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The Golden Age of "Shale" Exploration and Production

Basinski, Paul M.
Co-Founder & Vice President, Ardent Exploration LLC, Houston, TX

Unconventional "shale" resource plays are experiencing a Golden Age of discovery across North America and this explosive growth is beginning to go global. As in previous Golden Ages, whether ancient history, art, or manufacturing, ground-breaking and seemingly radical concepts in the oil-patch are finding alignment with new technologies to realize unprecedented outcomes – economically recoverable hydrocarbon volumes recently unimaginable. However, as in all Ages, and perhaps analogous to the 1920’s anticline theory, duration will be modest and early movers will be disproportionately rewarded.

As the shale ‘how-to’ book is being written, geoscientists have a unique opportunity to create compelling value by energetically pursuing their intuition, focusing on the ‘right’ questions, taking informed risks, and working creatively and collaboratively. Observations regarding the fundamental empowering principles that can spark the fuse of innovation will be discussed. A brief, early-days vignette of the ConocoPhillips Eagle Ford entry, South Texas, will then provide an example of how a "top-secret" integrated technical Team generated and captured a new liquids-rich play concept while Industry focused on THE Barnett Shale gas model.

As the understanding of "shale" matures in North American, material new resources will be identified and differential value captured from cutting-edge work in such disparate fields as the role of organic matter, characterization of subsurface flow mechanisms, and optimizing well completions using long-term production monitoring. Lastly, as this global "shale" diaspora unfolds, plays less well characterized in the North American "laboratory", including post- and pre-Paleozoic, lacustrine, and non-sedimentary hybrids, represent potential giant prizes.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90155©2012 AAPG International Conference & Exhibition, Singapore, 16-19 September 2012