Porosity trends in the Skagerrak Formation, Central Graben, United Kingdom Continental Shelf: The role of compaction and pore pressure history

Neil T. Grant*, Alexander J. Middleton, Stuart Archer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


This paper describes reservoir properties in the Triassic Skagerrak Formation in the Central North Sea. This prolific sandstone reservoir often possesses anomalously high porosity for its depth of burial. Simple statistical analysis of wire-line-log-derived porosity data is used to derive empirical trends as a function of both depth and vertical effective stress that show variations between neighboring hydrocarbon fields and between different parts of the basin. Porosity data from the Josephine (J) Ridge (Quadrant 30 of the United Kingdom Continental Shelf [UKCS]) show a marked degradation with depth, but the porosities are significantly higher than in similarly deeply buried areas such as the Puffin high to the west (Quadrant 29) or the Forties-Montrose high to the north (Quadrant 22). To understand the porosity patterns better the data have been analyzed by plotting against vertical effective stress. This allows a better comparison to be made between fields and wells within the high-pressure high-temperature (HPHT) realm. High pressure here refers to fluid pressures above 10,000 psi (703 kg/cm), whereas high temperatures are above 300 F (149 C). Results show that porosity and fractional effective reservoir (the proportion of net sandstone with a porosity greater than a predetermined cutoff) decrease systematically with increasing vertical effective stress. Data from the different J Ridge fields fall on a common compaction trend even though they are derived from structures with marked variations in present-day depth of burial and static formation overpressure. Trends from the other areas of the Central Graben (the Puffin and Forties-Montrose highs) indicate more indurate reservoir states. The observed porosity trends are independent of fluid type within the reservoir and the absolute magnitude of overpressure. The main observed hydrocarbon effect is the result of buoyancy forces. The analysis supports the contention that, after accounting for facies-related grain-size variations, compaction controls average reservoir properties. Differences in compaction state between areas are postulated to relate primarily to structurally controlled timing of overpressure development relative to burial, and how these affect the resultant vertical effective stress history. Both the Puffin and Forties-Montrose highs are directly attached to the basin margins across stepped faults. These marginal terraces were open to lateral fluid flow for longer probably because across-fault seals were only established late in the burial history when higher temperatures promoted cementation and the destruction of permeability within fault cores. As a result, they developed overpressures in the last 5-10 m.y. or so and are largely normally compacted. The J Ridge horst block is hydrologically more isolated within the basin center by across-fault juxtaposition seals. Here, overpressure development appears to have started earlier, possibly between 50 and 60 Ma, retarding compaction and allowing preservation of higher porosities. Compaction continues to present day driven by the large static vertical effective stress gradients in these deeply buried reservoirs. The observed empirical trends offer a means of predicting average reservoir properties in deep untested exploration targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1111-1143
Number of pages33
JournalAAPG Bulletin
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

We thank the J Block partners: ConocoPhillips (United Kingdom [UK]),
BG Group, ENI UK, Chevron UK, and OMV for giving permission for this paper to be published. Tim Carpenter and Callum Anderson have contributed immensely by performing the petrophysical analyses of all the well data that underpin this study. The ideas expressed here have been developed through discussions with various colleagues and these are gratefully acknowledged. The technical critiques provided by three anonymous reviewers helped improve the manuscript.
The AAPG Editor thanks the anonymous reviewers for their work on this paper


  • North-Sea
  • sedimentary basins
  • quartz cementation
  • fluid-pressure
  • sandstone
  • reservoirs
  • overpressure
  • faults
  • flow


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