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Hydrocarbon Discovery Potential in Colombian Basins: Creaming Curve Analysis


An analysis of historical results on Colombian hydrocarbon exploration activity highlights a pattern with respect to the sequence of reserve discoveries. This pattern is identified by plotting the cumulative reserves of each discovery versus the number of historically drilled wells. This chart illustrates that greater discoveries are made at the beginning of exploratory activity and eventually exploration tends to find smaller reserves. This curve was described by Meisner and Demirmen (1981) as the Creaming Curve and is used as an indicator of the maturity of a petroleum basin. By using numerical methods it is possible to associate the resulting curve with a tangent, which can be projected from historical data to estimate potential undiscovered reserves.

Using public historical data (IHS: 1907–2013) and applying the Creaming Curve method, it is possible to describe hydrocarbon potential in the Colombian productive basins. The results of this analysis facilitate the evaluation of investment alternatives for future exploration focusing the activity into areas that still have remaining potential. Plotting the reserves depicts that great discoveries (>400 MBbls) were achieved after extensive exploration activity. It identifies two periods of significant discoveries, during the 20's with fields like Infantas and the 80's with fields like Caño Limon, Cusiana, Rubiales and Apiay. Each new period generates a new Creaming Curve and a new projection of potential resources.

Through the implementation of the Creaming Curve method, it is found that the potential of remaining reserves for Colombia are more than 1,624 MBbls and 457 wells are required to be drilled to achieve this potential. The most attractive hydrocarbon areas are Llanos and VMM with 74% of the total oil potential reserves. The results evaluated from an economical and a statistical standpoint suggest onshore potential prospective resources to be discovered and materialized in the short and medium term, without discarding the potential of unevaluated basins to be developed offshore and unconventional exploration discoveries.