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Basin modeling: crude oil on the menu for microorganisms

Sedimentary basin modeling is used to locate and determine the quality of future oil fields, during an exploration phase, thereby helping to reduce the risks and costs before drilling.

The quality of hydrocarbons present in these fields also depends on another factor, only recently taken into account: its modification by microorganisms. The latter, which are present in shallow oil reserves, preferentially consume light components.

This reduces the economic value of the field and makes production technically more difficult since the oil in these reserves is consequently denser, more viscous and often sourer. Predicting the microbial modification of hydro-carbons is therefore crucial before launching the exploration phase.

Recent research, bringing together geologists, geochemists and micro-biologists at IFPEN, led to this biodegradation being taken into account in basin models.

In particular, the results obtained using this multiphysical approach and integrated into TemisFlow™ basin modeling software were applied to the Potiguar field (Brazil), where they were used to more clearly describe filling and oil modification phenomena in the fields1.

                                             Click on the picture to enlarge it

This enhanced basin modeling method also provides new tools to help improve our understanding; they help explain, for example, the origin of large gas fields discovered in the Mediterranean.

Supported by the data acquired as part of the Pamelaa, the new microbiological component of the model will be able to back up the hypothesis that micro-organisms may have degraded the buried solid organic matter before it was transformed into oil.


aPassive Margins Exploration Laboratories: consortium, a project led by Ifremer, with the assistance of Total, IFPEN and the universities of Brest, Rennes and Paris VI


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Published in Science@ifpen n°26 - October 2016


  1. M. Ducros, B. Carpentier, S. Wolf et M.C. Cacas, Integration of biodegradation and migration of hydrocarbons in a 2D Petroleum Systems Model: Application to the Potiguar Basin, Ne Brazil, Journal of Petroleum Geology, Vol. 39(1), Janvier 2016, pp 61–78.
    >> DOI: 10.1111/jpg.12628

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