East Gulf Potential Attractive

Past Successes Suggest Big Pay Days

Few wells have been drilled in the proposed OCS Lease Sale 181 area in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Still, the largely unexplored area is projected to harbor some significant hydrocarbon reserves, with a possible development potential of several Tcf of natural gas and a billion or so barrels of oil.

There are two distinct hydrocarbon provinces in the sale area that are geographically separated by the Florida Escarpment. Gently sloping Mesozoic and Cenozoic sediments occur north of the escarpment, while Tertiary clastic submarine fan deposits and Mesozoic sediments untested offshore are found to the south.

Three significant geologic plays occur north of the escarpment. These plays are producing gas in fields offshore Alabama, according to MMS deputy regional supervisor for resource evaluation David Marin.

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Few wells have been drilled in the proposed OCS Lease Sale 181 area in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Still, the largely unexplored area is projected to harbor some significant hydrocarbon reserves, with a possible development potential of several Tcf of natural gas and a billion or so barrels of oil.

There are two distinct hydrocarbon provinces in the sale area that are geographically separated by the Florida Escarpment. Gently sloping Mesozoic and Cenozoic sediments occur north of the escarpment, while Tertiary clastic submarine fan deposits and Mesozoic sediments untested offshore are found to the south.

Three significant geologic plays occur north of the escarpment. These plays are producing gas in fields offshore Alabama, according to MMS deputy regional supervisor for resource evaluation David Marin.

More than 30 fields have been discovered in the shallow Miocene sedimentary deposits between 2,000 and 4,000 feet subsea. These are all gas fields and include two field discoveries in the proposed Sale 181 area.

Four field discoveries have occurred on the shelf offshore Alabama at intermediate depths of 12,000 to 15,000 feet subsea within the Lower Cretaceous James Limestone. Initial production from the James carbonates occurred here in 1998 in Chevron's Viosca Knoll Block 69 field. This play runs across the sale area north of the escarpment.

The Norphlet formation of Jurassic age is found at depths greater than 20,000 feet in the OCS offshore Alabama. Any hydrocarbons at these depths will be gas.

On the OCS, there are 13 discovered fields in the Norphlet, Marin said, including one in the MMS Eastern Gulf Planning Area. This is the Destin Dome Block 56 field, which is estimated to contain as much as 3 Tcf of dry, natural gas, according to the Department of Energy's (January 1997) Florida Energy Profile, and MMS Lease Sale 181 Draft EIS.

Development of this late '80s discovery awaits a decision from the U.S. Commerce Department. Where the Norphlet occurs at depths less than 19,000 to the east, notable oil shows have been found.

Some significant fields have been discovered in the Mississippi Canyon and Viosca Knoll areas near the Eastern Gulf Planning Area. These include the Ram Powell VK 956 field, Petronius VK 786 field, King MC 84 field and the King's Peak DeSoto Canyon 133 in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. The plays found within these deep-water fields represent the important plays expected to be found south of the Florida Escarpment in the sale 181 area.

Buried salt features define a second hydrocarbon play in the area below the escarpment, Marin said. The Salt Roller Play, with hydrocarbon traps formed by movement of the salt, has not been tested.

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