Temperature Measurements in Boreholes:
An Overview of Engineering and Scientific Applications
Stephen Prensky, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver
[Originally published in 1992, The Log Analyst, v. 33, no. 3, p.313-333.]
Temperature data obtained in boreholes serve as critical input to many fields of engineering, exploration, and research: (1) in well completions, (2) gas and fluid production engineering, (3) in the exploration for hydrocarbons and ore minerals, and (4) for testing hypotheses concerning the evolution of the Earth's crust and tectonic processes. Wireline-conveyed maximum-recording thermometers and continuous-reading thermistors are used to measure absolute temperatures, differential temperatures, and temperature gradients at depth. Temperature logs can detect thermal anomalies produced by temperature contrasts between the borehole fluid and the formation fluid or formation (also cement behind casing). A variety of information can be obtained from the identification and interpretation of these anomalies. High-resolution temperature-gradient logs can be used for detailed lithologic identification and correlation, of similar quality to other electric and nuclear well logs. The intent of this paper is to provide a general introduction to the diverse applications of these data.
Geothermics is the subdiscipline of geophysics that studies terrestrial heat flow (see Kappelmeyer and Haenel, 1974; Buntebarth, G., 1984; Haenel et al., 1988; Jessop, 1990a). Heat flow is the transfer of heat from the earth's interior to the surface and is the principal driver of geological processes. The major source of the interior heat is the decay of radioelements in the earth's crust and upper mantle: up to 70% of continental heat flow may be generated within the upper 10-20 km of the crust; while 96% of the oceanic heat flow is from beneath the oceanic crust which largely devoid of radioactive elements (Kearey and Vine, 1990). The distribution of heat flow is related to the tectonic history of the earth's crust, i.e., the average heat-flow density is inversely proportional to the geologic age of a tectonic unit or of oceanic crust (Sclater et al., 1980; Condie, 1989). Within a given tectonic unit, heat-flow density patterns reflect regional differences in crustal radioactivity, fault distribution, hydrogeology, and hydrothermal activity (Cermak, 1983). Knowledge of the subsurface temperature field is central to understanding the origin and evolution of sedimentary basins, oil and gas generation, deposition of ore bodies, and the occurrence of earthquakes and volcanism (Nielsen, 1986). While geothermics is primarily concerned with heat flow, in a broad sense, it can be considered to include all applications of subsurface (borehole) temperature data.
Heat-flow measurements in boreholes are made by combining sets of temperature and thermal-conductivity data by the formula Q = K(dt/dz), where Q is heat flow, K is thermal conductivity, and t is temperature at depth z.
Thermal conductivity, a basic physical property of rocks and fluids, varies with changes in rock composition. Thermal conductivity is inversely proportional to thermal gradient (see above formula). A temperature (gradient) log in a well in thermal equilibrium shows the actual variation of geothermal gradient (i.e. thermal conductivity) with lithology (Figure 1) (Hill, 1990). Reliable values of thermal conductivity are essential to models of basin evolution and thermal maturation. "If the mean conductivity cannot be accurately predicted, even the most sophisticated and appropriate modeling techniques...are not sufficient for accurate temperature predictions" (Blackwell and Steele, 1989).
Thermal conductivity is normally measured in the laboratory on core, crushed samples, or well cuttings using one of two techniques: divided bar or needle probe (Blackwell and Spafford, 1987; Beck, 1988; Jessop, 1990a; Somerton, 1992). There is great interest in in-situ determination of thermal conductivity, either by direct or indirect methods. In particular, the ability to accurately determine thermal conductivity from well logs is highly desirable because of the large number of exploration wells that have been drilled and the wide availability of well-log data from these wells (Anand et al., 1973; Goss et al., 1975; Hagedorn, 1985; Vacquier et al., 1988; Dove and Williams, 1989; Brigaud et al., 1989; Brigaud et al., 1990; Demongodin et al., 1991; Seto and Bharatha, 1991; Brigaud et al., 1992). Other approaches include inversion techniques (Ponzini et al., 1989), borehole relaxation (Wilhelm, 1990), non-linear fitting (Da-Xin, 1986), temperature-buildup curves (Xu and Desbrandes, 1991), thermal pulse (Silliman and Neuzil, 1990), and variation in circulation flow rate (Pascal et al., 1989), estimation from thermal gradients (Hoang, 1980; Somerton, 1992).
BOREHOLE TEMPERATURE MEASUREMENT AND DATA REDUCTION
Jessop (1990a) presents a history of the measurement of underground temperatures. Briefly, the earliest measurements of underground temperatures were made during the 1700s, soon after thermometers were developed, in mine shafts, tunnels, and water wells. Some of the earliest systematic measurements in boreholes were conducted between 1868 and 1883 under the auspices of a committee of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (see Jessop, 1990a). One purpose of these studies was to examine and compile data on regional geothermal gradients. A primary impetus was "the necessity of reducing working temperatures in mines and tunnels to within safe and comfortable limits..." (Strong, 1933). Initially, these measurements were individual readings from maximum-reading thermometers, taken at depths up to several hundred feet.
The development of the petroleum industry during the second half of the nineteenth century made deep boreholes available for subsurface temperature measurement and the parallel development of electrical-resistance thermometers greatly improved the accuracy and precision of the measurements. It was at this time that temperature measurement and geothermics "...assumed general economic value and wide scientific interest" (see API, 1930; Strong, 1933). In two of the early systematic studies of borehole temperatures in deep wells, Johnson and Adams (1916) and Van Orstrand (1918) used both hand-operated maximum-reading mercury thermometers and electrical-resistance equipment. Van Orstrand (1918) discussed temperature anomalies associated with fluid entry (gas, oil, and water) into the borehole. Schlumberger first introduced the temperature survey, using continous-recording logging tools, in the late 1930s. This survey had immediate applications in design and repair of well completions and in production engineering (Guyod, 1936; Leonardon, 1936; Deussen and Guyod, 1937; Schlumberger et al., 1937). the wide-spread use of temperature logging was boosted with publication of Guyod's (1946) series of articles discussing theory and the various (then) current and potential uses, in a petroleum-industry trade journal.
Current Methods of Measurement
The majority of borehole temperature measurements are obtained as maximum-reading values acquired during logging runs or as continuous-recorded temperature surveys in wells drilled for commercial purposes (exploration and production of hydrocarbons, minerals, and geothermal energy) and water wells. Due to the conditions under which these data are obtained and the purposes for which they are used, the accuracy of these data are much lower than those obtained for measurement of heat flow. Time constraints imposed by the commercial nature of these wells means that wells may be logged during, or soon after circulation of drilling fluids, during production flow of gas and fluids, and at high logging speeds. The effective accuracy of commercial temperature logs is ±0.5ºC (Blackwell and Spafford, 1987). These data, obtained under dynamic conditions, must then be extrapolated to static conditions. Jorden and Campbell (1984), Plisga (1987), and Hill (1990) summarize the acquisition and uses of temperature surveys and temperature logging in the petroleum industry and Hallenburg (1984) and Jessop and Judge (1975), in mineral exploration.
Blackwell and Spafford (1987), Haenel et al. (1988), and Jessop (1990a) provide excellent reviews of the scientific measurement of heat flow, both the technology and the methodology. While various types of wireline techniques (electrical and nonelectrical) have been used to measure borehole temperatures, in general, the most accurate temperature and heat-flow data are obtained with high-resolution thermistors lowered into small-diameter, thermally stable boreholes at logging speeds of 30-50 ft/min (10-15 m/min) (Blackwell and Spafford, 1987; Beck and Balling, 1988; Blackwell and Steele, 1989). These data are generally recorded as continuous temperature or temperature gradient logs. Although the resolution of "research" equipment may range between 0.0001ºC and 0.001ºC, typical accuracy ranges from ± 0.02ºC to ±0.05ºC (Blackwell and Spafford, 1987). The "thermal recovery" time for a borehole (Figure 2) may range from a few days for a shallow (100-150 m) air-drilled hole to several months for deep mud-drilled oilwells (Blackwell and Spafford, 1987).
Data Reduction - Correction to Static Conditions
There have been many methods and algorithms proposed to extrapolate bottomhole temperature (BHT) values measured during drilling (during thermal disturbance), or soon after circulation has ceased (during thermal relaxation), to obtain static ("true") borehole or formation temperature. Cao et al. (1988a) divided these methods into two general classes, (1) those that concentrate on the bottom of the borehole where the BHT value is measured, and (2) those that simulate of the evolution of the temperature of the complete mud column. Because the determination of "static" bottomhole temperature is important to all applications of borehole-temperature data, a more in-depth discussion is provided along with a complete listing of relevant citations.
The original (and also the simplest) method to determine formation temperature and temperature gradients, is the two-point, or multiple-point average temperature gradient. A linear relationship is assumed between the ambient surface temperature and BHT temperatures at other depths are determined by interpolation (Schlumberger et al., 1937). Summers (1972) and Speece et al. (1985) used regression techniques to calculate geothermal gradients for large data sets.
Most techniques (using algorithms or time-temperature curves) treat temperature as a transient function, i.e., they involve progressive measurements of temperature with time after cessation of circulation, to extrapolate the temperature at static conditions (Bullard, 1947; Cooper and Jones, 1959; Lachenbruch and Brewer, 1959; Jaeger, 1961; Cheremenski, 1960; Edwardson et al., 1962; Schoeppel and Gilarranz, 1966; Kehle et al., 1971; Parasnis, 1971; Oxburgh et al., 1972; Manetti, G., 1973; Middleton, 1979, 1982). The most commonly used method is the time-sequential, Horner-type extrapolation of bottomhole temperature (BHT) data (Timko and Fertl, 1972; Dowdle and Cobb, 1974; Fertl and Wichmann, 1977; Tanaka and Sato, 1977; Leblanc et al., 1982; Drury, 1984; Sasaki, 1985, 1987; Fertl, et al., 1986; Kritikos and Kutasov, 1988; Hasan and Kabir, 1992).
Other approaches include: the transient method of borehole relaxation (Oxburgh et al., 1972; Luheshi, 1983); transient methods using graphical type-curves (Barelli and Palama, 1981; Lee 1982; Dixon, 1986); least-squares inversion (Vasseur et al., 1985); empirical relationships between BHT and temperatures obtained during shut-in (and buildup) testing (Joyner, 1975; Oxburgh and Andrew-Speed, 1981; Sekiguchi, 1984; Ben Dhia, 1987; 1988; see "Geothermal Energy"); and mathematical inversion methods (see "Recent Developments"). Ribeiro (1987) uses an approach for correcting temperature data in water wells (bottom well temperatures, BWT) similar to that of using BHT data in petroleum wells.
Determining the bottomhole temperature during circulation, or the temperature at points along the borehole during production flow, are needed for designing well completions, interpretation of production logs, and in production engineering. A number of methods have been proposed for estimating downhole temperatures during circulation (bottomhole circulating temperature, BHCT) and production (e.g., Boldizar, 1958; Lesem, 1958; Moss, 1959; Edwardson et al., 1962; Ramey, 1962; Tragesser et al., 1967; Keller and Crouch, 1968, Raymond, 1969; Holmes and Swift, 1970; Keller et al., 1973; Sump and Williams, 1973; Chernayak, 1979; Shiu and Begs, 1980; Wooley, 1980, for a summary of pre-1980 developments Middleton, 1982; Beck and Shen, 1985; Thompson and Burgess, 1985; Jones, 1986; Ribeiro and Hamza, 1986; Shen and Beck, 1986; see "Recent Developments").
The widespread availability of powerful computers and the routine use of digital databases makes it possible to generate fieldwide and regional studies using BHT data. Many early studies of this type used uncorrected BHT values (e.g., Schoeppel and Gilarranz, 1966; Harper, 1971; Summers, 1972; Grisafi et al, 1974; Carvalho and Vacquier, 1977; Staub and Treat, 1981; Reiter and Tovar, 1982; Eggleston and Reiter, 1984; Alam and Pilger, 1986). Some early studies, and most of the more recent ones apply some type of correction to the BHT values to account for thermal disturbances (drilling-fluid circulation) (e.g. Evans and Coleman, 1974; Evans, 1977; Carstens and Finstad, 1981; Chapman et al., 1984; Vacquier, 1984; Reiter et al., 1986; Deming and Chapman, 1987; 1988b; Willett and Chapman, 1987; Ben Dhia, 1988, 1991; Kumar, 1989; Jones, et al., 1989; Lucazeau and Ben Dhia, 1989; Correia et al., 1990).
In addition to correcting measured temperature data to equilibrium conditions, it is common in heat-flow studies, where very small variations (0.01ºC) are considered significant and accuracy is critical, to further reduce (correct) these data for a number of geological factors: climate, topography, uplift and erosion (see discussion in Jessop, 1990a).
The applications of borehole-temperature data can be grouped into two broad categories, engineering uses and scientific uses. There is a certain amount of overlap between these groups, particularly in the area of hydrocarbon and minerals exploration.
Correction of Resistivity Logs. Electrical resistivity is a function of temperature and salinity. Well-log interpretation requires that measurements of resistivity at surface conditions (e.g., mud characteristics Rm, Rmf, Rmc) as well as in the borehole (Rw, Rt), be corrected to formation temperature at the depth of interest (this requires calculation of a geothermal gradient) (see charts Gen 6-9, Schlumberger, 1989).
Reservoir Engineering. Temperature is required for calculations of hydrocarbon recovery factors, including pressure-volume-temperature relationships, and gas-oil ratios.
Well Completion and Production Logging. (Including the production of hydrocarbons and geothermal energy, and in the study of groundwater and aquifer potential.)
Casing cements - Setting cement is an exothermic reaction that produces an obvious temperature anomaly (Figure 3). Temperature data are used in designing cement slurries, for locating the top of casing cement, and for detecting channels in the cement (Venditto and George, 1984; Bergren and Bradley, 1988; Jutten and Morriss, 1990; Tilghman et al., 1990; Pilkington, 1992).
Completion design. Temperature data are required for assessing drilling-mud composition; the stability of tubulars (drillpipe, casing, tubing) to avoid buckling due to thermal stress; design of packers, wellhead, and production equipment; deposition of waxes in tubing; design of drill bits (Wooley, 1980).
Fluid flow. Liquids entering the wellbore have warmer temperatures than the borehole fluids while those entering the formation will have cooler temperatures (Figure 4). Gas entering the wellbore cools by expansion while gas injected into the formation heats by compression (Joule-Thompson effect) (Figure 5). Temperature anomalies are used for identifying the depth of fluid and gas entry or exit, detection of casing leaks and intervals of lost circulation, locating underground blowouts and sources of gas kicks, and for volumetric determinations of this flow for purposes of production and injection (Plisga, 1987; McKinley, 1989; Hill, 1990).
Evaluation of fractures. Zones of natural fractures can be identified and induced fractures can be evaluated (both pre- and post-fracture treatments) using temperature anomalies produced by the contrast in temperature between injected fluid and formation fluids (Figure 6) (Anderson, 1989; Hill, 1990). Acid treatments are also used to stimulate fluid production; the reactions of the acid with the formation rock produces an exothermic reaction which in generates thermal anomalies. Evaluation of acid treatments is made by examination of these anomalies.
Fluid injection. Temperature anomalies of the type mentioned above, are used to identify permeable (fractured) zones for injection of water and steam and in the monitoring flood sweep efficiency (Wood and Dunham, 1986; Fialka et al., 1990).
Waste disposal - Anomalies present on temperature surveys can be used to trace injection progress during fluid-waste disposal and for assessing mechanical integrity of wells (Jarrell and Lyle, 1987; see also "Hydrology", below).
Stratigraphic Correlation. As mentioned earlier, changes in thermal conductivity (thermal gradient) may correspond to lithologic variations and an accurate temperature-gradient log (T-log) may be used for stratigraphic correlation in some areas (Figure 7) (Deussen and Guyod, 1937; Judge and Beck, 1973; Beck, 1976; Conaway and Beck, 1977; Reiter et al., 1980). Below the water table, precision temperature logs can often provide more detailed and accurate lithologic information than natural gamma-ray logs in sandstones and limestones that contain significant amounts of shale since temperature logs are not affected by the presence of radioactive (K-U-Th) minerals (Blackwell and Spafford, 1987). In general, thermal resistivity has a negative correlation with electrical resistivity (Figure 7), except for coal units. The T-log is useful for identifying coals, especially when other high-resistivity formations are present (Beck, 1976; Kayal, 1981; Kayal and Christoffel, 1982).
Basin Analysis and Modeling.
Basin hydrodynamics. Thermally driven groundwater circulation (together with thermal conductivity) exerts the major influence on the temperatures within a sedimentary basin during its evolution (Blackwell et al., 1983; Smith and Chapman, 1983; Chapman, 1987; Bethke et al., 1988; Blackwell and Steele, 1989; Jessop, 1989; Majorowicz, 1989; Chapman et al., 1991). Modeling has demonstrated the existence of thermally driven fluid circulation in many basins (recent examples include Bachu, 1985; Hitchon et al., 1986; Jones and Majorowicz, 1987; Kukkonen, 1988; Beck et al., 1989; Vugrinovich, 1989; Willett and Chapman, 1989; Ben Dhia, 1991). Basin hydrodynamics are intimately related to migration and deposition of hydrocarbon deposits (Hitchon, 1984; Hermanrud, 1986; Roberts, 1986; Toth, 1988; Davis, 1991), ore minerals (Roberts, 1986; Hitchon et al., 1987; Sharp and Kyle, 1988; Bethke and Marshak, 1990), and geothermal-energy potential (see "Geothermal Energy").
Modeling thermal maturation of organic matter. Increases in temperature and pressure with burial are the determining factors in the maturation of organic matter (kerogen) and the subsequent generation of hydrocarbons (Tissot et al., 1971; Lopatin, 1971; Waples, 1984; Tissot et al., 1987; Wood, 1988; Barker, 1989b). Lerche (1990a, 1990b) discusses the different methods used to assess thermal history and thermal maturity. Determination of thermal maturity and the paleoheat flux of basins can provide important insights into the timing of petroleum generation, migration, accumulation, and preservation (Nuccio and Barker, 1990). Consequently, an understanding of the history of a basin, especially the thermal history (paleogeothermics) results in an improved model for use in exploration for oil and natural gas (Burrus, 1986; Stegna, 1988; Barker, 1989a; McCullough and Naeser, 1989; Deming et al., 1989).
Detection of Zones of Overpressuring. Sharp breaks in the thermal gradient occur at the top of overpressured reservoirs. The increased water content contained in overpressured shales (due to undercompaction and/or clay diagenesis) results in this increase in geothermal gradient. The resulting "dog-leg" in the geothermal gradient may serve as a predictor of overpressuring (Lewis and Rose, 1970; George, 1970; Jones, 1975; Pilkington, 1988). A similar "dog-leg" in paleotemperature (vitrinite reflectance) profiles may reflect paleopore pressure (Law, et al., 1989). Fertl and Leach (1990) conclude that in Gulf Coast Tertiary rocks, the highest concentrations of hydrocarbons are found near the top of overpressuring. Temperature logs may thus serve as an exploration tool.
Exploration for Energy Minerals
Petroleum and coal. Early efforts to apply borehole temperature and temperature logs to hydrocarbon exploration centered on the potential for using thermal anomalies for identifying petroleum deposits and structural traps (e.g., Anonymous, 1930; Carlson, 1930; DeGolyer, 1918; Thom, 1925; Van Orstrand, 1926, 1941; Heald, 1930) and for distinguishing hydrocarbon-bearing intervals from water zones (Guyod, 1946). Although there is a difference in thermal conductivity of oil compared to other fluids and rock, these efforts were largely unsuccessful because the overall thermal conductivity of reservoir rocks was little affected by the slight differences in thermal properties of hydrocarbons and water (Hill, 1990).
More recently, improved understanding of the strong dependence of thermal maturation/petroleum generation on temperature has led to renewed interest in using thermal data in the exploration for hydrocarbons, in particular, the recognition that thermal gradients can be used to identify prospective areas for oil and gas exploration. Temperature and heat-flow data can identify lateral and vertical thermal anomalies which may be associated with zones of enhanced maturation and oil accumulations (Gretener, 1981; Roberts, 1981; Ball, 1982; Hitchon, 1984; McConnell, 1985; Myer and McGee, 1985; Blackwell, 1986; Jones et al., 1986; Majorowicz et al., 1988; McGee et al., 1989; Anderson and Williams, 1990; Swift et al., 1990).
Hydrodynamic analysis can be used to test geological structures to see if they can serve as hydrocarbon traps (Davis, 1991). A local source of heat that results in an enhanced heat flow, e.g., volcanic rocks or magmatic intrusion (Summer and Verosub, 1989), or resulting from a sharp contrast in thermal conductivity, e.g., salt domes (Selig and Wallick, 1966; O'Brien and Lerche, 1984, 1988), can provide an enhanced environment for hydrocarbon maturation. Kayal (1981), Kayal and Christoffel (1982), and Mwenifumbo (1989) have discussed the use of temperatures logs in the exploration for coal seams and for evaluation of coal quality.
Permafrost and gas hydrates. To protect exploration, production, and engineering projects against problems of ground instability that are related to thawing and refreezing of permafrost, it is necessary to know the thickness of and temperature distribution within permafrost (Lachenbruch et al., 1982; Collett et al., 1989). This information is also needed for correction of seismic velocities, developing regional groundwater models; and the identification and evaluation of gas hydrates (Hnatiuk and Randall, 1977; Collett and Bird, 1988). Temperature logs run in time-lapse sequence (as the borehole fluid approaches thermal stabilization), provide the best estimate of permafrost thickness, i.e., depth to 0°C (permafrost base) (Hnatiuk and Randall, 1977; Taylor and Judge, 1981). Scott et al. (1985) review the use of wireline logs for identifying and interpreting permafrost. The presence of frozen methane raises the melting point and extends the influence of frozen ground downward (Jessop, 1990a). Jones et al. (1989) and Majorowicz et al. (1990) discuss the applications of statistical BHT studies for studying permafrost and subpermafrost heat flow.
Gas hydrates (more precisely called clathrates) are a solid form of methane trapped in a crystalline framework of ice. Gas hydrates represent a significant potential hydrocarbon resource, in fact estimates of hydrate reserves are twice as great as the combined fossil energy resource (Trofimuk et al., 1984; Collett and Kvenvolden, 1989; Sloan, 1990, 1991; Appenzeller, 1991; Collett, 1992). The specific conditions of temperature and pressure under which hydrates form are common in (1) northern latitudes and Arctic areas beneath zones of permafrost, and (2) just below the ocean floor along continental margins (Kvenvolden and Cooper, 1987; Kvenvolden and Grantz, 1990; Sloan, 1990). In addition to thermal conductivity, contrasts in other physical properties between ice (permafrost) and hydrates permits identification by other types of well logs (Collett et al., 1988; 1989).
Exploration for Ore Minerals. Hydrodynamic circulation of thermal fluids is the primary factor in the genesis and deposition of many stratabound, vein, and skarn-type ore- (metallic) minerals (Roberts, 1986; Garven, 1986; Sverjansky, 1987; Sharp and Kyle, 1988; Bethke and Marshak, 1990). There has been increasing interest in incorporating hydrodynamics into a total basin-analysis approach to gain a better understanding of the genesis and distribution of ore-mineral deposits (Force et al., 1991; Klein, 1991). Temperature data are used for detecting thermal anomalies that may be related to ore bodies by the following mechanisms: heat refraction resulting from the contrast in thermal conductivities between ore and surrounding rock (e.g. sphalerite deposits); local contrasts in heat generation resulting from radioactive elements in the ore or ore zone; local contrasts in heat generation resulting from the oxidation of sulphides; recent intrusion of volcanics with which the ore is associated; movement of water along ore-associated fracture zones (Guyod, 1946; Jessop and Judge, 1975; Houseman et al., 1989; Mwenifumbo, 1991).
Groundwater. As mentioned previously, temperature logs are used to detect and measure fluid flow. Most published work in this field is related to detection of regional aquifer flow (discussed above under "Basin Hydrodynamics"); intra-well flow (see "Production Logging"); the detection of fracture zones; and planning for, or detection of the injection of fluid wastes (Drury et al., 1984; Williams et al., 1984; Jessop, 1987; Berner, 1987; Conaway, 1988; Drury, 1989; Jessop, 1990; Keys, 1990).
Geothermal energy. Work in this field is centered around exploration and reservoir assessment. In addition, the high-temperature conditions have required development of special logging tools and cables (Lysne et al., 1990). Exploration for geothermal reservoirs involves identification of thermal anomalies (Wright et al., 1985; Mongelli and Haenel, 1988; Rybach, 1989; Gosnold, 1991). A recent trend has been to employ BHT data from oilwells in reconnaissance surveys (Jones et al., 1985; Lam and Jones, 1986).
The most important measurements for geothermal reservoir assessment are formation temperature and thermal conductivity as well as identification of fractures (Murphy and Lawton, 1977; Fertl, and Overton, 1982; Drury, 1989). These values can be used for estimating thermal gradient, heat content, and production capacity (Mathews, 1982). Estimates of static formation temperature are made using borehole temperature buildup data (Roux et al., 1980; Brennand, 1984; Hermanrud et al., 1991), Horner plots (after Dowdle and Cobb, 1975), or relatively new nuclear logging techniques (Ross et al., 1982).
Mining and Civil Engineering. Included under this heading are construction in permafrost regions (discussed above), storage of heat-producing wastes, and design of technical installations in mines (Delisle, 1988). Thermal anomalies resulting from fluid flow have been used to detect leaks in pipelines and in dams (Kappelmeyer and Haenel, 1974).
Paleoclimatology. Temperature changes at the earth's surface propagate downwards to depths that depend on the magnitude and duration of the temperature disturbance at the surface. Temperature disturbances (anomalies and inversions) may serve as indicators both of past climates and the amount of surface temperature change (Lane, 1923; Strong, 1933; Birch, 1948; Crain, 1968; Cermak, 1971, 1976, 1977; Beck, 1982; Shen and Beck, 1983; Lachenbruch and Marshall, 1986; Harrison, 1991). Seasonal changes may affect only the upper 20 m, climate changes since the end of the Pleistocene may affect the upper 500 m, and the glacial effect from the Pleistocene may affect the upper 1000-2000 m (Jessop, 1990a).
As mentioned earlier, temperature data, especially in shallow boreholes, must be corrected for these disturbances in order to obtain accurate measurements of heat flow (Beck, 1977; Vasseur and Lucazeau, 1983; Clauser, 1984). The rapid warming in the years 1880-1940 produced a temperature inversion in thermal gradient at depths of 50-100 m in many parts of North America and Australia (Jessop, 1990a).
Study of the Earth's Evolution. While it is generally accepted that plate motions are due to mantle convection (Condie, 1989; Kearey and Vine, 1990), the occurrence of mantle upwelling unrelated to plate boundaries (mantle plumes and "hot spots") has led to an ongoing debate on whether the plates "drive" themselves by subsidence and subduction or are passively transported by mantle convection. Thermal data (temperature and conductivity) provide a means for calibrating empirical and theoretical geological and geophysical models of the crust (Williams and Anderson, 1990). Such models are used in the examination of plate tectonics, crustal studies, magma emplacement, and structural geology. As discussed above, regional thermal studies may have direct application in that they may serve to identify the location of mining belts (Sawkins, 1990) and areas of thermal maturity and hydrocarbon potential.
The following references represent a brief selection of recent papers that provide an introduction to thermal applications in crustal studies: Sclater et al., 1980; Chapman and Rybach, 1985; Uyeda, 1988; Pollack and Sass, 1988; Bristow, 1989; Morgan and Gosnold, 1989; De Rito et al., 1989; Gallagher, 1990; Jessop, 1990a; Blackwell, et al., 1991. The number of individual papers is far too numerous to cite, however, frequent sources of such papers are the journals Geophysics, Geothermics, Journal of Geodynamics, Journal of Geophysical Research, and Tectonophysics. These journals frequently publish the proceedings of symposia on heat flow (e.g., Jessop, 1977; Beck, 1985; Rybach, 1985; Uyeda et al., 1989; Cermak et al., 1989; Cermak and Sass, 1991).
In addition to regional and basin studies, boreholes drilled for scientific research are serving as foci for thermal studies designed to further our understanding of basic processes contributing to crustal evolution (Williams and Anderson, 1990). Recent projects of significance include the Cajon Pass well (Lachenbruch, and Sass, 1988, 1992; Williams et al., 1988; Sass et al., 1992), Salton Sea drilling project (Sass et al., 1988; Newmark, et al., 1988), KTB program (Burkhardt et al., 1989), Toa Baja (Anderson and Larue, 1991), and DSDP/ODP boreholes (most sites involve measurements of heat flow, e.g., Hyndman et al., 1984; Gable et al., 1989; Nobes et al., 1991; Shipboard Scientific Party, 1992).
RECENT ADVANCES IN BOREHOLE GEOTHERMICS
Static Formation Temperature
Beck and Balling (1988) discuss and compare the methods current to 1988. Most of the methods cited above in the section on "Data Reduction," use "forward" modeling, i.e., temperature values are obtained by the forward (in time) calculation of given parameter values and the subsequent adjustment of these parameters to fit the observed data (Cao et al., 1988a). The most recent trend involves the application of mathematical inversion techniques (generally based on finite-element models) to determine static ("true") formation temperature. Inversion techniques work backwards from the observed data to infer values of the input parameters (Cao et al., 1988a, 1988b; Deming and Chapman, 1988a, 1988b; Deming, 1989; Hermanrud and Shen, 1989, Hermanrud et al., 1990; Lerche, 1990b, Nielsen et al., 1990; McPherson and Chapman, 1991). Both Hermanrud et al. (1990) and Nielsen et al. (1990) conclude that in comparison with other techniques, their inversion methods yield temperatures that are (1) higher than those obtained by the Horner-type extrapolation, and (2) that are more consistent with temperatures obtained during DST and production tests.
Borehole Temperatures for Well Completions and in Flowing Wells
New methods and algorithms have been developed for improved determination of BHCT, temperatures during flow, and formation temperatures from shut-in temperature buildup. BHCT is crucial to various cementing practices during well completion, e.g., design of cement slurries (Kutasov et al., 1988; Tilghman et al., 1990; Kabinoff et al., 1992). Information on wellbore heat loss and dynamic temperature profiles (taken during fluid flow or injection) is important to production engineering. A number of papers in the recent literature have proposed new methods to obtain these data (e.g., flow-rate pulses, Pascal et al., 1989), refinements to existing methods (e.g., shut-in temperature buildup, Carslon and Barnette, 1988; drillstem tests, Hermanrud et al., 1991), or new mathematical models for determining wellbore heat loss and fluid temperatures (Kutasov, 1989; Sagar et al., 1989; Seyer and Landen, 1990; Hasan and Kabir, 1991a, 1991b).
Application of Computer BHT Databases
Large digital databases of BHT data, originally compiled under the sponsorship of AAPG (Kehle et al., 1971), permit analysis of data from thousands of wells for the evaluation of the thermal regimes of sedimentary basins. The statistics of using large databases helps to reduce the inaccuracies that are inherent in individual BHT values (see review by Bachu et al., 1987). This effort was led by a Canadian group investigating the hydrodynamics and energy potential of the western Canada basin (Majorowicz and Jessop, 1981; Lam and Jones, 1982; Lam and Jones; 1984a, 1984b; Majorowicz et al., 1984; Jones et al., 1985; Lam et al., 1985; Majorowicz et al., 1985; Lam and Jones, 1986; Majorowicz et al., 1986). Similar techniques have been applied by others in other regions (Speece et al., 1985; Bodner and Sharp, 1987; Hitchon et al., 1987; Majorowicz et al., 1988; Pfeiffer and Sharp, 1989; Jones, 1991).
In-situ Measurement of Thermal Conductivity (see above, "Thermal Conductivity")
There has been renewed interest in the use of subsurface temperature data to infer climate changes, e.g., the American Geophysical Union devoted full technical sessions to this topic at its 1989 and 1990 fall meetings (Jessop, 1990b; Pollack and Clow, 1990). Recent papers use both linear regression (Gosnold and Bauer, 1991) and inversion techniques (Mongelli and Zito, 1988; Hall and Thomas-Betts, 1989; Nielsen and Beck, 1989) for extracting information on paleoclimate from temperature logs (see above, "Paleoclimatology").
Changes in Sea Level
Anomalies in shallow temperature gradients are used to identify changes in shoreline position, i.e., uplift/sea-level change, in Arctic regions (Taylor, 1991).
Temperatures obtained in boreholes, either as single values from maximum-reading instruments or as continuous temperature surveys or logs, are essential to many areas of engineering and scientific research. These include: commercial applications e.g., exploration for, and production of, energy and ore minerals; research on tectonic processes associated with evolution of basins and crustal studies; and studies on climate change. The identification and interpretation of temperature anomalies in the thermal gradient is used to identify (1) fluid flow (in, or around, a borehole and also on a basin scale), (2) exothermic reactions (setting cement, mineral oxidation), (3) zones of enhanced thermal maturation of organic material and potential accumulations of hydrocarbons or coal, (4) changes in surface temperature with time. Measurement of crustal heat flow is used to map regional and worldwide variations that are in turn used for developing models of crustal evolution.
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About the Author
Stephen Prensky is a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Petroleum Geology, Denver, Colorado. He has been with the USGS since 1975, working as well-log specialist in reservoir characterization. Previous experience includes exploration and production geology with Texaco's Offshore Division. He holds a B.A. and M.S. in geology from SUNY Binghamton, and the University of Southern California. Stephen has been a member of SPWLA since 1978, and is currently serving on the Board of Directors as Vice-President of Publications. His "Bibliography of Well-Log Applications," has been published annually in The Log Analyst since 1987. Stephen is also a member of AAPG, MGLS, SCA, and SPE.
1. Precision temperature-gradient log (T-log) showing the correlation with lithology (from Conaway and Beck, 1977. Copyright by SEG, reprinted by permission).
2. Schematic of borehole temperature profile showing changes with time after cessation of circulation as the borehole approaches thermal equilibrium (borehole relaxation phase) (from Jorden and Campbell, 1984. Copyright by SPE, reprinted by permission).
3. Effect of cement behind casing on temperature gradient and location of the top of cement (Plisga, 1997. Copyright by SPE, reprinted by permission).
4. Temperature behavior in injection and production wells (from Hill, 1990. Copyright by SPE, reprinted by permission).
5. Thermal (cool) anomaly on temperature log caused by gas entry into a wellbore (Hill, 1990, modified from McKinley, 1982. Copyright by SPE, reprinted by permission).
6. Height of induced fractures indicated by thermal (cool) anomaly on temperature log (Hill, 1990; modified from Agnew, 1966. Copyright by SPE, reprinted by permission).
7. Correlation and comparison of T-logs to other geophysical logs (from Reiter et al., 1980. Copyright by SEG, reprinted by permission).