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ABSTRACT: Continued Exploration of the Continental Shelf, Gulf of Mexico

James F. Fox, Stephen R. Brand

The offshore Gulf of Mexico area is an extensively explored basin that presents a substantial challenge to the delineation of economically viable petroleum exploration/development programs within today's business climate. To successfully explore this area, it is necessary to identify the geologic scenarios with remaining reserve potential. To assist with this evaluation, the prospects within this basin have been classified into three temporal categories or generations of plays.

Generation 1 plays are quintessential structural traps related to salt tectonics and faulting. The majority of these types of plays have already been drilled in this basin; those remaining are of limited economic return. Generation 2 plays are subtle traps, stratigraphic and strato-structural prospects, and are the present-day plays in this basin. Generation 3 plays are frontier or new plays. These include salt intrusion-related traps and complex deep plays.

To effectively explore for these various prospect types, it is no longer sufficient to solely map structural leads or follow hot spots of activity. Exploration risks associated with generation 2 and 3 plays can be lowered by an infusion of good data "and knowledgeable personnel. Recent advances in seismic technology provide data for areas that previously have been overlooked due to the lack of interpretable data, for example, around the perimeters of salt domes, beneath salt intrusions, pinch-outs associated with unconformities, deep zones on the flanks of a structural feature. These technological advancements have also increased the reliability of geologic interpretations, which has allowed the formulation of new geological concepts, the reevaluation of previously explored generation 1 and 2 plays, and the initial evaluation of unexplored generation 2 and 3 prospect types. A multidiscipline analysis of areas where such data exists suggests that there is significant potential for additional economic hydrocarbon accumulations. To fully exploit this potential, exploration management must be willing to assign appropriate personnel, time, technology, and capital.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91003©1990 AAPG Annual Convention, San Francisco, California, June 3-6, 1990