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Open Access Earth's energy “Golden Zone”: a synthesis from mineralogical research

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The impact of diagenetic processes on petroleum entrapment and recovery efficiency has focused the vast majority of the world's conventional oil and gas resources into relatively narrow thermal intervals, which we call Earth's energy “Golden Zone”. Two key mineralogical research breakthroughs, mainly from the North Sea, underpinned this discovery. The first is the fundamental particle theory of clay mineralogy, which showed the importance of dissolution/precipitation mechanisms in the formation of diagenetic illitic clays with increasing depth and temperature. The second is the surface area precipitation-rate-controlled models for the formation of diagenetic cements, primarily quartz, in reservoirs. Understanding the impacts of these geological processes on permeability evolution, porosity loss, overpressure development, and fluid migration in the subsurface, lead to the realization that exploration and production risks are exponential functions of reservoir temperature. Global compilations of oil/gas reserves relative to reservoir temperature, including the US Gulf Coast, have verified the “Golden Zone” concept, as well as stimulated further research to determine in greater detail the geological/mineralogical controls on petroleum migration and entrapment efficiency within the Earth's sedimentary basins.

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Keywords: BASIN ANALYSIS; CLAY MINERAL DIAGENESIS; EXPLORATION RISKS; FUNDAMENTAL PARTICLES; GLOBAL ENERGY RESOURCES; HYDROCARBON MIGRATION; NORTH SEA; OIL AND GAS RESERVES; OVERPRESSURE; PERMEABILITY; PETROLEUM GEOLOGY; POROSITY; QUARTZ CEMENTATION; TEMPERATURE; US GULF COAST

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 March 2011

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