--> A Modified Approach to Coalbed Methane Exploration – What Have We Learned in the Past 20 Years?, by Charles Morris Boyer and Stephen W. Lambert, #40216 (2006).

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A Modified Approach to Coalbed Methane Exploration –

What Have We Learned in the Past 20 Years?*


Charles Morris Boyer1 and Stephen W. Lambert1


Search and Discovery Article #40216 (2006)

Posted October 16, 2006


*Oral presentation at AAPG Annual Convention, Houston, Texas, April 9-12, 2006


Click to view presentation in PDF format (~0.9 mb).


1Schlumberger, Pittsburgh, PA ([email protected])



Historically, coalbed methane (CBM) exploration programs have relied upon methodologies, such as identification of maximum coal thickness, optimum coal rank, and maximum gas resources in place. These programs also adopted a methodology of reducing exploration and financial risk by relying upon a phased exploration program that often began with low-cost exploration core holes sited in what was believed to be the optimum prospect location. Production tests only occurred if certain exploration hurdles were achieved, allowing the project to grow into a higher-cost multiple well pilot program. However, this approach overlooks the consequence of reservoir heterogeneities, especially permeability, which ultimately dominate later large-scale project performance. Due to these heterogeneities, commercial coalbed methane production areas may be bypassed or prematurely condemned. Evaluation of numerous CBM production fields in the USA showed significant production heterogeneity that could not be attributed to static reservoir conditions or well completion/production methods. These data were analyzed using statistical sampling methods to determine minimum well requirements (number and location of wells) for understanding production variability. Based on the results of this analysis, a modified exploration model is proposed that addresses the need to understand reservoir permeability heterogeneity early in a CBM exploration project. Total Reservoir Assessment (TRA) targets the range in reservoir types and conditions of any prospect using single-well production tests, coupled with standard CBM reservoir evaluation techniques. Application of this model may result in a more realistic approach to the exploration process and increases the probability of large-scale technical and financial success.


Selected Figures 

Basin-to basin production variability.


Raton basin field-to-field production variability.

Historical basin data.

Historical field data. Average gas rate changes with area location within basin, but the rate range remains about the same.


Traditional Coalbed Methane Exploration Methods 

·        Gather and evaluate data to develop a project model.

·        Identify optimum areas based on selected criteria.

·        Pilot testing “5-spot” well patterns.

·        Expand project or abandon.


Non-Traditional Methods (Random Selection) 

·        Evaluate available data to develop a “segmented” project model.

·        Randomly select a number of core/strat test sites within each selected segment.

·        Within each recognized remaining qualified segment, randomly select and complete a number of pilot production test wells.

·        Proceed to develop project value or abandon.