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Evaluating Coalbed Methane Plays in Frontier Areas — From Example from Southern Africa

Hildebrand, Ricky T.1; Bishop, Michele G.1; Cronshaw, Mark 1
1 Gustavson Associates, Boulder, CO.

Increasing global energy demands make the exploration for coalbed methane (CBM) plays in frontier areas attractive. CBM can be used as a feedstock to generate power and manufacture alternative products such as diesel (gas-to-liquids), liquid natural gas, and fertilizer. Challenges to economic development of CBM resources in remote areas of the world include undeveloped markets, distance to markets, and lack of infrastructure.

The four stages in the evaluation of a CBM project follow:

1. Formulate a strategic plan to define the objectives and duration of the project.

2. Conduct a feasibility study to analyze the economic and market potential of the project and determine appropriate production methods.

3. Initiate an exploratory drilling program to identify contingent resources and “sweet spots” for pilot wells.

4. Prepare a reserve estimate report based on production from the pilot wells to obtain financing for project development.

The relatively unexplored Kalahari Basin in southern Africa has all of the prerequisites for a giant CBM play. Permo-Triassic (Gondwana) coal-bearing strata of the Karoo Supergroup underlie 60 percent of Botswana. Coal and organic-rich shale intervals are as much as 100 meters thick at depths between 300-1,000 meters. Impermeable massive calcareous mudstone seals overlie the coal-bearing rocks throughout the basin. Estimated gas-in-place in the central part of the basin is as much as 196 TCF. These conditions suggest that the area has enormous economic potential.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90090©2009 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, Denver, Colorado, June 7-10, 2009