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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access February 1, 2023

Diagenesis and evolution of deep tight reservoirs: A case study of the fourth member of Shahejie Formation (cg: 50.4-42 Ma) in Bozhong Sag

  • Juan Zhang EMAIL logo , Chenchen Wang , Yunqian Jia and Qianyu Wu
From the journal Open Geosciences


This study focused on the deep tight sandstone reservoir (DTSR) of the fourth member of the Shahejie Formation in the Bozhong Sag, Bohai Bay Basin, a special type of reservoir. To reveal the diagenesis and evolution of the reservoir in the study area, cores observation, thin section identification, scanning electron microscopy, grain size analysis, and petrophysical properties measurements are available to analyze the mechanics of diagenesis and densification processes. The recognition is agreed on that (1) the lithology of the fourth member is mainly composed of lithic arkose and feldspathic lithic sandstone with low compositional maturity, and grain sizes vary from middle to coarse; (2) the porosity of reservoir ranges from 4 to 11.5% (av. 6.8%), which belongs to the medium low porosity sandstone reservoir; the pore structure is complex and the type of pore spaces is mainly secondary pore, while original pores are less developed due to the deep distribution of strata; (3) based on the quantitative calculation of porosity of the DTSR, it was identified that compaction is the main reason for sandstone reservoir densification, with an average porosity reduction of 62%, followed by cementation filling intergranular pores with an average pore reduction rate of 25.1%. Dissolution plays a constructive role in improving porosity, with an average increase rate of 18.5%.

1 Introduction

Recently, hydrocarbon exploration around the world has been increasingly concentrated in the deep tight sandstone reservoir (DTSR) for its great potential [1,2,3], accounting for 31% of the total global oil resources [3,4,5]. Extensive efforts from various perspectives, including basin type, provenance source, depositional factors, diagenetic conditions, diagenetic alterations, and hydrocarbon emplacement on the quality of low-permeability and tight reservoirs have been carried out for DTSR mainly due to the fact that these multiple factors have an important and profound impact on the control of reservoir quality [2,6,7,8,9]. For the reservoir with in situ porosity less than 10% and the permeability less than 1 × 103 μm2 [10,11,12], diagenesis that comprises a broad range of physical, geochemical, and biological postdepositional processes [4,13,14] has a great impact on the reservoir of tight sandstones, and it is also the main controlling factors affecting DTSR exploration and development [15,16,17].

The fourth member of Shahejie Formation (Es4) in Bozhong Sag (cg: 50.4-42 Ma) has been discovered as a prolific gas-producing unit as well as an important exploration target of tight gas in the Bohai Bay Basin. The member in the study area is characterized by strong reservoir heterogeneity and complex pore structure for its high degree of diagenetic modifications [18,19,20]. However, research focusing on the depositional factors and diagenetic alterations (e.g., diagenetic type and diagenetic strength) and their controlling effects on microscopic pore structure is still rare but significant in the study area. Meanwhile, the qualitative and quantitative researches on diagenetic process evolution is essential to deepening our understanding of the factors controlling the quality in DTSR. To better study the diagenesis and its impact on reservoirs, the purpose of this article is to (1) analyze the material of thin sections and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images to determine the composition and characteristics of tight sandstone; (2) determine the diagenesis and the diagenetic evolutionary sequence; (3) summarize the main controlling factors of diagenesis by quantitative calculation.

2 Geological setting

Bozhong sag is located in the central Bohai Bay Basin, a basin rich in oil and gas in Eastern China, which belongs to a rifting basin; it is surrounded by Shaleitian upfit and Chengbei upfit (Figure 1). The tectonic evolution of the basin consists of a synrift stage (65.0 to 24.6 Ma) and a postrift stage (24.6 Ma to the present) [21,22,23,24]. The Paleogene strata are divided into the Kongdian (Ek), Shahejie (Es), Dongying (Ed), Guantao (Ng), Minghuazhen (Nm), and Pingyuan (Qp) Formations (Figure 2). The Shahejie Formation is subdivided into the fourth member (Es4), the third member (Es3), the second member (Es2), and the first member (Es1). The target interval of this study is the fourth member of Shahejie Formation, and oil and gas resource is widely distributed in the sandstone [21,23].

Figure 1 
               (a) The location of Bohai Bay Basin and Bozhong Sag; (b) general situation of Bozhong Sag.
Figure 1

(a) The location of Bohai Bay Basin and Bozhong Sag; (b) general situation of Bozhong Sag.

Figure 2 
               Stratigraphic column of Bozhong Sag.
Figure 2

Stratigraphic column of Bozhong Sag.

3 Database and methods

Samples for this study were collected from five wells of 140 samples (Figure 1b) including thin-section point counts, SEM image examination, and whole rock and X-ray diffraction analysis. Thin sections in the study were impregnated with blue epoxy, while carbonate minerals including dolomite, calcite, and ankerite were stained with alizarin red and potassium ferricyanide for easy identification. Thin section petrography was carried out using conventional point-count analysis methods (300–350 points per sample) to determine the rock composition and the relative compaction state of the samples, which can provide a standard deviation of 5.5% or less [9,25]. SEM analysis using an FEI Helios NanoLab 660 Dual Beam scanning electron microscope equipped with an energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometer was carried out in the Paleogene lacustrine sandstone to obtain pore sizes and types and to identify quartz overgrowth, carbonate cementation, feldspar dissolution, clay minerals, and other cements. Sandstone compositions were classified in accordance with Zhao [26]. The original pore volume of the sandstones was calculated using the method of Bear and Weyl [27], while the calculation of porosity loss by compaction and by cementation was performed following the criteria described by Lundegard [28].

4 Results

4.1 Petrological characteristics

The results show that the lithologic component content of sandstone in the study area is Q25F40L35 (Figure 3), where Q represents quartz, F represents feldspar, and L represents lithics. The reservoir rock type mainly consists of lithic feldspar sandstone, feldspathic lithic sandstone, arkose, and sandy sandstone. The average proportion of interstitial materials in the study area is 11.7%, in which the matrix is mainly argillaceous rock. In addition, carbonate cement has the highest content among various types of cements (Figure 4). Although siliceous cementation generally developed in the target formation, but the average volume fraction was low (Figure 4). The grain size statistics based on the clastic particle size classification of Zhao [26] show that the distribution of the clastic reservoirs is mainly medium to coarse grain.

Figure 3 
                  The components of the fourth member of Shahejie Formation in Bozhong Sag. (a) BZ1 (N = 44); (b) BZ2 (N = 13); (c) BZ3 (N = 13); (d) BZ4 (N = 17); (e) BZ5 (N = 53); (f) all wells (N = 140).
Figure 3

The components of the fourth member of Shahejie Formation in Bozhong Sag. (a) BZ1 (N = 44); (b) BZ2 (N = 13); (c) BZ3 (N = 13); (d) BZ4 (N = 17); (e) BZ5 (N = 53); (f) all wells (N = 140).

Figure 4 
                  Characteristics of the tight sandstone reservoir of the fourth member of Shahejie Formation in Bozhong Sag. (a) Concavo-convex of quartz; (b) Mica deformation; (c, j, k, l) Feldspar dislocation; (d,e) Ankerite cementation; (f, h) Ferrocalcite cementation; (g) Primary intergranular pore in pyrite; (i) Authigenic quartz; F, feldspar; Q, quartz; Fe-Dol, ferro dolomite; Fe-Cal, ferro calcite; Py, pyrite; I, illite; P, pore.
Figure 4

Characteristics of the tight sandstone reservoir of the fourth member of Shahejie Formation in Bozhong Sag. (a) Concavo-convex of quartz; (b) Mica deformation; (c, j, k, l) Feldspar dislocation; (d,e) Ankerite cementation; (f, h) Ferrocalcite cementation; (g) Primary intergranular pore in pyrite; (i) Authigenic quartz; F, feldspar; Q, quartz; Fe-Dol, ferro dolomite; Fe-Cal, ferro calcite; Py, pyrite; I, illite; P, pore.

Conventional porosity and permeability analyses show that the average porosity of the fourth member of the Shahejie formation is 6.8% and the average permeability is 2.8 mD. The geological evaluation methods for tight sandstone gas (SY/T6832-2011) show that the reservoir belongs to low porosity and low permeability tight reservoir. The reservoir space is composed of residual intergranular pores (Figure 4i, k), feldspar intragranular solution pore (Figure 4c, j, k, l), and clay mineral intergranular pores (Figure 4b, k). From Figure 4, it was founded that residual intergranular pores and feldspar intragranular dissolution pores are the most developed. The results of the identification of thin sections and SEM observation displayed that the pore type is mainly secondary pores, supplemented by primary pores.

4.2 Diagenetic processes

4.2.1 Compaction

Compaction is a complex process that under the pressure of overlying sediments or strata, the sediments continuously discharge water, reduce porosity and volume, and consolidate the sediments [29], which runs through the whole process of diagenesis [30,31,32]. The extent of compaction was assessed based on the petrographic observation of grains contacting relationship, grains rearrangement and fracturing, grains ductile deformation, grain-coating clays, the content of rigid particle, and the strength of carbonate cements [7,9]. Grain contacting relationship among the members consists of point contacts, line contacts, concavity–convexity contacts, and suture line contacts (Figure 4). The initial intergranular volume of the deep tight sandstones in the study area is calculated using Beard and Weyl’s method [27]. Through the calculation of samples in the study area, the sorting coefficient of sandstone is 1.63–2.73 and the initial porosity is 29.3–34.9%, with an average of 32.1%. The reduced pore volumes caused by compaction are estimated to be 2.8–29.3% (av. 12.1%) with the corresponding porosity compaction loss percentage being 7.4–85.1% (av. 33.1%). It shows that compaction is one of the most important diagenetic process in the study area.

4.2.2 Cementation

Cementation generally involves the consolidation of sedimentary clasts by materials between particles, including not only the cementation of new minerals formed by chemical precipitation but also the consolidation of sedimentary clasts by compaction, dehydration, and adsorption of matrix or heterogene [29]. The main types of cementation in this area are calcite cementation, quartz cementation, and clay cementation.

Petrographic evidence revealed that carbonate cements mainly involve nonferroan calcite, ferroan calcite, dolomite, and siderite, which take place in mainly two stages. The early carbonate cementation is characterized by microcrystalline or fine-grained structure and grains coated with dolomite and ankerite forming the ctenoid texture (Figure 4d), an evidence of shallow burial cementation under high salinity conditions [33,34]. The late carbonate cements with better crystalline form are precipitated in feldspar dissolution pores (Figure 4d), in which it is not difficult to know that those cements form after feldspar dissolution [23,24]. Carbonate cements locally reduce porosity down to 0.8–25.6% (av. 10.3%) in samples (Figure 4e–f, h).

Under the petrographic light microscope, silica cements mainly occur as authigenic quartz partially or pervasively filling primary intergranular porosity and euhedral or syntaxial overgrowths around quartz grains, with a thickness ranging from 50 to 300 μm. Based on the diagenetic sequence [14,23], it mainly developed from the early diagenetic stage to the middle diagenetic stage A. Given the growing space, the early siliceous cement growth is regular and automorphic, while the late siliceous cement grows in an irregular pattern or partial automorphic [35,36]. The effect of siliceous to pores loss is 0.5–4.3% (average of 1.2%).

The authigenic clay minerals are kaolinite, illite, and chlorite, which cause porosity loss ranging from 0 to 15.7% (average of 4.6%). The authigenic kaolinite occurs as pore-filling cement and as replacement of dissolved grains, and it is often enriched in intergranular pores. The authigenic chlorite is distributed in pore throat in the form of granular envelopes coating grain and leaves. Illite is abundant in the Paleocene sandstones, accounting for 6–98% of all the clay minerals. Further, it is frequently fibrous or honeycomb like with spiny terminations.

4.2.3 Dissolution

Dissolution often refers to the removal of solution of part or all of previously existing minerals, which leave pores in the rocks [37]. In the study area, the dissolution of feldspar and other aluminosilicates is the most common through the thin section identification and SEM observation. Dissolution of feldspar and metasomatic substance can produce secondary pores and improve the properties of reservoirs to some extent [23,35,36], and the dissolution in the sandstone is 0.6–10.1% (average of 3.4%). The SEM observations revealed that the dissolution of the sandstones in the formation includes feldspar and a small amount of rock fragments dissolution. The most important dissolved mineral is feldspar, which is often dissolved along the cleavage surfaces, at grain edges, and dissolving the entire grain and forming intragranular solution pores and moldic pores. Secondary enlarged dissolution pores with irregular morphology were also observed.

5 Discussion

5.1 Diagenetic evolutionary sequence

In this study, three parameters, temperature T (°C), vitrinite reflectance (Ro%), and smectite content in the mixed layer (I/S-S%), were selected as main parameters to divide the diagenetic stage in geological time [22,38,39,40]. Based on the analysis and testing of quartz grain inclusions in the study area, the homogenization temperature of some inclusions reaches 189°C. It is speculated that the diagenetic stage of the study area has evolved to the late diagenetic stage (Figure 5). Meanwhile, according to the observation of the metasomatism, the filling and dissolution relationship between authigenic minerals, the sequence of different diagenesis, and the time are analyzed [24].

Figure 5 
                  Diagenetic evolution sequence of the tight sandstone reservoir of the fourth member of Shahejie Formation in Bozhong Sag. IA, early diagenetic stage A; IB, early diagenetic stage B; IIA1, middle diagenetic stage A1; IIA2, middle diagenetic stage B1; II B, middle diagenetic stage B; III, late diagenetic stage.
Figure 5

Diagenetic evolution sequence of the tight sandstone reservoir of the fourth member of Shahejie Formation in Bozhong Sag. IA, early diagenetic stage A; IB, early diagenetic stage B; IIA1, middle diagenetic stage A1; IIA2, middle diagenetic stage B1; II B, middle diagenetic stage B; III, late diagenetic stage.

The diagenetic evolution sequence of Paleogene Shahejie Formation in Bozhong Sag can be divided into stages as follows: mechanical compaction is strong in the early diagenetic period, which is dominated by the chlorite film and carbonate cementation, organic acid injection in the middle diagenetic period with feldspar dissolution, siliceous cementation, kaolinite and illite cementation, late ferrocalcite, and ferrodolomite filling pores. The early diagenetic stage is dominated by mechanical compaction [24]. The compaction is continuously enhanced with the increase in the burial depth. In this process, the formation water is continuously drained, resulting in a large amount of original pore loss from sandstone reservoir. Although clay minerals such as chlorite and kaolinite are also developed during this period, siliceous cementation is weakly developed, and the effect on reservoir space is small at this stage. In the IIA1 stage of middle diagenesis, the organic matter of the parent rock is mature, and the released organic acid is injected into the reservoir, which causes the dissolution of the soluble components in feldspar and cuttings to produce secondary pores. At the same time, SiO2 formed by feldspar dissolution prevented from migrating into the acid fluid and is precipitated nearby to form quartz overgrowth. In the middle diagenetic stage IIA2, the hydrocarbon generating capacity of source rocks is weakened, and the concentration of organic acids is reduced due to continuous consumption, and formation water begins to transit from acidic fluid to weakly alkaline fluid rich in K+ and Na+, clay minerals that transform to illite, and the hydrolysis of mica and other volcanic rock debris provides abundant iron and magnesium ions for chlorite precipitation [41], and the cementation of iron calcite and iron dolomite becomes active. It should be noted that the cementation in the late diagenetic stage is different from that in the early stage. The late cementation is generally filled in the irregular pores between the tightly compacted skeletons, and the precipitation is rarely dissolved. Microscopic observation implies the process of replacement of calcite, quartz, and feldspar by iron calcite and iron dolomite, indicating the existence of the second-stage carbonate cement. Therefore, cementation in the late diagenetic stage III has a key impact on the formation of low porosity and permeability sandstone.

5.2 Diagenesis and its impact on the reservoir quality

When sediments enter the stage of burial diagenesis, the redistribution of reservoir space is mainly affected by diagenesis in different stages [31,39,42,43]. Due to the large buried reservoir depth in this area, diagenesis is a relatively long and complicated process. For a better understanding of the cause of reservoir densification, the porosity can be quantitatively calculated based on the physical property analysis data of samples in the study area.

5.2.1 Compaction

The analysis of diagenesis illustrated that compaction is the main cause of the densification of the studied sandstones [2,44]. With the increase of compaction, the main contact modes between rock particles in the study area are linear contact and concave–convex contact. The damage degree of the primary intergranular pores caused by this action can be clarified by calculating the residual intergranular porosity lost after compaction. The residual porosity φ 1 generally consists of the remaining original pores and pores after early cementation. The specific value can be obtained by formulas (1–3) [45,46]:

(1) φ 1 = w + P 1 × P M P T ,

(2) φ 2 = φ 0 φ 1 ,

(3) S 1 = φ 0 φ 1 φ 0 ,

where φ 0 is the original porosity, φ 1 is the porosity after compaction, φ 2 is the porosity reduced by compaction, S 1 is the porosity loss rate of compaction, w is the mass percentage of cement, P 1 is the porosity of residual intergranular pores; P T is the total surface porosity rate; P M is the rate of measured surface porosity.

Applying statistical data of a large number of samples to equations (1)–(3) shows the porosity is reduced to 12.1%, and the compaction loss rate is 62.0%.

5.2.2 Cementation

In the process of reservoir cementation, cement fills intergranular pores and early dissolved pores make the reservoir further compact. The volume fraction of cement is generally considered to be approximately equivalent to the porosity occupied by cementation. Therefore, the residual intergranular porosity of sandstone after compaction and cementation is the porosity of existing residual intergranular pores. The porosity of cementation is calculation by the following equation [36,38].

(4) φ 3 = P M P T × P 1 ,

(5) φ 4 = φ 1 φ 3

(6) S 2 = φ 1 φ 3 φ 0 ,

where φ 3 is the porosity after cementation, φ 4 is the porosity reduced by cementation, and S 2 is the loss rate of cemented porosity.

According to the calculation, the average porosity loss due to cementation is 7.9%, the porosity is reduced to 4.1%, and the cementation loss rate is 25.2%.

5.2.3 Dissolution

Dissolution can dissolve unstable components in feldspar, cuttings, and interstitial materials, resulting in the increase in porosity. Therefore, it can be seen as a constructive diagenesis [47]. The increased secondary porosity is equal to the portion occupied by all dissolution pores in the reservoir space, calculated as follows [45,46]:

(7) φ 5 = P M P T × P 2 ,

(8) S 3 = φ 5 φ 0 ,

where φ 5 is the increased porosity after dissolution, P 2 is the surface porosity rate of dissolved porosity, and S 3 is the porosity increasing rate of dissolution porosity.

Calculation shows that the porosity of the reservoir after dissolution in the study area is increased by 5.9% on average and the increase rate reached 18.5%.

5.2.4 Analysis of porosity

According to the calculation results of reservoir porosity evolution (Figure 6), the unconsolidated porosity of the reservoir in the study area is 31.9%. After compaction, the porosity is reduced to 12.1%, with the lowest at 2.5% and the average porosity reduction rate is 62%. After cementation, the remaining porosity of the reservoir decreases to 4.1%, with an average porosity reduction rate of 25.1% (Figure 6). Therefore, it can be concluded that the main loss of reservoir space comes from compaction; cementation has a relatively small degree of damage to the original pores, which is a secondary factor that leads to reservoir densification. Feldspar dissolution plays a positive role in the increase of the porosity of DTSR [47], which increases the porosity by 5.9% and improves the physical properties of the reservoirs.

Figure 6 
                     (a) Burial and thermal modeling of fourth member of Shahejie Formation in study area. (b) Pore evolution of the tight sandstone reservoir of the fourth member of Shahejie Formation.
Figure 6

(a) Burial and thermal modeling of fourth member of Shahejie Formation in study area. (b) Pore evolution of the tight sandstone reservoir of the fourth member of Shahejie Formation.

6 Conclusion

  1. The tight sandstone reservoir of the fourth member was dominated by lithic arkose and feldspar lithic sandstone, which has experienced various types of diagenesis processes such as compaction, cementation, and dissolution. The transition between these actions formed the characteristics of low porosity and low permeability.

  2. The experimental data show that the evolution of the diagenetic stage belongs to the late diagenetic stage. The typical diagenetic sequences are as follows: chlorite film and carbonate cementation developed in early diagenesis, feldspar and cutting dissolution appears in the A1 stage of middle diagenesis, cementation of iron calcite appears in the A2 stage of middle diagenesis, and the cementation in the late diagenetic stage is different from that in the early stage.

  3. Analysis of porosity shows that compaction and cementation are the key reasons for the initial porosity loss of the tight sandstone reservoirs in Shahejie Formation in Bozhong sag, with the porosity reduced rate by 62 and 25.1%, respectively. Dissolution plays a constructive role in the formation of high-quality reservoirs. Hence, the porosity increased by 18.5%.

  4. The dissolution of feldspar and cuttings is the main factor for the increase of secondary porosity in the target interval in the study area. There are two stages (Middle diagenetic stage and late diagenetic stage)of cementation and metasomatism, carbonate and clay minerals in the late diagenetic stage cementation makes the reservoir more densification.

  1. Funding information: This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 51704033).

  2. Author contributions: Juan Zhang contributed to the conception of the manuscript and revised it. Chenchen Wang contributed importantly to the analysis, review, and editing. Yunqian Jia and Qianyu Wu helped perform data curation. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

  3. Conflict of interest: All authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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Received: 2022-03-18
Revised: 2022-11-05
Accepted: 2022-11-22
Published Online: 2023-02-01

© 2023 the author(s), published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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