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Stratigraphic and structural controls on groundwater salinity variations in the Poso Creek Oil Field, Kern County, California, USA

September 18, 2021

Groundwater total dissolved solids (TDS) distribution was mapped with a three-dimensional (3D) model, and it was found that TDS variability is largely controlled by stratigraphy and geologic structure. General TDS patterns in the San Joaquin Valley of California (USA) are attributed to predominantly connate water composition and large-scale recharge from the adjacent Sierra Nevada. However, in smaller areas, stratigraphy and faulting play an important role in controlling TDS. Here, the relationship of stratigraphy and structure to TDS concentration was examined at Poso Creek Oil Field, Kern County, California. The TDS model was constructed using produced water TDS samples and borehole geophysics. The model was used to predict TDS concentration at discrete locations in 3D space and used a Gaussian process to interpolate TDS over a volume. In the overlying aquifer, TDS is typically <1,000 mg/L and increases with depth to ~1,200–3,500 mg/L in the hydrocarbon zone below the Macoma claystone—a regionally extensive, fine-grained unit—and reaches ~7,000 mg/L in isolated places. The Macoma claystone creates a vertical TDS gradient in the west where it is thickest, but control decreases to the east where it pinches out and allows freshwater recharge. Previously mapped normal faults were found to exhibit inconsistent control on TDS. In one case, high-density faulting appears to prevent recharge from flushing higher-TDS connate water. Elsewhere, the high-throw segments of a normal fault exhibit variable behavior, in places blocking lower-TDS recharge and in other cases allowing flushing. Importantly, faults apparently have differential control on oil and groundwater.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Stratigraphic and structural controls on groundwater salinity variations in the Poso Creek Oil Field, Kern County, California, USA
DOI 10.1007/s10040-021-02381-5
Authors Michael J. Stephens, David H. Shimabukuro, Will Chang, Janice Gillespie, Zack Levinson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Hydrogeology Journal
Series Number
Index ID 70225531
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center