Mathematical Geosciences

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 1–30 | Cite as

Consequences of Water Level Drops for Soft Sediment Deformation and Vertical Fluid Leakage

  • Christian Hermanrud
  • Jon Marius Venstad
  • Joe Cartwright
  • Lars Rennan
  • Kristine Hermanrud
  • Hege M. Nordgård Bolås


Both water level drops and erosion have previously been suggested as causes of fluid overpressures in the subsurface. Quantification of the relevance of these processes to supra-lithostatic fluid pressure formation with a wide selection of input parameters is lacking, and thus desired. The magnitudes and drop times that are required for water level drops to result in supra-lithostatic pore pressures in a variety of situations are calculated. Situations with pore fluids consisting of water, water with dissolved methane, water with a gas hydrate layer and dissolved methane in the underlying sediments, and water with dissolved methane, a gas hydrate layer, and free gas accumulation below the hydrate layer are separately addressed. The overpressure formation from reservoir gas expansion is also simulated. The simulation results demonstrate that high fluid overpressures can develop in a rock as a response to a water level drop without the presence of gas, provided that the rock has a sufficiently low compressibility. The contribution to fluid overpressuring is however dramatically increased if the pore water is saturated with methane prior to the water level drop, and is further amplified by the presence of gas hydrates and free gas accumulations beneath such hydrates. Gas expansion in reservoirs should be expected to significantly increase the fluid overpressures in shallow, sealed pressure compartments that experience erosion or water level drops, even if the water level drop duration exceeds one million years. Enough relationships between the calculated overpressure formation and the main controlling factors are provided in order to enable readers to make inferences about a variety of geological settings. Analyses of simulation results prompt us to suggest that pockmarks are likely to be triggered by gas expansion in vertical fluid migration pathways, that the giant craters at the seabed west of Albatross South in the Barents Sea result from hydrate dissociation, and that overpressure build-up due to gas expansion has contributed to reservoir overpressuring in many eroded basins, including the Hammerfest Basin in the Barents Sea.


Water level drop Erosion Overpressure Leakage 



We thank Statoil for the permission to publish this manuscript, Elin Storsten for preparing the figures, Christopher Jebsen for encouraging us to include gas in the simulation, Peter Flemings for feedback and hospitality during one of the author’s (CH) stay at UT in Austin, and four anonymous referees for comments to earlier versions of this paper.


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Copyright information

© International Association for Mathematical Geosciences 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Hermanrud
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jon Marius Venstad
    • 3
  • Joe Cartwright
    • 4
  • Lars Rennan
    • 1
  • Kristine Hermanrud
    • 1
  • Hege M. Nordgård Bolås
    • 1
  1. 1.Statoil PetroleumTrondheimNorway
  2. 2.Department of Earth ScienceUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  3. 3.Department of Petroleum Technology and Applied GeophysicsNorwegian Technical UniversityTrondheimNorway
  4. 4.Department of Earth SciencesOxford UniversityOxfordUK

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