The basic rules for finding oil and gas
were formulated so long ago that most of
them have been forgotten. A review of
these rules would be in order for many
contemporary exploration managers.
A would-be oil or gas finder should:
Play the subcrops. The truncated
edge has all the structural advantages of
the undisturbed portion of the formation
plus a tremendous stratigraphic trap
potential not present anywhere else.
Most important of all, the subcrop may
be recognized 10 miles, 100 miles or even
500 miles from a hot spot and therefore
sometimes permits a "trend" play in a lowpriced
Exhaust the trends. Many modern
geologists think of trend plays as beneath
the dignity of a scientist. Others believe
that anything as simple as a trend must
have been worked to complete extinction
by someone else.
Both viewpoints are wrong.
As for the first one, if oil or gas can be
found by a simple method, so much the
better. As for the second, this same
assumption that "someone else already
has done it" may also have been made by
that "someone else." Therefore the trend
may pick up immediately beyond that one
Work the hinge lines, either structural
or depositional. Today's hinge lines may
prove to be tomorrow's production trends.
The structural hinge line is suggested by
an abrupt and continuous change in
contour spacing. The depositional hinge
line can be detected by an abrupt change
in isopach contour spacing, either in the
objective horizon or adjacent to it.
Stay in multiple pay areas as much as
possible. A wildcat area with three pay
zones is not just three times as good as an
area with one pay zone, but actually many
times better. The reason for this is the
psychological factor. A dry hole often
means the end of exploration in an area for
many years. A successful well results in
about three more attempts. Therefore,
each additional pay zone increases the
probable rate of development of the area
by a factor of three.
Work the stratigraphic prospects
rather than the structural ones. The
smallest independent in the business can
work a complex stratigraphic problem as
correctly as the greatest major. However,
the smallest independent cannot
seismograph 100 miles of bush line in
search of a structure. Only a major can do
Plot the acreage on the geology or
the geology on the acreage. Many a good
deal is overlooked because it is assumed
that the acreage is unavailable. No
geologist can work to the best advantage
if one disregards the acreage. It is
surprising how much geological merit
comes to mind once the acreage has
been found to be available. The
subconscious mind automatically
eliminates geological thinking concerning
acreage, which appears to be "gone."
Try to place the company where the
geologist thinks they should be even
though this may not always be where "they" think they should be.
Certainly the person on the ground
knows the geology and economics of his
own province better than someone who
lives a thousand miles away. One should
sell their convictions to the company rather
than expect them to choose wisely from a
number of impartial presentations.
Concentrate efforts on a few likely
areas or formations and become an expert
in them before going too far afield.
Don't waste time by keeping a set of
regional structure maps posted to date. It is
doubtful that this is good procedure,
regardless of the size of office staff. There
is something about a regional structure
map that stifles imaginative thinking. The
inference is that "it is all mapped so where
else can one look."
Review every year of previous
geological work and prospect reports. It is
surprising how rapidly one's perspective
grows. It is surprising also how rapidly
exploration and market economics
A geological prospect is never dead.
There is always another well or another
play hiding in it somewhere, waiting to be
found through review or extension of the
Note: Looking Back column author
Marlan Downey will return next month.