--> --> Finding Oil is Fun and Easy: Exploration Using Diverse Data and Legacy Methods

AAPG Southwest Section Annual Convention

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Finding Oil is Fun and Easy: Exploration Using Diverse Data and Legacy Methods


There is an experience gap in our industry, and it’s growing every day. Because of recent retirements as well as the oil and gas downturn of the 1990s and early 2000s, few petroleum geologists between the ages of 40 and 60 can be found in the business. Each year, there are fewer industry “veterans” to pass along exploration methods that led to field discoveries all over the world before the age of the workstation and 3D seismic. Paper logs and hand-drawn maps have given way to digital logs and map-generating applications. Yesterday’s effective prospecting techniques have largely been forgotten as we pursue resource plays and rely increasingly on computer efficiency for map generation and well data analysis. Computers are certainly useful for conventional exploration. Petra, Geographix, and similar applications certainly increase data-gathering efficiency, but their mapping algorithms often overlook all but the largest subsurface anomalies. Computer-generated maps can be unnatural, with an emphasis on data smoothing over authenticity. Machine-contoured geological maps are used to market oil and gas deals and to depict large- scale anomalies, but these maps can sometimes be beautiful, colorful, clear… and wrong. It takes a discerning eye to detect invalid or deceptive data points… incorrect contouring… and unsupported conclusions. Let’s not forget to apply the lessons of the “analog” exploration techniques that worked well when drafting tables and a stack of paper logs were as high-tech as it got. These methods placed explorers into direct contact with their data and, over time, trained less-experienced eyes to filter out “wishful thinking”. It’s interesting to note that many of the anomalies that became conventional fields of the past are too geologically subtle to have been detected using current computer techniques! Full understanding of the contouring process trains the geologist to tease out subtleties and enforces allowance for the effect of faults, regional dip- rate disturbances, and adherence to subsurface trends across a wide region. A conscious integration of well data, formation attributes, and legacy-field analogies will assist the geoscientist not only in anomaly detection but also in developing convincing, multi-factor evidence that his or her prospect should be drilled and tested. Clear understanding of well test results, e-log and mud log analysis, core samples, scout card data, and 2D seismic can help build the case for a new acquisition, a wildcat well, or a value-added conventional program on unconventional acreage. It’s important to integrate the best methods in the business – old and new – to extract all the value inherent in our lease inventories.