Image of a schematic cross-section and pressure-elevation plot for a reservoir affected by capillarity and hydrodynamic flow.

Cross-section and pressure-elevation plot for a reservoir affected by capillarity and hydrodynamic flow.

Petroleum hydrogeology services at CSIRO

CSIRO provides services for a variety of exploration and development problems including water resources and management.

  • 16 November 2007 | Updated 14 October 2011


CSIRO has a proven track record of applied research in petroleum hydrodynamics.

Our work in the characterisation of the subsurface pressure systems has direct application in the following areas:

  • exploration
  • development
  • environment.


Projects in exploration include:

  • Hydrocarbon migration: The impelling force on hydrocarbons migrating from source to trap is predominantly controlled by buoyancy drive due to a density contrast between the hydrocarbon and formation water and by hydraulic drive due to moving formation water.

  • Top seal capacity: The hydrocarbon retention capacity of top seals is related to a combination of the permeability contrast between the reservoir and seal and the wetability of the rock framework. 

    The petroleum hydrodynamics group is unravelling the pressure signatures that indicate permeability contrasts, and is forging an understanding of the links between capillary and hydraulic processes (see Integrated Predictive Evaluation of Traps and Seals, IPETS). Since fluid pressure is related to the in-situ stress, hydrodynamics has been incorporated into fracture threshold analysis for top seals.

  • Fault seal capacity: The petroleum hydrogeology group has ongoing research in the calibration of Shale Gauge to expected permeability of the fault zone and the hydrocarbon retention capacity (see IPETS).

    Since fluid pressure is related to the in-situ stress, hydrodynamics has been incorporated into fault reactivation potential determinations.


Development projects include:

  • Reservoir continuity: Petroleum hydrodynamics can help delineate the continuity of a hydrocarbon pool both geographically and vertically. The position and geometry of the Free-Water-Level, Oil-Water-Contact and Gas-Oil-Contact are defined by the pressure distribution.

  • Reservoir compartmentalisation: Characteristic pressure signatures within the hydrocarbon and water phases of a reservoir can indicate where there are breaks in the hydrocarbon saturation and where barriers are likely to form once the Field is produced. 

    Pressure compartmentalisation of a reservoir on production can result in added drilling costs and stranded reserves.


The petroleum hydrodynamics group at CSIRO has a proven track record of applied research.

Projects that are environment related include:

  • CO2 sequestration: The geological storage of CO2 requires a thorough understanding of the hydrodynamic regime. The migration direction of CO2 like oil can be influenced by the flow of formation water in the aquifer.

  • Submarine aquifer discharge: In the coastal areas of Australia, onshore freshwater aquifers often have flow systems where fresh formation water migrates in an offshore direction and eventually encounters a salt-water/fresh-water interface or discharges to the seabed. 

    The petroleum hydrogeology group is examining the extent of submarine aquifer discharge and the possibility of utilising this water prior to it mixing with seawater.

  • Aquifer pressure depletion: Oil and gas production, industrial water withdrawal and agricultural water withdrawal from Australia’s large aquifer systems has in many cases resulted in regional pressure reduction and falling groundwater levels. 

    This can lead to deterioration of both the water resources and the hydrocarbon resources through gas cap expansion and loss of oil or gas from traps. Understanding these processes and implementing better management strategies is advocated to ensure sustainable use of Australia’s resources.

Learn more about CSIRO's work in Energy from Oil & Gas.