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Open-File Report 2011-1086

Natural Gas Production and Anomalous Geothermal Gradients of the Deep Tuscaloosa Formation

By Lauri Burke

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For the largest producing natural gas fields in the onshore Gulf of Mexico Basin, the relation between temperature versus depth was investigated. Prolific natural gas reservoirs with the highest temperatures were found in the Upper Cretaceous downdip Tuscaloosa trend in Louisiana. Temperature and production trends from the deepest field, Judge Digby field, in Pointe Coupe Parish, Louisiana, were investigated to characterize the environment of natural gas in the downdip Tuscaloosa trend. The average production depth in the Judge Digby field is approximately 22,000 ft. Temperatures as high as 400°F are typically found at depth in Judge Digby field and are anomalously low when compared to temperature trends extrapolated to similar depths regionally.

At 22,000 ft, the minimum and maximum temperatures for all reservoirs in Gulf Coast producing gas fields are 330 and 550°F, respectively; the average temperature is 430°F. The relatively depressed geothermal gradients in the Judge Digby field may be due to high rates of sediment preservation, which may have delayed the thermal equilibration of the sediment package with respect to the surrounding rock.

Analyzing burial history and thermal maturation indicates that the deep Tuscaloosa trend in the Judge Digby field is currently in the gas generation window. Using temperature trends as an exploration tool may have important implications for undiscovered hydrocarbons at greater depths in currently producing reservoirs, and for settings that are geologically analogous to the Judge Digby field.

First posted April 5, 2011

For additional information contact:

U.S. Geological Survey
Central Energy Resources Science Center
Box 25046, MS-939
Denver Federal Center
Denver, CO 80225-0046

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Suggested citation:

Burke, Lauri, 2011, Natural gas production and anomalous geothermal gradients of the deep Tuscaloosa Formation:  U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011–1086, 2 sheets.

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