Estimates of depth, overpressure and amount of exhumation based on sonic data for a sedimentary formation rely on identification of a normal velocity-depth trend for the formation. Such trends describe how sonic velocity increases with depth in relatively homogeneous, brine-saturated sedimentary formations as porosity is reduced during normal compaction (mechanical and chemical). Compaction is 'normal'when the fluid pressure is hydrostatic and the thickness of the overburden has not been reduced by exhumation. We suggest that normal porosity at the surface for a given lithology should be constrained by its critical porosity, i.e. the porosity limit above which a particular sediment exists only as a suspension. Consequently, normal velocity at the surface of unconsolidated sediments saturated with brine approaches the velocity of the sediment in suspension. Furthermore, porosity must approach zero at infinite depth, so the velocity approaches the matrix velocity of the rock and the velocity-depth gradient approaches zero. For sediments with initially good grain contact (when porosity is just below the critical porosity), the velocity gradient decreases with depth. By contrast, initially compliant sediments may have a maximum velocity gradient at some depth if we assume that porosity decreases exponentially with depth. We have used published velocity-porosity-depth relationships to formulate normal velocity-depth trends for consolidated sandstone with varying clay content and for marine shale dominated by smectite/illite. The first relationship is based on a modified Voigt trend (porosity scaled by critical porosity) and the second is based on a modified time-average equation. Baselines for sandstone and shale in the North Sea agree with the established constraints and the shale trend can be applied to predict overpressure. A normal velocity-depth trend for a formation cannot be expressed from an arbitrary choice of mathematical functions and regression parameters, but should be considered as a physical model linked to the velocity-porosity transforms developed in rock physics.
- Programområde 3: Energiressourcer