• petroliferous basins;
  • dynamic force of hydrocarbon accumulation;
  • dynamic fields of hydrocarbon accumulation;
  • hydrocarbon accumulation mechanism;
  • hydrocarbon distribution rule


Hydrocarbon distribution rules in the deep and shallow parts of sedimentary basins are considerably different, particularly in the following four aspects. First, the critical porosity for hydrocarbon migration is much lower in the deep parts of basins: at a depth of 7000 m, hydrocarbons can accumulate only in rocks with porosity less than 5%. However, in the shallow parts of basins (i.e., depths of around 1000 m), hydrocarbon can accumulate in rocks only when porosity is over 20%. Second, hydrocarbon reservoirs tend to exhibit negative pressures after hydrocarbon accumulation at depth, with a pressure coefficient less than 0.7. However, hydrocarbon reservoirs at shallow depths tend to exhibit high pressure after hydrocarbon accumulation. Third, deep reservoirs tend to exhibit characteristics of oil (–gas)–water inversion, indicating that the oil (gas) accumulated under the water. However, the oil (gas) tends to accumulate over water in shallow reservoirs. Fourth, continuous unconventional tight hydrocarbon reservoirs are distributed widely in deep reservoirs, where the buoyancy force is not the primary dynamic force and the caprock is not involved during the process of hydrocarbon accumulation. Conversely, the majority of hydrocarbons in shallow regions accumulate in traps with complex structures. The results of this study indicate that two dynamic boundary conditions are primarily responsible for the above phenomena: a lower limit to the buoyancy force and the lower limit of hydrocarbon accumulation overall, corresponding to about 10%–12% porosity and irreducible water saturation of 100%, respectively. These two dynamic boundary conditions were used to divide sedimentary basins into three different dynamic fields of hydrocarbon accumulation: the free fluid dynamic field, limit fluid dynamic field, and restrain fluid dynamic field. The free fluid dynamic field is located between the surface and the lower limit of the buoyancy force, such that hydrocarbons in this field migrate and accumulate under the influence of, for example, the buoyancy force, pressure, hydrodynamic force, and capillary force. The hydrocarbon reservoirs formed are characterized as “four high,” indicating that they accumulate in high structures, are sealed in high locations, migrate into areas of high porosity, and are stored in reservoirs at high pressure. The basic features of distribution and accumulation in this case include hydrocarbon migration as a result of the buoyancy force and formation of a reservoir by a caprock. The limit fluid dynamic field is located between the lower limit of the buoyancy force and the lower limit of hydrocarbon accumulation overall; the hydrocarbon migrates and accumulates as a result of, for example, the molecular expansion force and the capillary force. The hydrocarbon reservoirs formed are characterized as “four low,” indicating that hydrocarbons accumulate in low structures, migrate into areas of low porosity, and accumulate in reservoirs with low pressure, and that oil(–gas)–water inversion occurs at low locations. Continuous hydrocarbon accumulation over a large area is a basic feature of this field. The restrain fluid dynamic field is located under the bottom of hydrocarbon accumulation, such that the entire pore space is filled with water. Hydrocarbons migrate as a result of the molecular diffusion force only. This field lacks many of the basic conditions required for formation of hydrocarbon reservoirs: there is no effective porosity, movable fluid, or hydrocarbon accumulation, and potential for hydrocarbon exploration is low. Many conventional hydrocarbon resources have been discovered and exploited in the free fluid dynamic field of shallow reservoirs, where exploration potential was previously considered to be low. Continuous unconventional tight hydrocarbon resources have been discovered in the limit fluid dynamic field of deep reservoirs; the exploration potential of this setting is thought to be tremendous, indicating that future exploration should be focused primarily in this direction.