE-2.
Figure 7a shows interval velocities
obtained by inverting time-depth pairs
from the borehole velocity survey in
PFM SE-2 using the approach
described in Appendix B. The travel-
time residuals—timeasured-tipredicted (Figure
7b)—are random and show no trend.
Here timeasured is the picked travel time
at depth zi, and tipredicted is the predicted
traveltime using equation B1 and the
slownesses obtained by inversion.
A strong velocity reversal on the
interval velocity versus depth plot
(Figure 7a at about 1700 m) indicates
overpressure. The velocity reversal
agrees with mud weight data in Figure
5 where a sudden onset of overpres-
sure is observed.
The parameters in Bowers’ equa- Figure 9. Pore-pressure prediction for the seismic line in Figure 2, using
tion were determined based on the for- the interval velocity pore-pressure transform and equation A2 with para-
mation pressure data matched to the meters determined by inverting the mud weight from two wells.
pore-pressure predicted using the
interval borehole seismic velocities and abnormal pore pressure system since The predicted pore pressure after cal-
the pore-pressure calibration devel- the Rosetta evaporite is present (thick- ibration to formation pore pressure
oped for PFM SE-2. Bowers’ parame- ness = 55 m), providing a good seal to measurements indicated different
ters were found to be A = 4.95 when B the upward movement of gas. pore pressure regimes at different
= 0.9. This study implies that it is possi- depths.
Figure 8 shows the pore-pressure ble to predict pore pressure before This could be adapted to a 3-D
predictions at PFM SE-2 and the over- drilling from 3-D seismic data. seismic volume to generate a 3-D
burden stress gradient, fracture gradi- Appropriate interval velocities can be pore-pressure cube provided accu-
ent, and formation pore-pressure data. obtained using tomographic inversion rate interval velocities are available.
The pore-pressure prediction was which provides precise boundaries of Inclusion of “while drilling” sonic,
computed using equation A2. The interval velocity variations attributed resisitivity, and annular pressure data
effective stress was computed using to changes in pore pressure. can enhance the predrill pore-pres-
equation A6. It is clear from this fig- Furthermore, determination of pore sure model. The pore-pressure pre-
ure that three pore pressure regimes pressure allows analysis of hydraulic diction approach requires integration
are present. The match between the connectivity and effectiveness of seals of surface and borehole measure-
predicted pore pressure and forma- such as faults. ments to minimize drilling risks and
tion pore pressure is generally good, reduce the cost of drilling.
demonstrating that seismic velocity Conclusions. Seismic interval veloc-
has sufficient sensitivity to changes in ities can be used to generate pore Suggestions for further reading. “Pore-
pore pressure to be used for pore-pres- pressure sections from surface seis- pressure estimation from velocity data:
sure prediction in this region. mic data and well data. Pore-pres- Accounting for pore-pressure mecha-
Figure 9 shows pore-pressure pre- sure prediction provides critical nisms besides undercompaction” by
diction along the seismic line passing information for the design of future Bowers (SPE Drilling and Completion,
through PFM SE-2. Determination of wells and the understanding of fluid 1995). “Pressure-prediction from seismic
boundaries was guided by geologic migration. data: Implications for seal distribution
knowledge of the area. It is concluded Detection of overpressured zones and hydrocarbon exploration and
that the overpressured zone at 1790 m in the offshore Nile Delta can be exploitation in deepwater Gulf of
can be attributed to upward move- achieved through establishing an Mexico” by Dutta (NPF Special
ment of gas through the sediments due accurate seismic velocity-pore pres- Publication No. 7, Elsevier, 1007). “Shale
to absence of the Rosetta evaporite seal sure transform. A seismic velocity- compaction burial diagenesis, and geo-
where PFM SE-2 was drilled. This pore pressure transform has been pressures: Adynamical model, solutions
interpretation is supported by the fact derived for the Port Fouad Marine and some results” by Dutta (1st IFP
that PFM SW-1 did not encounter any gas field in the offshore Nile Delta. (Continued on p. 1108)

Appendix A
Determination of pore pressure from seismic velocity
The effective stress tensor, Ȝ , is ij
For uniaxial compaction, it is usually
assumed that the elastic wave veloc-
In the absence of a density log, a fre-
quently used method for computing
defined to be the difference between ity is a function only of the vertical the overburden stress is the Amoco
the total stress tensor, Sij, and the pore effective stress Ȝ. The vertical com- equation (Traugott, 1977):
pressure, p: ponent of the total stress, S, at depth
H represents the combined weight of țavg(z) = 16.3 + [z/3125]0.6 (A4)
Ȝij = Sij - pȎij (A1) the fluids and the formation above H
and can be computed if the sediment where țavg(z) is the average sediment
Denoting the vertical component of density is known as a function of density in ppg between the seafloor
the effective stress tensor Ȝij by Ȝ, and depth above the location of interest. and depth z in feet from the seafloor.
the vertical component of the total This may be calculated from an inte- Several pore pressure techniques
stress tensor Sij by S, the vertical com- gral of density: have been based on various mecha-
ponent of equation A1 may be writ- nisms causing the pore pressure. For
ten S = g ∫ ț(z) dz, (A3) example, Bowers (1995) provides a
method to determine effective stress
Ȝ = S - p. (A2) where ț(z) is the density as a func- that accounts for both undercom-
tion of depth z. paction and fluid expansion through
definition of the unloading curve. This
technique has recently been used suc-
Appendix B cessfully in the Gulf of Mexico. The
technique is based on the fact that dur-
ing compaction (loading) a velocity
Determination of interval velocity from the borehole increase occurs. During the unloading
velocity survey process, the effective stress is reduced
due to fluid expansion. Fluid expan-
I nterval velocities were computed least-squares inversion employing a sion zones are characterized as zones
of reversal in velocity trend.
from the time-depth pairs shown penalty function that used the second
using an inversion approach derivative of the estimated slowness The relation between the effective
designed to minimize the effect of as a smoothing criterion (Lizarralde stress and velocity in normally pres-
errors in traveltime picking. and Swift, 1999). sured sediments suggested by Bowers
Let si =1/vi be the interval slow- The interval velocity was found is:
ness of layer i, vi the interval veloc- by inverting traveltimes from the
ity of layer i, and ti the measured borehole velocity survey by mini- V = V0 +AȜB, (A5)
traveltimes at receiver depths z i mizing the value of the absolute
(i=1,..,N); ti, si and zi are related via value of ȡ2-1 where Where V0 is the velocity of uncon-
the linear relation solidated fluid-saturated sediments
1 N  timeasured − tipredicted  (B2) (taken to be 1480 m/s) and A and B
t1   z1 0 L 0  s1  χ2 = ∑
N i =1  σi

describe the variation in velocity with
t   z z L 0  s  increasing effective stress and can be
2= 1 2   2  (B1) derived from offset well data. The
M  M M M  M  Here timeasured is the picked traveltime
     at depth zi, and tipredicted is the pre- effective stress can be determined
t N   z1 z2 L z N  sN  dicted traveltime using equation B1 from this equation:
In order to minimize the effect of and the slownesses obtained by
errors in traveltime picking, this sys- inversion. The standard deviation Ȝi Ȝ = [(V - V0)/A)]1/B, (A6)
tem was solved using a damped was taken to be 0.3 ms for all i. LE
The pore pressure can then be calcu-
(From p. 1107) lated from equation A2. Bowers
obtained the values A=4.4567 and
Exploration Research Conference, in deep water” by Traugott (Deepwater
B=0.8168 for Gulf coast wells and
Caracans, France, 1986). “The equation Technology, supplement to August 1997
A=28.3711 and B=0.6207 for deep-
for geopressure prediction from well World Oil). “Seismic pressure-prediction
water Gulf regions. LE
logs” by Eaton (SPE 5544, 1975). method solves problem common in
“Estimation of formation pressures from deepwater Gulf of Mexico” by Wilhelm
log-derived shale properties” by et al. (Oil & Gas Journal, 1998). L
Hottman and Johnson (Journal of
Petroleum Technology, 1956). “Smooth Acknowledgments: The authors are grateful to
inversion of VSP traveltime data” by Belayim Petroleum Company and Eni Egypt
Lizarralde and Swift (GEOPHYSICS, 1999). for permission to publish the data. We thank
“Predrill pore pressure prediction using Steve Montgomery of Schlumberger IPM
Egypt for useful discussion.
seismic data” by Sayers et al.
(IADC/SPE Drilling Conference, 2000). Corresponding author: badri@cairo.geoquest.
“Pore/fracture pressure determinations