, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 261-274

Evidence of regional subsidence and associated interior wetland loss induced by hydrocarbon production, Gulf Coast region, USA

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Abstract

Analysis of remote images, elevation surveys, stratigraphic cross-sections, and hydrocarbon production data demonstrates that extensive areas of wetland loss in the northern Gulf Coast region of the United States were associated with large-volume fluid production from mature petroleum fields. Interior wetland losses at many sites in coastal Louisiana and Texas are attributed largely to accelerated land subsidence and fault reactivation induced by decreased reservoir pressures as a result of rapid or prolonged extraction of gas, oil, and associated brines. Evidence that moderately-deep hydrocarbon production has induced land-surface subsidence and reactivated faults that intersect the surface include: (1) close temporal and spatial correlation of fluid production with surficial changes including rapid subsidence of wetland sediments near producing fields, (2) measurable offsets of shallow strata across the zones of wetland loss, (3) large reductions in subsurface pressures where subsidence rates are high, (4) coincidence of orientation and direction of displacement between surface fault traces and faults that bound the reservoirs, and (5) accelerated subsidence rates near producing fields compared to subsidence rates in surrounding areas or compared to geological rates of subsidence. Based on historical trends, subsidence rates in the Gulf Coast region near producing fields most likely will decrease in the future because most petroleum fields are nearly depleted. Alternatively, continued extraction of conventional energy resources as well as potential production of alternative energy resources (geopressured-geothermal fluids) in the Gulf Coast region could increase subsidence and land losses and also contribute to inundation of areas of higher elevation.