They Might Be Giants

Discovery Thinking reaches milestone at IMAGE ‘21

The AAPG Discovery Thinking program will celebrate a milestone this year with its 24th and 25th forums, which will be hosted at the IMAGE 2021 conference in Denver. Since Discovery Thinking began in 2008, more than 180 speakers worldwide have been invited to share their stories of exploration that have led to large, challenging and surprising discoveries. Over the years, more than 12,000 have attended and been inspired by the forums.

This year, Discovery Thinking will host two forums specifically dedicated to giants.

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The AAPG Discovery Thinking program will celebrate a milestone this year with its 24th and 25th forums, which will be hosted at the IMAGE 2021 conference in Denver. Since Discovery Thinking began in 2008, more than 180 speakers worldwide have been invited to share their stories of exploration that have led to large, challenging and surprising discoveries. Over the years, more than 12,000 have attended and been inspired by the forums.

This year, Discovery Thinking will host two forums specifically dedicated to giants.

No Windmills Here

“Giants are rare, but their impact is huge,” said past AAPG President Charles Sternbach, creator and chair of the Discovery Thinking forum. “When giants are discovered, they create a whole ecosystem around them. They create conditions for new technology, and they affect global populations with prosperity and provide resources for a lot of smaller fields to benefit from those resources. They are major levers.”

John Dolson, co-chair of this year’s Discovery Thinking forums and director of DSP Geosciences and Associates, LLC, noted that giants are being found in places many never thought possible.

“One thing that stood out to me was the number of giants being found in progressively deeper depths below mudline, where conventional wisdom argues for source rocks being cooked out, poor reservoir quality and dry gas,” he said. “The giant fields database, however, shows that oil and rich gas are being found in excess of 10 kilometers below mudline, with high quality carbonate and clastic reservoirs, both onshore and offshore.”

Believing that many more giants await discovery and will play a significant role in oil and gas resources in the future, Sternbach has invited speakers to share their personal stories about giant discoveries.

Featured Topics

The topics that will be discussed at the Discovery Thinking forums 24 and 25 include the following:

  • Prior to the discovery of the Liza Field in Guyana, the country was not considered a hydrocarbon haven. However, a series of 11 separate discoveries has not only placed Guyana on the oil and gas map, but has transformed the country through endowed resources. “It has become one of the greatest petroleum basins on the planet in less than a decade,” Sternbach said. “It has changed the face of Guyana.” Representatives from ExxonMobil will present, “Liza Field, Guyana: The Finding of a Stratigraphic Giant, from Early Exploration to Production.”
  • Eni’s discovery of the Zohr Field made history when gas production came online just 28 months after discovery. Today, it is the largest gas field in the Mediterranean Sea. “The name of the game is to get giants to produce as quickly as possible,” Sternbach said. “Zohr is a huge game changer.” Representatives from Eni will discuss, “Zohr Giant Gas Discovery – A Paradigm Shift in Nile Delta and East Mediterranean Exploration.”
  • The Buzios Field in the Santos basin is often called “the Brazilian miracle,” as the basin was thought to be mature until significant discoveries were made in its pre-salt. “That could only be explored and developed with the advent of the highest quality seismic imaging,” Sternbach said. “When that happened, it was like turning the lights on in old basins and finding hidden provinces.” Representatives from Ion Geophysical will discuss “Genesis and Architecture of the Buzios Field: A Giant Oil and Gas Field in the Santos Super Basin.”
  • A key to finding super giant fields, which are defined by a 2-billion-barrel oil and gas equivalent, is understanding their commonalities. Research has shown that basement involvement is an important factor as well as the preservation of hydrocarbons once they are trapped. Past AAPG President Richard S. Bishop will discuss “The Habitat of Super Giant Fields.”
  • Major discoveries all have a unique story, and that is the core of the Discovery Thinking forums, Sternbach said. New technology can make a discovery possible, and so can a change in political policy. And, just as economics dictates exploration decisions, analogs have been essential to identifying future plays based on past, known plays. Sternbach will discuss the components that have made Discovery Thinking thrive in his presentation, “What have we learned from 25 Discovery Thinking forums?”
  • Taking a big discovery and making it a giant can be a labor of commitment and persistence. Sternbach cites the Wattenberg gas field as an example. By discovering new compartments and structure blocks and using new technology, the Wattenberg became a giant field with a reserves growth of 1,000 percent over 50 years. Representatives from Sneider Exploration will discuss other case studies where reservoir characterization, application of new technologies, and creative thinking “Add New Reserves and Production in Giant Fields.”
  • The Zafarani and Tangawizi gas discoveries in Tanzania are examples of the courage needed to explore in uncharted territory. “How can you find the courage to be the first in a new basin?” Sternbach asked. One way is understanding how AVO (amplitude versus offset) can provide pertinent clues for frontier exploration, he said. Representatives from Equinor ASA will discuss, “The Zafarani and Tangawizi giant gas discoveries: Two Very Different Play Openers Offshore Tanzania.”
  • The recent discoveries in the Amoca, Mitzón and Tecoalli fields in Mexico are prime examples of a giant coming to life when a country changes its policies. While Mexico no longer upholds its open-door policy to thirdparty explorers, the time that it did allowed a giant to be discovered in its Sureste basin. Representatives from Eni Argentina and Eni Mexico will discuss “Mexico – Area 1 – Amoca, Mitzón, and Tecoalli oil discoveries, Sureste Basin, Gulf of Mexico.”
  • Understanding a petroleum system is what guides people to make giant discoveries, Sternbach explained. In a session titled, “Seven Principles that Hold Back Geologists from Discovery Thinking,” Andrew Pepper, president of This is Petroleum Systems LLC, will discuss the “Seven Habits of the Effective Petroleum Systems Analyst,” including the importance of first principles such as heat flow of basement rock, petroleum system kinetics and uplift history.

“Using the concepts illustrated in Discovery Thinking, one might better understand how technology and oil field practices can lead to recovering significantly more resources from fields,” said AAPG Editor Bob Merrill, co-chair of the 2021 forums and president of Catheart Exploration. “The Discovery Thinking forums have allowed geologists the opportunity to understand the creative ideas that led to the discovery of some of the world’s most significant fields. Giant fields continue to provide the bulk of oil and gas production into the future. Exploration insights from giant fields give an advantage in the competitive quest for energy resources.”