Bureau of Economic Geology

The origins of overpressure at the Macondo Well

October 30, 2020 9:00 AM

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Dr. Peter Flemings
Professor, Jackson School of Geosciences
University of Texas at Austin


The Deepwater Horizon blowout of the Macondo well began on April 20, 2010 in Mississippi Canyon block 252, deepwater Gulf of Mexico. Eleven people died and ~4 million barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. This human and environmental catastrophe focused the world on the incredible pressures encountered in the search for hydrocarbons. I describe the pressure and stress at Macondo and I use these observations to illustrate 3 processes that drive pressure. I first demonstrate how rapid sedimentation of clay-rich sediment generates overpressure. I then show that the regression of pressure and stress regression at the Macondo target is driven by lateral flow within the reservoir. Finally, I illustrate that the absolute pressure at the Macondo reservoir is controlled by natural hydraulic fracturing where the reservoir is structurally elevated. A better understanding of these processes will improve our ability to explore for, and produce, hydrocarbons and to store CO2.

Useful reading: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-42496-0

Pinkston, F. W. M., and Flemings, P. B., 2019, Overpressure at the Macondo Well and its impact on the Deepwater Horizon blowout: Scientific Reports, v. 9, no. 1, p. 7047.

Peter Flemings

University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas

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