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Evaluating Volcanic Reservoirs

M.Y. Farooqui
Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC)
Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India
Huijun Hou
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Guoxin Li
PetroChina Exploration and Production
Company Limited
Beijing, China
Nigel Machin
Saudi Aramco
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Tom Neville
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Aditi Pal
Jakarta, Indonesia
Chandramani Shrivastva
Mumbai, India
Yuhua Wang
Fengping Yang
Changhai Yin
Jie Zhao
PetroChina Daqing Oilfield Company
Daqing, China
Xingwang Yang
Tokyo, Japan
Oilfield Review Spring 2009: 21, no. 1.
Copyright 2009 Schlumberger.
DMR, ECS and FMI are marks of Schlumberger.
For help in preparation of this article, thanks to Martin
Isaacs, Sugar Land, Texas, USA; Shumao Jin, Brett Rimmer
and Michael Yang, Beijing; Charles E. Jones, University of
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Andreas Laake, Cairo; and
Hetu C. Sheth, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai.


Hydrocarbons can be found in volcanic rocksometimes in significant quantities.

Petrophysical methods originally developed for sedimentary accumulations are being
used to evaluate these unusual reservoirs.

In the early days of petroleum exploration, the

discovery of hydrocarbons in anything other than
sedimentary rock was largely accidental, and such
accumulations were considered flukes. Serendipity
is still part of exploration, but geologists now know
that the presence of oil and gas in such rock is
certainly no coincidence. Igneous rockcreated
by the solidification of magmahosts petroleum
reservoirs in many major hydrocarbon provinces,
sometimes predominating them.
In general, igneous rocks have been ignored
and even avoided by the E&P industry. They have
been ignored because of a perceived lack of reservoir quality. However, there are many ways in
which igneous rocks can develop porosity and
permeability.1 Far from inconsequential, igneous
activity can influence every aspect of a petroleum
system, providing source rock, affecting fluid
maturation and creating migration pathways,
traps, reservoirs and seals.2
Igneous rocks have been avoided for other
reasons. They tend to be extremely hard, although
improvements in bit technology are helping drillers cope with these tough lithologies.3 Because
they typically prevent deep penetration of seismic

energy, igneous layers are considered an impediment to evaluation of underlying sediments as well.
New seismic methods are advancing solutions
to this problem, but with their strong refractive qualities, igneous reservoirs remain difficult
to characterize.4
Once hydrocarbons are found in igneous
reservoirs, assessing hydrocarbon volumes and
productivity presents several challenges. Log
interpretation in igneous reservoirs often requires
adapting techniques designed for other environments. Logging tools and interpretation methods
that succeed in sedimentary rock can give meaningful answers in igneous rock, but they often
require artful application. Furthermore, because
mineralogy varies greatly in these formations,
methods that work in one volcanic province may
fail in another. Usually, a combination of methods
is required.
This article describes the complexity of volcanic reservoirs and presents technologies that
have proved successful in characterizing them.
The discussion begins with a review of igneous
rock types and follows with an examination of
the effects of igneous processes on petroleum

1. Srugoa P and Rubinstein P: Processes Controlling

Porosity and Permeability in Volcanic Reservoirs from
the Austral and Neuqun Basins, Argentina, AAPG
Bulletin 91, no. 1 (January 2007): 115129.
2. Schutter SR: Hydrocarbon Occurrence and Exploration
in and Around Igneous Rocks, in Petford N and
McCaffrey KJW (eds): Hydrocarbons in Crystalline Rocks,
Geological Society Special Publication 214. London:
Geological Society (2003): 733.
3. Close F, Conroy D, Greig A, Morin A, Flint G and Seale R:
Successful Drilling of Basalt in a West of Shetland
Deepwater Discovery, paper SPE 96575, presented at
the SPE Offshore Europe Oil and Gas Conference and
Exhibition, Aberdeen, September 69, 2005.

Salleh S and Eckstrom D: Reducing Well Costs by

Optimizing Drilling Including Hard/Abrasive Igneous Rock
Section Offshore Vietnam, paper SPE 62777, presented
at the IADC/SPE Asia Pacific Drilling Technology
Conference, Kuala Lumpur, September 1113, 2000.
4. Hill D, Combee L and Bacon J: Over/Under Acquisition
and Data Processing: The Next Quantum Leap in Seismic
Technology? First Break 24, no. 6 (June 2006): 8195.
White RS, Smallwood JR, Fliedner MM, Boslaugh B,
Maresh J and Fruehn J: Imaging and Regional
Distribution of Basalt Flows in the Faeroe-Shetland
Basin, Geophysical Prospecting 51, no. 3 (May 2003):

Oilfield Review

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Volcanic Fig. Opener
ORWINT09-VOL Fig. Opener
Spring 2009


systems. Two field examples highlight formation

evaluation in volcanic rocks. A case study from a
gas-rich reservoir in China presents a technique

that combines conventional logging measurements and image logs with neutron-capture
spectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance.


Ash-cloud surge
Pyroclastic flow


Volcaniclastic rocks

by erosion



Granite wash

Lava flow



Country rock


> Emplacement of igneous rocks. Plutonic rocks, formed by cooling of magma within the Earth, display
well-developed crystals with little porosity. Plutons and laccolithsbulging igneous injections into
sedimentary layersare examples of plutonic rock. Volcanic rocks, formed when magma extrudes
onto the surface and cools rapidly, show very fine crystalline or even glassy textures. Buildup
of pressures within the Earth can cause explosive eruptions; these result in the accumulation of
fragments of volcanic material in pyroclastic deposits. Rock containing clastic fragments of volcanic
origin is termed volcaniclastic. Complex porosities and permeabilities can develop as a result of these
different processes.



FlowFlows form when the fabric of lava aligns in

parallel rows or ropy waves.

BrecciatedMost angular particles exceeding 2 mm

in diameter are volcanic breccia. Typically, particles
form from the movement of partially solidified rock, not
from the ejection of fragments.

PillowLava that erupts under water and quickly

develops a cool skin around a molten core forms pillow
structures, which are bulbous piles of rock. Pillow lava
often incorporates seafloor sediments.

GlassyLava that cools rapidly forms volcanic glass

such as obsidian, tonalite and pitchstone, which differ
mainly in their alkali feldspar content.

PorphyryOne of the most common porphyritic

Oilfield ReviewTuffaceousConsolidated pyroclastic material less
structures is phenocrysts, 1- to 2-mm [0.04- to 0.08-in.]
crystals embedded in a fine-grained, often glassy
matrix. 09
than 2 mm [about 0.08 in.] in diameter is tuff.
Andesite and basalt often have olivine and pyroxene
tuff is ash. Both can be deposited far
Volcanic Fig. 1Unconsolidated
from their source. A common epiclastic, or weathered
Fig. 1reservoir rock is tuffaceous sand, in which
PyroclastPyroclasts are sharp, chiseled rock
reworked tuff accounts for less than half the volume of
fragments created during a volcanic explosion. Glass
rock. When tuff makes up more than half the rock,
shards are often a key component. Sharp shards indicate
the deposit is called sandy tuff.
rapid burial or minimal postdepositional reworking.
VesicularGas expanding in cooling lava creates
pores called vesicles. Often unconnected, they are the
reason very porous volcanic rock, such as pumice, can
> Structures and textures in volcanic rocks.
float but has negligible permeability. Vesicles often
fill with secondary minerals, usually hydrated silicates
Variations in structure and texture give rise to
called zeolites. These filled vesicles, called amygdules,
the wide range of porosity and permeability
reduce intergranular porosity in the same manner as
observed in crystalline and pyroclastic rock.
clay in sandstone.


An example from India demonstrates the importance of incorporating borehole resistivity images
in the evaluation of oil-bearing volcanic rock.
About Igneous Rocks
Igneous rock is formed through the solidification
of magmaa mixture of water, dissolved gases
and molten to partially molten rock. Igneous
rocks vary from one reservoir to another because
their constituents have diverse chemistries,
originating from magma that mixes material
from the Earths mantle, crust and surface
typically oxides of silicon, iron, magnesium,
sodium, calcium and potassium. They also have
diverse structures and texturesleading to
complex porosities and permeabilitiesdepending on how they were emplaced. Emplacement
mechanisms include sudden explosive eruptions,
syrupy viscous flows and slow, deep subsurface
intrusions. Subsequent weathering and fracturing can further complicate rock properties.
Igneous rocks form under a wide range of conditions, and therefore display a variety of properties
(left). Molten rock that cools deep beneath the surface forms intrusive, or plutonic, rocks. Slow cooling
of deep magmas forms large crystals, resulting in
coarse-grained rock. These formations typically
have low intergranular porosity and insignificant
permeability, making them of little interest to the
oil industry. The one exception is fractured granites,
which can produce hydrocarbons.5 Magmas that
approach the surface tend to cool more rapidly.
This allows less time for the formation of crystals,
which therefore tend to be smaller, resulting in finegrained crystalline rock.
Extrusive, or volcanic, rocks are created
when magma erupts through the Earths surface. Magma may extrude in flows of molten
lava that, when cooled, form fine- to very finegrained crystalline volcanic rock. Sometimes,
cooling occurs so quickly that crystals cannot
form, resulting in volcanic glass, such as obsidian. When magmas contain large amounts of
water and dissolved gases, buildup of excessive
pressure under the ground can cause explosive
eruptions of volcanic material. Ejected fragments, or pyroclasts, can range in size from fine
volcanic ash to bombs tens of centimeters in
diameter. Once they have been ejected, individual fragments accumulate to form pyroclastic
rock. Lava flows and pyroclastic deposits may
be a few centimeters to a few hundred meters
thick, covering thousands of square kilometers.
These deposits can have sufficient porosity
and permeability to make them viable hydrocarbon reservoirs.

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Spring 2009

Coarse Grained























Increasing silica content


Increasing calcium, magnesium and iron content

Increasing potassium, sodium and aluminum content
1,200C [2,200F]

Increasing temperature of crystallization

700C [1,300F]

> Classifying igneous rocks by mineral composition. Fine-grained and coarse-grained rocks of similar
composition have different names. For example, a magma containing quartz, potassium feldspar,
sodium-rich plagioclase and biotite may cool slowly and form coarse-grained granite. If the same
magma is extruded, it will form fine-grained rhyolite. Olivine-rich magmas do not commonly extrude,
but crystallize at depth, and so form only coarse-grained rocks.
Clast or
Size, mm






Crystalline Rocks:
Igneous, Metamorphic
or Sedimentary

and bombs

Very coarse
Very coarse




Coarse grained


Coarse crystalline

Very coarse sand

Medium grained

Coarse sand
Medium sand
Fine sand
Very fine sand

Oilfield Review
Coarse ash
Winter 09grains
Volcanic Fig. 2

Medium crystalline

Fine grained
Fine crystalline




Very fine grained


5. For example, recoverable oil reserves in the fractured

granite of the Cuu Long basin offshore Vietnam are
estimated at 2 billion bbl [320 million m3] or more. For
more: Du Hung N and Van Le H: Petroleum Geology
of Cuu Long BasinOffshore Vietnam, Search and
Discovery Article #10062, http://www.searchanddiscovery.
net/documents/2004/hung/images/hung.pdf (accessed
April 6, 2009).
The giant Suban gas field in southern Sumatra contains
estimated reserves of 5 Tcf [140 billion m3] in fractured
granites. For more: Koning T: Oil and Gas Production
from Basement Reservoirs: Examples from Indonesia,
USA and Venezuela, in Petford N and McCaffrey KJW
(eds): Hydrocarbons in Crystalline Rocks, Geological
Society Special Publication 214. London: Geological
Society (2003): 8392.
Landes KK, Amoruso JJ, Charlesworth LJ Jr, Heany F
and Lesperance PJ: Petroleum Resources in Basement
Rocks, Bulletin of the AAPG 44, no. 10 (October 1960):
6. An acidic rock contains proportionately more nonmetallic
oxides than a basic rock and forms an acid when
dissolved in water. A basic rock contains proportionately
more metallic oxides than an acidic rock and forms a
base when dissolved in water.
7. The term mafic is derived from the words magnesium
and ferric, whereas felsic is a combination of feldspar
and silica.
Hyndman DW: Petrology of Igneous and Metamorphic
Rocks, 2nd ed. New York City: McGraw-Hill Higher
Education, 1985.

Fine Grained

Mineral composition, volume percent

The different modes of formation of igneous

rockscooling of lavas, either under the ground or at
the surface, and agglomeration of fragments ejected
during explosive eruptionsallow a subdivision of
igneous rocks into two groups: crystalline igneous
rocks and fragmental igneous, or pyroclastic, rocks.
A simple and common compositional classification of crystalline igneous rocks is based on
silica [SiO2] weight percentage. Rocks low in SiO2
(less than 52%) are classed as basic, rocks high in
SiO2 (more than 66%) are acidic and those with
SiO2 between 52 and 66% are intermediate.6
A parallel classification system groups rocks
by weight percent of dark-colored minerals.
Rocks rich (more than 70%) in dark minerals,
such as olivine and pyroxene, are mafic; those
containing few dark minerals (less than 40%),
and therefore more light minerals, such as quartz
and feldspar, are silicic, sometimes called felsic.7
Mafic rocks, such as basalt, tend to be basic;
silicic rocks, such as granite, tend to be acidic.
A different classification encompasses emplacement mechanism, crystal size and mineralogy, dividing crystalline volcanic rocks into
four main types (above right). The trend from
basalt to andesite, dacite and rhyolite forms a
continuum of mineralogy.
Pyroclastic rocks, on the other hand, are
typically classified by grain size, as are clastic
sedimentary rocks. Relative proportions of three
grain-size classesblocks and bombs, lapilli
and ashare used to classify a pyroclastic rock
(right). Pyroclastic and crystalline rock types
exhibit differences in texture and structure that
lead to differences in porosity and permeability
(previous page, bottom).

Fine ash

Very fine crystalline


> Classifying pyroclastic rocks by grain size. Pyroclastic rocks are identified
based on grain size, in a similar fashion to clastic sedimentary rocks.



Ash cover


km 100



> Image of the Chaitn volcano, southern Chile, from the NASA Terra satellite. The volcano, thought
to be dormant before its May 2, 2008, eruption, sent a plume of ash and steam 10.7 to 16.8 km [35,000
to 55,000 ft] into the atmosphere. This image, acquired three days after the eruption, shows the plume
extending eastward more than 1,000 km across Argentina and into the Atlantic Ocean. The volcanic
plume (white) is distinguishable from the clouds (turquoise). The land surface is dusted with tan-gray
ash. [From Chiles Chaiten Volcano Erupts,
(accessed April 6, 2009)].

Volumes of Volcanics
Petrologists have calculated that the shallow part
of the Earths crust contains a volume of volcanic rockformed by the ejection of lava at the
surfaceof 3.4 to 9 x 109 km3, an order of magnitude greater than the volume of sedimentary rock.
This estimate includes extrusions at seafloor rift
zones, where oceanic plates are pulling apart and
new crust is created by volcanic activity.
The presence of volcanic rocks in hydrocarbon provinces is common because volcanic
activity has taken place in or near many sedimentary basins at one time or another. Volcanism
can also affect distant basinslarge volcanoes
can push pyroclastic flows up to 1,000 km [about
600mi] from their origin and wind can carry ash
thousands of kilometers (left). Consequently,
blankets of ash and tuffs, or consolidated ash,
may be found far from their source.
Hydrocarbon-producing igneous rocks occur
the world over (below). The earliest documented oil discovery in volcanic rock may be
the Hara oil field of Japan, which began producing in 1900.8 The field produced oil from
three tuffaceous layers. Other early production was recorded in Texas, in 1915, along a
trend of seafloor volcanoes that erupted during deposition of the Austin Chalk.9 The buried
volcanic formations produced 54 million bbl
[8.6 million m3] of oil from 90 fields in more than
200 igneous bodies.

Oilfield Review
Winter 09
Volcanic Fig. 5

Hydrocarbons associated with

igneous rocks or igneous activity

> Distribution of hydrocarbon-bearing igneous rocks. Gold dots represent locations of hydrocarbon seeps, shows and reservoirs in igneous rocks. (Adapted
from Schutter, reference 36).


Oilfield Review

Volcanic reservoirs may contain significant

accumulations. As of 1996, cumulative produc
tion from the volcanic tuff and associated
layers of the Jatibarang field, West Java, was
1.2 billion bbl [190 million m3] of oil and 2.7 Tcf
[76 billion m3] of gas. Speculated reserves are
4 billion bbl [635 million m3] of oil and 3 Tcf
[85 billion m3] of gas.10 Reservoir analysis yields
porosity values of 16 to 25% and permeability up
to 10 darcies. In this reservoir, the volcanic rocks
are also source rocks.11

Christmas Tree Laccolith

Punched Laccolith

Petroleum Systems
Volcanism can affect all aspects of a petroleum
system, producing distinctive source rocks,
accelerating fluid maturation, facilitating fluid
migration, and creating traps, reservoirs and seals.
Source RockAlthough most hydrocarbons
found in volcanic rocks come from sedimen
tary source rock, some volcanic rocks are also
source rocks. Vegetation entrained in ash flows
may contain enough water to protect it from
the heat of emplacement. Subaerial volcanism
may create lakes and swamps with kerogen-rich
sediments, and the volcanically warmed water in
these basins encourages nutrient growth, further
enhancing the production of organic material.
MaturationBy adding heat, igneous bod
ies can accelerate hydrocarbon maturation.
Large intrusive bodies, such as thick dikes and
sills, cool slowly and may affect great volumes
of surrounding rock, causing overmaturation.12
Volcanic flows cool relatively quickly, so they usu
ally have less impact on maturation. The impact
of igneous activity on fluid maturation can be
assessed by petroleum systems modeling.13
In addition to direct heat, the circulation
of hydrothermal fluids in the heated zone also
may affect maturation. For example, scientists
working in the Guaymas basin of the Gulf of
California have reported that hydrothermal
fluids heated to 400C [752F] are responsible

TrapsIgneous intrusions into surrounding

for alteration of organic matter and the creation of
petroleum.14 The process is rapid, taking hundreds sedimentary layers, called country rock, often
to thousands of years rather than the millions of result in closed structures within the intruded
formations. The Omaha Dome field in the Illinois
years typically needed to generate oil.15
MigrationThere are several ways for hydro basin, USA, was formed by this type of trap. The
carbons that originated elsewhere to become trapping structure is a Christmas tree laccolith
produced by an ultramafic intrusion (above).16
trapped in volcanic rocks:
Hydrocarbons can pass vertically or later The field was discovered in 1940 and produced
ally from sedimentary rocks into structurally about 6.5 million bbl [1 million m3] of oil from
Oilfield Review
higher volcanic rocks.
sandstones that are in contact with the intrusion.
Compaction of sedimentary rocks can
ReservoirsIgneous rocks share another
Volcanic Fig.characteristic
hydrocarbons downward into volcanic rocks.
with sedimentary reservoir rocks;
Hydrothermal fluids are capable of dissolving they can have primary porosity and sometimes
hydrocarbons and depositing them in igne develop secondary porosity. But unlike sedimen
ous rocks.
tary rocks, igneous rocks lose their porosity quite
If the vapor pressure in volcanic rocks becomes slowly with compaction. Primary porosity may
low enough during cooling, hydrocarbons may be intergranular or vesiculara type of poros
be drawn into the pore spaces.
ity resulting from the presence of vesicles, or gas

8. Mining in Japan, Past and Present. The Bureau of

Mines, Department of Agriculture and Commerce of
Japan, 1909.
9. Ewing TE and Caran SC: Late Cretaceous Volcanism in
South and Central TexasStratigraphic, Structural, and
Seismic Models, Transactions, Gulf Coast Association
of Geological Societies 32 (1982): 137145.
10. Kartanegara AL, Baik RN and Ibrahim MA: Volcanics
Oil Bearing in Indonesia, AAPG Bulletin 80, no. 13
(1996): A73.
11. Bishop MG: Petroleum Systems of the Northwest
Java Province, Java and Offshore Southeast Sumatra,
Indonesia, USGS Open-File Report 9950R (2000),
ardj_occr.html (accessed April 7, 2009).

12. Schutter, reference 2.

13. Yurewicz DA, Bohacs KM, Kendall J, Klimentidis RE,
Kronmueller K, Meurer ME, Ryan TC and Yeakel JD:
Controls on Gas and Water Distribution, Mesaverde
Basin-Centered Gas Play, Piceance Basin, Colorado,
in Cumella SP, Shanley KW and Camp WK (eds):
Understanding, Exploring and Developing Tight-Gas
Sands: 2005 Vail Hedberg Conference, AAPG Hedberg
Series, no. 3 (2008): 105136.
14. Simoneit BRT: Organic Matter Alteration and Fluid
Migration in Hydrothermal Systems, in Parnell J (ed):
Geofluids: Origin, Migration and Evolution of Fluids
in Sedimentary Basins, Geological Society Special
Publication 78. London: Geological Society (1994):

Spring 2009

> Traps caused by laccolith intrusion. The trap of the Omaha Dome field in
Illinois was caused by a Christmas tree laccolith (left ) of mica-peridotite
intruding into limestones and sandstones. Traps (green) can also be caused
by punched laccoliths (right), which lift overlying layers along bounding faults.

15. Kvenvolden KA and Simoneit BRT: Hydrothermally

Derived Petroleum: Examples from Guaymas Basin, Gulf
of California, and Escanaba Trough, Northeast Pacific
Ocean, AAPG Bulletin 74, no. 3 (March 1990): 223237.
16. English RM and Grogan RM: Omaha Pool and
Mica-Peridotite Intrusives, Gallatin County, Illinois,
in Howell JV (ed): Structure of Typical American Oil
Fields, Special Publication 14, vol. 3. Tulsa: American
Association of Petroleum Geologists (1948): 189212.


Fresh basalt
Weathered basalt
Nonbasalt rocks

Fresh basalt



Weathered basalt
Basalt with sparse vegetation
Nonvolcanic sediments


km 20



> Remote sensing in volcanic provinces. Satellite data from visible, near-infrared, infrared and thermal
bands help geophysicists assess topography and ground surface character before planning seismic
survey acquisition. In this example from Argentina, satellite data (bottom) from several spectral bands
are combined and color-coded to distinguish different surface characteristics. Recently erupted
basalt flows are highlighted as dark red in both satellite images. Acquisition crews use the information
to determine whether the terrain is accessible to vibrator trucks and other equipment (top). The
photograph of the survey vehicles shows the Payun volcano seen from the south.

bubbles, in igneous rock. Porosities in vesicular surface mapping of elevated structures has
basalts and andesites may reach 50%.17 Secondary revealed volcanic deposits. For example, in
porosity is important for many volcanic reservoirs Japan, rhyolitic volcanic rocks containing large
and is sometimes the only porosity present. It may hydrocarbon accumulations have been discovresult from hydrothermal alteration, fracturing ered by mapping structural highs.18 Another traand late-stage metamorphismmetamorphism ditional method, the recognition of hydrocarbon
during the late stages of igneous activity
seeps at the surface, is used to find deeper reserWinter 09
alters the minerals formed earlier. Sills and lac- voirs. Oil and gas sometimes rise to the surface
Volcanic Fig. 8
coliths may become reservoirs, especially
when alongFig.
between igneous and sedimentary
they intrude into source rocks. They may fracture rocks. Seeps in the Golden Lane area of eastern
upon cooling, providing porosity, permeability Mexico have been associated with steeply dipand migration pathways.
ping igneous rocks that have penetrated thick
SealsIgneous rocks can provide seals. After oil-rich carbonate layers.19
alteration to clay, extrusive layers may act as
Advanced techniques are also used. Satellite
tight seals. Impermeable intruded rocks, such as imagery has been applied to evaluate the basaltlaccoliths that form traps, also may seal hydro- covered Columbia basin in Washington and
carbons in formations beneath them.
Oregon, USA.20 Geochemical analysis of groundwater in the same region has detected significant
Exploration in Volcanic Provinces
levels of methane over a large area, indicating
Hydrocarbon exploration in and around igneous potentially commercial quantities of natural gas
rocks may involve a variety of geological, geo in Columbia River basalts.21
physical and geochemical techniques. Traditional


Depending on the properties of the volcanic

rocks, gravity and magnetic techniques may be
useful. These were among the earliest geophysical approaches applied, and they contributed to
the successful exploitation of the 1915 Texas volcanic play mentioned previously. Mafic igneous
rocksricher in dense and magnetic minerals
than felsic igneous rocksoffer better contrast
with regional sediments, so they may show
up distinctly on gravity and magnetic surveys.
Aeromagnetic surveys have been effective in
identifying prospects in mafic flood basalts in the
Otway basin, southeastern Australia.22
Magnetotelluric (MT) methods have also
been used, usually in conjunction with other
techniques, to investigate high-resistivity volcanic
rocks as potential reservoirs (for more on MT,
see Electromagnetic Sounding for Hydrocarbons,
page 4). For example, MT surveys in the Yurihara
oil and gas field in Japan are aiding exploration of
areas surrounding producing reservoirs.23 On some
MT lines, resistive uplifted volcanic layers have
been identified as possible prospects. Integration
of MT surveys with surface seismic information
was valuable in characterizing the internal structure of an oil- and gas-producing basalt layer.
Seismic methods, while extremely useful for
detecting sedimentary structures, have had mixed
success in volcanic provinces. Massive basalts without internal layering have high effective seismic
quality, meaning they are not highly absorptive,
so seismic waves pass through them with little
attenuation. Seismic surveys are relatively successful in delineating the tops and bottoms of such
layers. However, layered basalts, especially those
with interspersed weathered surfaces, tend to
scatter seismic energy and may yield poor data.24
To improve the quality of seismic data in volcanic
provinces, survey planners use satellite sensing
to determine lithology and topography, and are
incorporating the results in assessments of survey
logistics, acquisition parameters and processing
requirements (above left).25
In areas with highly attenuating volcanic layers, borehole seismic surveys have shown some
promise in improving seismic image resolution.
Such was the case with an offset vertical seismic
profile (VSP) acquired in a 4,750-m [15,600-ft]
exploratory well in the Neuqun basin, Argentina.26
At the well location, the surface was covered
by approximately 150 m [490 ft] of basalt that
strongly attenuated surface seismic energy. The
VSP produced an image with higher resolution
than the surface seismic results and illuminated
other igneous bodies in the subsurface.

Oilfield Review

17. Chen Z, Yan H, Li J, Zhang G, Zhang Z and Liu B:

Relationship Between Tertiary Volcanic Rocks and
Hydrocarbons in the Liaohe Basin, Peoples Republic of
China, AAPG Bulletin 83, no. 6 (June 1999): 10041014.
18. Komatsu N, Fujita Y and Sato O: Cenozoic Volcanic
Rocks as Potential Hydrocarbon Reservoirs, presented
at the 11th World Petroleum Congress, London,
August 28September 2, 1983.
19. Link WK: Significance of Oil and Gas Seeps in World
Oil Exploration, Bulletin of the AAPG 36, no. 8
(August 1952): 15051540.
20. Fritts SG and Fisk LH: Structural Evolution of South
MarginRelation to Hydrocarbon Generation, Oil &
Gas Journal 83, no. 34 (August 26, 1985): 8486.
Fritts SG and Fisk LH: Tectonic Model for Formation
of Columbia Basin: Implications for Oil, Gas Potential
of North Central Oregon, Oil & Gas Journal 83, no. 35
(September 2, 1985): 8589.
21. Johnson VG, Graham DL and Reidel SP: Methane
in Columbia River Basalt Aquifers: Isotopic and
Geohydrologic Evidence for a Deep Coal-Bed Gas

Spring 2009










Upper volcanic
Lower volcanic








km 400



Gas-Bearing Volcanic Formations in China

The giant Daqing field, discovered in 1959, is the
largest oil field in China and one of the largest
in the world. The field has produced more than
10 billion bbl [1.6 billion m3] from sedimentary
layers 700 to 1,200 m [2,300 to 3,900 ft] deep.
Stratigraphic wellsdrilled to understand the
basin-scale relationships between the reservoirs
and the surrounding strataencountered gas in
volcanic layers at depths between 3,000 and
6,000 m [10,000 and 20,000 ft]. Because of the
difficult environment and challenging reservoir
rocks, these reserves were not immediately targeted for development.
In 2004, PetroChina initiated a nine-well
appraisal program and entered into a joint project with Schlumberger to better understand
these deep volcanic reservoirs. The study area
covered 930 km2 [360 mi2] and incorporated 3D
seismic data along with wireline logs, borehole
images and core analyses from 15 wells. To support development decisions, analysts constructed
a workflow to evaluate these complex reservoirs
and estimate the amount of gas in place.27
The initial step in the workflow involved
building a structural model from seismic data.
The top of the Yingcheng volcanic group is a significant seismic reflector, and interpretation of
this horizon supplied the major structural control
for the model. In addition to the top of the group,
seismic interpreters distinguished three main
volcanic sequences, with interbedded and bounding sedimentary sequences (above right). Within
the structural model, each sequence was divided


Depth, m

Once a hydrocarbon-bearing volcanic deposit

is discovered, evaluating the reservoir can be
a challenge. Methods for assessing porosity,
permeability and saturation in sedimentary rocks
must be modified to work in volcanic provinces.
Case studies from China and India demonstrate
such techniques.


> Structure of the Yingcheng volcanic group beneath the Daqing field. Interpretation of seismic data
determined the top of the volcanic group, and integration of seismic and log data allowed delineation
of the upper volcanic, lower volcanic and predominantly basaltic sequences.

into smaller cells that were later populated with

physical properties.
The reservoir consists mainly of interlayered
crystalline rhyolites and rhyolitic pyroclastics, but a
full spectrum of volcanics was encountered, ranging from basaltic to rhyolitic in composition and
from crystalline igneous to pyroclastic in texture.
Identifying rock types within the sequences
and correlating them between wells were difficult tasks. Lithology classification for most types

of rocks relies on mineralogy, which cannot be

determined easily for the very fine-grained or
glassy textures common in volcanic rocks. This
led scientists studying volcanic rocks to focus on
chemical composition as the key factor in classification schemes. With elemental concentrations
from an ECS elemental capture spectroscopy
tool, interpreters used these chemistry-based
classification schemes to provide a continuous lithology description.28 However, chemical

26. Rodrguez Arias L, Galaguza M and Sanchez A: Look

Source in the Columbia Basin, Washington, AAPG
Ahead VSP, Inversion, and Imaging from ZVSP and
Bulletin 77, no. 7 (July 1993): 11921207.
OVSP in a Surface Basalt Environment: Neuquen Basin,
22. Gunn P: Aeromagnetics Locates Prospective
Argentina, paper SPE 107944, presented at the SPE
Areas and Prospects, The Leading Edge 17, no. 1
Latin American and Caribbean Petroleum Engineering
(January 1998): 6769.
Conference, Buenos Aires, April 1518, 2007.
23. Mitsuhata Y, Matsuo K and Minegishi M:
27. Li G, Wang YH, Yang FP, Zhao J, Meisenhelder J,
Magnetotelluric Survey for Exploration of a VolcanicOilfield
Rock Reservoir in the Yurihara Oil and Gas Field,
Japan,ReviewNevilleTJ, Farag S, Yang XW, Zhu YQ, Luthi S, Hou HJ,
Zhang SP, Wu C, Wu JH and Conefrey M: Computing
Geophysical Prospecting 47, no. 2 (March 1999):
Gas in Place in a Complex Volcanic Reservoir in China,
24. Rohrman M: Prospectivity of Volcanic Basins:
Volcanic Fig. 9 paper SPE 103790, presented at the SPE International
Delineation and Acreage De-Risking, AAPG ORWINT09-VOL
Bulletin 91,
and 9
Gas Conference and Exhibition in China, Beijing,
no. 6 (June 2007): 915939.
December 57, 2006.
25. Laake A: Remote Sensing Application for Vibroseis Data
28. Barson D, Christensen R, Decoster E, Grau J, Herron M,
Quality Estimation in the Neuquen Basin, Argentina,
Herron S, Guru UK, Jordn M, Maher TM, Rylander E
paper presented at the IAPG VI Congreso de Exploracin
and White J: Spectroscopy: The Key to Rapid, Reliable
y Desarrollo de Hidrocarburos, Mar del Plata, Argentina,
Petrophysical Answers, Oilfield Review 17, no. 2
November 1519, 2005.
(Summer 2005): 1433.
Coulson S, Grbak O, Cutts A, Sweeney D, Hinsch R,
Schachinger M, Laake A, Monk DJ and Towart J:
Satellite Sensing: Risk Mapping for Seismic Surveys,
Oilfield Review 20, no. 4 (Winter 2008/2009): 4051.


Common depth point number








Pyroclastic flow
Lava flow

Pyroclastic fall


FMI Image





Water laid

Outer dome-building volcanic

Pyroclastic flow

Middle dome-building volcanic

Pyroclastic fall

Inner dome-building volcanic

Surge flow


Upper lava flow

Middle lava flow

Lower lava flow


> Correlation of igneous rock types with seismic data. Rock types were identified using FMI images,
NMR T2 distributions and ECS elemental concentrations. Rock types were classified into seven
crystalline lithologies (greens, pinks and purples) and four pyroclastic lithologies (orange and yellows).
A sample correlation (bottom) shows an FMI image acquired through an interval of predominantly
pyroclastic layers. A seismic section (top) through the central well is used to extend rock types across
the field. The rock types observed in the central well are displayed at the well location using the color
codes for volcaniclastic and crystalline lithologies. Rock types extrapolated away from the central well
are displayed as semitransparent colors on the seismic section.

32. Kumar R: Fundamentals of Historical Geology and

29. Li GX, Wang YH, Zhao J, Yang FP, Yin CH, Neville TJ,
Farag S, Yang XW and Zhu YQ: Petrophysical
Oilfield Review Stratigraphy of India. New Delhi: New Age International
Publishers Limited, 2001.
Characterization of a Complex Volcanic Reservoir,
Winter 09
Transactions of the SPWLA 48th Annual Logging
33. Negi
Fig. 10 AS, Sahu SK, Thomas PD, Raju DSAN, Chand R and
Symposium, Austin, Texas, June 36, 2007, paper
Ram J: Fusing Geologic Knowledge and Seismic in
Fig. 10 for Subtle Hydrocarbon Traps in Indias Cambay
30. Freedman R, Cao Minh C, Gubelin G, Freeman JJ,
Basin, The Leading Edge 25, no. 7 (July 2006): 872880.
McGinness T, Terry B and Rawlence D: Combining
NMR and Density Logs for Petrophysical Analysis in
34. Pal A, Machin N, Sinha S and Shrivastva C: Application
Gas-Bearing Formations, Transactions of the SPWLA
of Borehole Images for the Evaluation of Volcanic
39th Annual Logging Symposium, Keystone, Colorado,
Reservoirs: A Case Study from the Deccan Volcanics,
USA, May 2629, 1998, paper II.
Cambay Basin, India, presented at the AAPG Annual
Convention and Exhibition, Long Beach, California, USA,
31. Short NM Sr and Blair RW Jr (eds): Geomorphology
April 14, 2007.
from Space. NASA (1986),
geomorphology/ (accessed March 3, 2009).


composition is not the whole story; for example,

if a particular rock has a rhyolitic composition,
chemistry alone cannot distinguish between a
crystalline rhyolite and a pyroclastic rhyolite
tuff. Textural information from borehole images
obtained by the FMI fullbore formation microimager provided the basis for distinguishing these
rock types and tying together log data from all
the wells. Magnetic resonance T2 distributions
provided additional information to complete the
lithology classification.
By combining all available information,
geologists were able to identify 11 igneous rock
types in each well and then correlate them
across the field using seismic data and conceptual geological models from other volcanic
environments (left).
Evaluating the petrophysical properties of
each rock type was particularly challenging.29
Compared with the clastic and carbonate rocks
that form conventional hydrocarbon reservoirs,
these volcanic rocks exhibit the most problematic features of both; the complex mineralogy,
including the presence of conductive minerals
such as clays and zeolites, parallels that of the
most challenging clastic rocks, and their texture and pore structure mimic those of the most
complex carbonate rocks. This combination of
features presents difficulties for the evaluation of
porosity, permeability and fluid saturations.
A robust scheme for lithology-independent
evaluation of porosity in low-porosity, gas-bearing
formations is the DMR densitymagnetic resonance interpretation method, which combines
bulk density and magnetic resonance porosity
measurements.30 A relationship between matrix
density and elemental concentrations derived
from core analysis was applied to the ECS results
to produce a continuous log of matrix density.
The matrix density provided input to the DMR
process for calculating high-quality estimates of
porosity and indications of gas saturation in each
well. To extrapolate porosity information to areas
away from the wells, interpreters developed
probability distributions of porosity for each rock
type and used them to populate the model.
Estimating gas saturation was a challenge
because the complex rock texture prevented
development of a suitable Archie-type saturation
equation, so a capillary pressurebased approach
was used to estimate saturation. Pseudocapillarypressure curves were derived from well-log
magnetic resonance T2 distributions and calibrated to mercury-injection capillary-pressure

Oilfield Review

measurements performed on cores. Saturation

values computed in this way showed a strong
dependence on pore network geometry. For
example, the core measurements showed the
air-fall tuffsvolumetrically the most significant reservoir rock typeto be microporous, or
having pore throats less than 0.5 m in radius.
Saturation profiles across these formations exhibited long transition zones extending hundreds of
meters and covering most of the reservoir. The
saturation results, validated with gas indications
from the DMR method, downhole fluid analysis
measurements and production data, were consistent with the assumption that the reservoir was a
single-pressure system with one free-water level.
The capillary pressurebased approach was
subsequently used to populate the model with
saturation values.
Gas in place for the reservoir was calculated
by summing the gas contained in each model
cell. However, reservoir rock quality in this
field is extremely heterogeneous. In addition,
well control was limited, and the seismic data
were imperfect in guiding the distribution of
petrophysical properties. To cope with these difficulties, engineers employed a stochastic method
to populate cells with porosity and gas saturation. Nearly 60 realizations were performed to
evaluate the potential quantities of gas in place
for the study area, providing an understanding
of the range of uncertainty associated with field
volumetrics. The results of the overall study supported the decision to develop the field.
Oil in Indias Deccan Traps
The Deccan Traps were formed by Late
Cretaceous extrusion of flood basalts that today
cover more than 500,000 km2 [190,000 mi2] of
central western India. They are called traps, from
the German word treppen for step, because they
give rise to topography characterized by stepped
terraces of resistant basalt layers (above right).31
The episode of volcanism was synchronous with
the rifting of the Indian continent from southern
Africa. Although the genesis and the mechanism
of emplacement of these basalts are still debated,
the general consensus is that they erupted under
water.32 More than 40 such basalt layers have
been identified, many of them interbedded with
fluvial and estuarine limestones, shales and
sandstones. In some places, total thickness of the
traps exceeds 3,000 m.
During the last 40 years, Cambay basin, one
of the oldest hydrocarbon plays of western India,
has produced hydrocarbons from sediments
overlying the Deccan basalts.33 Until recently,

Spring 2009





Cambay basin

Deccan Traps







> The Deccan Traps of India. The Deccan Traps are a sequence of approximately 40 basalt layers
covering portions of central western India. Differences between the basalts, which are competent,
and interlayered sands, shales and limestones, which are more easily eroded, give rise to the rough
terrain (right ). This photograph was taken at the Mahabaleshwar escarpment in the Western Ghats.
The Cambay basin (left) is a downdropped graben with oil-bearing sediments overlying the basalts.
Basalt outcrops are shown in orange. (Photograph courtesy of Dr. Hetu C. Sheth, Department of Earth
Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai.)

the top of the volcanic deposits was considered by Well PK-2 was laterally extensive. Based on
economic basement, below which commercial this model, Well PK-6 was drilled in 2005 just
hydrocarbon reservoirs were not expected to be 600 m [1,970 ft] to the southwest of PK-2, but
found. However, in the past few years,
oil has
unfortunately it did not flow any hydrocarbon.
been discovered in these deeper volcanic
rocks.09 This unexpected result encouraged GSPC to
Volcanic Fig. 11
In 2003, Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation
Fig. the
11 reservoir model through further data
(GSPC) initiated a six-well campaign in analysis, specifically considering the rock facies
Block CB-ONN-2000/1. The first three wells and fractures and their interplay with faults
exhibited oil shows in the volcanic layers. In within the volcanic layers.34
2004, the fourth well, PK-2, proved to be a signifiAs a first step, geologists developed a textural
cant oil discovery, testing at 64m3/d [400bbl/d]. classification of the volcanic layers. Three main
For planning the next well, a simplistic reservoir faciesvesicular basalt, nonvesicular basalt
model was constructed that assumed the hydro- and volcaniclastic unitswere identified using
carbon-bearing topmost basalt layer penetrated borehole image logs, petrography from Well PK-1


Vesicular Basalt

Nonvesicular Basalt

Well PK-2

Volcaniclastic Rock

Well PK-6
Basalt A


Basalt B





3 cm
Basalt C






Depth, m


> Textural classification of Deccan basalt facies. Images from the FMI borehole
resistivity imaging tool helped geologists identify three main rock types.
Vesicular basalts (left) exhibited vesicles in image (top), in hand specimen
sample (bottom) and also in sidewall cores from a neighboring well.
Nonvesicular basalts (center ) showed no such gas bubbles in borehole
images or in sidewall cores. Images of volcaniclastic basalts (right) showed
fine-scale layering of angular particles. (Basalt photograph courtesy of
Charles E. Jones, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.)

and hand specimens of basalt (above). Next, the aluminum, iron and titanium for Basalts A, B and
facies were correlated from well to wellan C showed that Basalt A, the top unit, is composiexercise that was far from straightforward. Lava tionally different in the key wells, while BasaltsB
flows can commingle, and after solidification and C are compositionally similar (next page).
other changes can occur, such as hydrother- This suggests that the top basalt layer is disconmal alteration, weathering, cementation and tinuous laterally between the two wells, contrary
structural deformation. These changes can be to the assumption in the original model.
Following the facies analysis, the next phase
identified in outcrop, but tracking them in the
subsurface is not easy. Based on image facies and of the study involved characterizing natural fracOilfield Review
log signatures, three main basalt layers, A, B and tures, which are abundant within the volcanic
Winter 09
C, could be correlated between key wells
PK-2 Fig.layers.
12 In the discovery Well PK-2, the top basalt
and PK-6 (above right).
12 hydrocarbon is thick, comprising a
In outcrop studies, volcanic rocks can be cor- nonvesicular basalt layer overlying a vesicular
related using geochemical analysis of major and basalt section with a number of fractures that
minor elemental composition. In the subsurface, appear conductive on borehole images.35 The
similar data can be acquired using the ECS tool. presence of open fractures and vesicles creates
Crossplots of elemental silicon versus calcium, a good-quality reservoir with a dual-porosity
system, and the fracture network enhances per35. In the absence of acoustic or testing data, conductive frac
meability. In contrast, in Well PK-6, the top basalt
tures on borehole images are considered open to flow.
36. Schutter SR: Occurrences of Hydrocarbons in and
layer, which is thinner, essentially nonvesicular
Around Igneous Rocks, in Petford N and McCaffrey KJW
and less fractured, is not a good reservoir.
(eds): Hydrocarbons in Crystalline Rocks, Geological
Society Special Publication 214. London: Geological
In addition to facies type and the presence of
Society (2003): 3568.
fractures, the geometrical relationship between




Brecciated zone in
nonweathered basalt

> Initial well-to-well facies correlation. Texturebased facies classification allowed correlation
of three basalt layers between Well PK-2 and
Well PK-6. BasaltA (blue) is the producing zone
in Well PK-2, but not in PK-6. Basalts B and C are

fractures and faults also seems to play a crucial

role in localizing hydrocarbon accumulations.
In Well PK-2, the open fractures occur at high
angles to a seismic-scale fault, while fractures in
WellPK-6 are aligned approximately parallel to the
fault. Interpreters developed a conceptual model
in which the seismic-scale fault facilitates fluid
communication, allowing the open fractures that
intersect it to conduct hydrocarbons to producOilfieldaligned
Reviewwith the fault are less
ing wells. Fractures
likely to intersect
it, 09
and therefore are unlikely to
Volcanic Fig. 13
conduct hydrocarbons.
This Fig.
13 was validated in a new well, PK-2A1, which contained
conductive fractures oriented perpendicular to
seismic-scale faults and also produced oil.
Future Volcanic Activity
Evaluation of hydrocarbons in volcanic rock presents many challenges, but creative application of
techniques designed for sedimentary reservoirs
is helping oil and gas companies characterize
and exploit these complex accumulations. The

Oilfield Review

Depth, m

Well PK-2
Gamma Ray


Elemental Concentrations, kg/kg






Basalt A






Basalt B











Basalt C













Depth, m

Well PK-6
Gamma Ray










Basalt A









Basalt B




















Basalt C


















> Comparison of basalts in two wells. Elemental concentrations (right) from the ECS tool are expressed as ratios of
calcium, iron, aluminum and titanium to silicon (Ca/Si, Fe/Si, Al/Si and Ti/Si). Ratios are plotted for Basalts A (blue
oval), B (green oval) and C (red oval). In each of the ratio plots, the red and green ovals have approximately the
same relationship to each other, but not to the blue ovals. For example, in the Ca/Si plot for Well PK-2 (top), the red
and green ovals are next to each other, and the blue oval is inside the red oval. However, in the Ca/Si plot for Well
PK-6, the red and green ovals are still next to each other, but the blue oval is inside the green oval. This arrangement
indicates that Basalts B and C correlate from one well to the other, but Basalt A does not.

combination of borehole resistivity images with

neutron-capture spectroscopy and magnetic
resonance logs is becoming the new standard
data suite for evaluation of volcanic reservoirs.
With increased understanding of the capacity of
volcanic rocks to contain oil and gas, other
companies may consider reassessing volcanic
formations they have bypassed, with a view to
reevaluating their potential.

Spring 2009

Unlike their sedimentary counterparts, volcanic rock reservoirs have not been studied
systematically. In addition to the few examples
Oilfield Review
described inWinter
this article,
09 hydrocarbons occur in
or around igneous
Volcanic Fig.in14more than 100 counORWINT09-VOL
Fig. 14
tries.36 In many
instances, only
oil shows and
seeps have been documented, but further exploration may uncover significant reserves.

The presence of volcanic rocks in a basin

may not ever become a basis for exploration, but
the possibility of such basins sustaining a viable
petroleum system should be included within an
array of options. While some operators might stop
drilling after encountering basement, those
with a better understanding of the potential of
volcanic rocks may treat them like any other prospective reservoir rock.