Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Geological Engineering (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


Wayne D. Pennington


One of the original ocean-bottom time-lapse seismic studies was performed at the Teal South oil field in the Gulf of Mexico during the late 1990’s. This work reexamines some aspects of previous work using modern analysis techniques to provide improved quantitative interpretations. Using three-dimensional volume visualization of legacy data and the two phases of post-production time-lapse data, I provide additional insight into the fluid migration pathways and the pressure communication between different reservoirs, separated by faults. This work supports a conclusion from previous studies that production from one reservoir caused regional pressure decline that in turn resulted in liberation of gas from multiple surrounding unproduced reservoirs. I also provide an explanation for unusual time-lapse changes in amplitude-versus-offset (AVO) data related to the compaction of the producing reservoir which, in turn, changed an isotropic medium to an anisotropic medium.

In the first part of this work, I examine regional changes in seismic response due to the production of oil and gas from one reservoir. The previous studies primarily used two post-production ocean-bottom surveys (Phase I and Phase II), and not the legacy streamer data, due to the unavailability of legacy prestack data and very different acquisition parameters. In order to incorporate the legacy data in the present study, all three poststack data sets were cross-equalized and examined using instantaneous amplitude and energy volumes. This approach appears quite effective and helps to suppress changes unrelated to production while emphasizing those large-amplitude changes that are related to production in this noisy (by current standards) suite of data.

I examine the multiple data sets first by using the instantaneous amplitude and energy attributes, and then also examine specific apparent time-lapse changes through direct comparisons of seismic traces. In so doing, I identify time-delays that, when corrected for, indicate water encroachment at the base of the producing reservoir. I also identify specific sites of leakage from various unproduced reservoirs, the result of regional pressure blowdown as explained in previous studies; those earlier studies, however, were unable to identify direct evidence of fluid movement. Of particular interest is the identification of one site where oil apparently leaked from one reservoir into a “new” reservoir that did not originally contain oil, but was ideally suited as a trap for fluids leaking from the neighboring spill-point. With continued pressure drop, oil in the new reservoir increased as more oil entered into the reservoir and expanded, liberating gas from solution. Because of the limited volume available for oil and gas in that temporary trap, oil and gas also escaped from it into the surrounding formation. I also note that some of the reservoirs demonstrate time-lapse changes only in the “gas cap” and not in the oil zone, even though gas must be coming out of solution everywhere in the reservoir. This is explained by interplay between pore-fluid modulus reduction by gas saturation decrease and dry-frame modulus increase by frame stiffening.

In the second part of this work, I examine various rock-physics models in an attempt to quantitatively account for frame-stiffening that results from reduced pore-fluid pressure in the producing reservoir, searching for a model that would predict the unusual AVO features observed in the time-lapse prestack and stacked data at Teal South. While several rock-physics models are successful at predicting the time-lapse response for initial production, most fail to match the observations for continued production between Phase I and Phase II. Because the reservoir was initially overpressured and unconsolidated, reservoir compaction was likely significant, and is probably accomplished largely by uniaxial strain in the vertical direction; this implies that an anisotropic model may be required. Using Walton’s model for anisotropic unconsolidated sand, I successfully model the time-lapse changes for all phases of production. This observation may be of interest for application to other unconsolidated overpressured reservoirs under production.