The Golden Age of Super Basins

Affordable and abundant energy for generations!

I was pleased to serve as the organizer, general chair and creator of the AAPG Global Super Basins Leadership Conference. I will remember it as a highlight of my year as AAPG president and my entire career. I would like to share a few observations resulting from this conference.

The theme of the 2018 conference was “Actionable Intelligence in the World’s Richest Basins.” Participants heard at least 10 new play ideas that are yet to be developed. We expect many of these presentations will be available to participants of super basin conferences and to AAPG members in the future. Many basins are currently being written up for articles in the AAPG Bulletin. Plans are being considered for a second AAPG Global Super Basin Leadership Conference possibly in late January 2019 in Houston. A wrap-up of the meeting can be found on YouTube entitled, “AAPG’s Global Super Basins Leadership Conference 2018 Wrap-up.”

I shared a happy moment with Ibraheem M. Assa’adan, Executive Director, Saudi Aramco reflecting on the challenge of presenting each of the world’s greatest petroleum basins in a 30-minute time frame! For the Arabian basins, that exceeds 15 BBOE a minute. As we covered 20 of the world’s top basins in two days, it became clear that the conference time frame constrained presenters to illuminate highlights, key elements, and what makes each of these basins unique or extraordinary. Presenters commented that time limits helped them focus on the big picture about basins they know so well. Thanks to Ibraheem and Aramco for their support and generous sponsorship of the super basin initiative.

Super basins have a world class petroleum system. Most possess more than one great source rock that has attained peak oil and gas thermal maturity. Source rocks often occur in in the toe of slope distal facies clinoforms (like the Utica shale in the Appalachian Basin, and the Vaca Muerta shale in the Neuquen Basin in Argentina). It is advantageous when source rocks occur low within the column of sediments infilling the basin. Clinoforms attached to prograding shelf margins of this infill can impact resource extraction. Many super basins have regional evaporates sealing the entire basin and reducing leakage to the surface (like the Permian Basin). Often, due to hydrocarbon generation and effective trapping, super basins have components of high pressure in all or portions of the basin.

This sedimentary infill is affected by the structural setting of the basin. Intra-cratonic basins can build on a pre-existing rift (for example, the Anadarko Basin); some are in gentle down warps associated with tectonically active fold and thrust belts (the Appalachians and Western Canada Sedimentary Basin). Some occur on passive margins, accumulating great sedimentary thickness (the Gulf of Mexico and Brazil).

Please log in to read the full article

I was pleased to serve as the organizer, general chair and creator of the AAPG Global Super Basins Leadership Conference. I will remember it as a highlight of my year as AAPG president and my entire career. I would like to share a few observations resulting from this conference.

The theme of the 2018 conference was “Actionable Intelligence in the World’s Richest Basins.” Participants heard at least 10 new play ideas that are yet to be developed. We expect many of these presentations will be available to participants of super basin conferences and to AAPG members in the future. Many basins are currently being written up for articles in the AAPG Bulletin. Plans are being considered for a second AAPG Global Super Basin Leadership Conference possibly in late January 2019 in Houston. A wrap-up of the meeting can be found on YouTube entitled, “AAPG’s Global Super Basins Leadership Conference 2018 Wrap-up.”

I shared a happy moment with Ibraheem M. Assa’adan, Executive Director, Saudi Aramco reflecting on the challenge of presenting each of the world’s greatest petroleum basins in a 30-minute time frame! For the Arabian basins, that exceeds 15 BBOE a minute. As we covered 20 of the world’s top basins in two days, it became clear that the conference time frame constrained presenters to illuminate highlights, key elements, and what makes each of these basins unique or extraordinary. Presenters commented that time limits helped them focus on the big picture about basins they know so well. Thanks to Ibraheem and Aramco for their support and generous sponsorship of the super basin initiative.

Super basins have a world class petroleum system. Most possess more than one great source rock that has attained peak oil and gas thermal maturity. Source rocks often occur in in the toe of slope distal facies clinoforms (like the Utica shale in the Appalachian Basin, and the Vaca Muerta shale in the Neuquen Basin in Argentina). It is advantageous when source rocks occur low within the column of sediments infilling the basin. Clinoforms attached to prograding shelf margins of this infill can impact resource extraction. Many super basins have regional evaporates sealing the entire basin and reducing leakage to the surface (like the Permian Basin). Often, due to hydrocarbon generation and effective trapping, super basins have components of high pressure in all or portions of the basin.

This sedimentary infill is affected by the structural setting of the basin. Intra-cratonic basins can build on a pre-existing rift (for example, the Anadarko Basin); some are in gentle down warps associated with tectonically active fold and thrust belts (the Appalachians and Western Canada Sedimentary Basin). Some occur on passive margins, accumulating great sedimentary thickness (the Gulf of Mexico and Brazil).

Premier technologies driving the energy renaissance are created through engineering breakthroughs in unconventional tight reservoirs and shale by hydraulic fracturing of horizontally drilled wellbores. Clay, silica, and carbonate mineralogy play an important role in brittleness of targeted landing zones. Rapid improvements in latest generation completions result from optimizing horizontal drilling length, spacing of proppant stages, pressures of fracture stages, types of fluids and proppants, stress field orientations, and staying in the best landing zones.

The production graph of the Permian Basin shows that oil production (solid heavy green line) peaked in about 1976. A long decline from the 1980s to 2005 ensued, and the Permian Basin was “left for dead” by many large companies. Miraculously, swift adoption of hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling began a basin rebirth around 2006. My colleague Allen Gilmer and I refer to this as “the Pratt Inflection.”

Please note that the new peak of current production surpasses the greatest known historical peak of the glorious Permian heyday in 1976. At least eight other super basins have similar peaks. Many global basins are in “standby mode” pending access and resolution of above-ground issues. If I had a time machine that could take me anywhere, why would I want to go back to the previous peak, when the new peaks are even better? We are in “the good old days”! And now is the time to take geoscience to greater heights.

Infrastructure is critical to the development of super basins. Alaska and western Canada are two notable examples where abundant resources currently exceed take-away capacity. The Permian Basin, highly mature from an infrastructure standpoint, also needs more infrastructure to transport associated gas.

In addition to renewal of basins by unconventional resources, some previously mature super basins have seen conventional resources reborn through enhanced seismic imaging of rocks that were previously difficult to image, as evidenced by the subsalt play in the Gulf of Mexico and the Pre-Salt Play in Brazil, or around basement highs in the North Sea. In the case of Pre-Salt in Brazil, seismic reveals an untouched, hidden world below a shallow more explored basin.

Attend the Salt Lake City Convention

Every year since 1993, I have attended the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition. I do not claim that my 25 straight years of participation are a record. I am pleased to say that many others feel as I do and have been committed to attending conventions for longer than I have. I expect all who attend conventions remember great moments – technical presentations, field trips, short courses and memorable conversations.

What is your greatest memory of an AAPG event that made a real difference or possibly changed your life? Come to Salt Lake City, Utah, May 20-23, and let’s remember previous great moments together and forge new ones.

In my presidential address at the opening ceremony on Sunday, I plan to speak about how geoscience matters. That evening at the Icebreaker, and Tuesday morning, Bob Merrill and I will be in the AAPG Bookstore, signing copies of Memoir 113: Giant Fields. Then, I will chair a forum on super basins on Monday morning. That afternoon, I will chair the 20th Discovery Thinking Forum with co-chair Paul Weimer. On Tuesday afternoon, I will chair the Innovation Forum with co-chairs Henry Pettingill and Niven Schumacher. Come say hello at these and other events!

AAPG’s future lies in our younger members. In the accompanying photo, take a good look at the committee organizing this year’s ACE. I especially want to thank General Chair Michael Vandenberg and Technical Program Chair Lauren Birgenheier for taking on heavy lifting roles. They are extraordinary leaders! I want to thank the entire team and I am proud of them all for stepping forward to lead. Please join me in thanking them when you see them at ACE.

Membership Engagement

This year the Executive Committee voted that the House of Delegates lead membership recruitment and retention efforts for all AAPG. House Chair Dave Entzminger, Bill Stephens, Cheryl Desforges and others are looking at ways to expand this initiative.

AAPG does a lot to reach out to younger prospective membership: the Imperial Barrel Award, student chapters, the Distinguished Lecture Program, the Visiting Geoscientist Program (10,000 visits a year!), and YP initiatives. By June, I will have spoken to about a thousand students in dozens of universities about AAPG. I am pleased that we held our AAPG Leadership Days summit on the University of Houston campus last November. My message was, “Be a part of the energy solution; be a lifelong learner (AAPG education can help); and be engaged in your professional societies at a local and AAPG level.” Say “yes” to membership and lifelong participation! I am confident that future AAPG Executive Committees will continue and expand these efforts.

Living Our Values

Last month I wrote about the need for geoscientists to make the case that Geoscience Matters to top industry leaders and CEOs. I am proud to report AAPG is “walking the talk.” AAPG presented a special Presidents Award to Scott Sheffield, Pioneer’s chairman of the board. Mr. Sheffield has long been a supporter of integrated approaches to energy solutions that value geoscience and AAPG. Pioneer has been a responsible corporate citizen by dealing proactively with above-ground issues. We applaud his leadership.

We also acknowledge Bob Fryklund, vice president of IHS Markit, who will receive a President’s Award for promoting geoscience and AAPG to the highest levels of Industry through activities at CERA Week and his contributions to the inaugural AAPG Global Super Basin Leadership Conference. I look forward to presenting Bob this award at the AAPG Corporate Advisory Board annual meeting at ACE, helping to further raise AAPG profile with top industry executives.

vsfexztvtvqeesbuwruufduuvrdbtettrtfb

You may also be interested in ...