GEO ExPro

Challenging the Industry

In this edition of GEO ExPro we look at the methodologies involved and the science behind petroleum geochemistry. Several examples illustrate how timely application of this discipline can potentially save considerable time and substantially reduce the costs of projects.
This article appeared in Vol. 10, No. 1 - 2013

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The South China Sea holds significant hydrocarbon resources. Source: Jane Whaley As discussed in our cover story, geochemistry is the unsung and under-used star of hydrocarbon exploration, despite first being employed back in the 1930s. Yet the application of this science has a wide range of uses in exploration, from the basin scale, where it can improve the understanding of hydrocarbon generation, migration, and accumulation processes, to assessing the quality of oil in a recent discovery and enhancing field life by noting changes in composition of hydrocarbon fluids. In this edition of GEO ExPro we look at the methodologies involved and the science behind petroleum geochemistry. Several examples illustrate how timely application of this discipline can potentially save considerable time and substantially reduce the costs of projects.

South East Asia is an important area for the petroleum industry, producing about 1.8 MMbopd and 23 Bcfgpd, as well as large volumes of LNG. The South China Sea is at the epicentre of this region, with much of the supplies of hydrocarbons passing through it. It is also an important resource in its own right, with some accounts proposing potential oil reserves of as much as 213 Bbo, while the USGS is rather more conservative, suggesting that the area’s main resource is gas, putting the discovered and undiscovered gas reserves at about 266 Tcf – all significant volumes. However, there is still relatively little known about the timings and mechanisms behind the genesis of this vast area, and particularly its complex tectonic history in Cenozoic times, a topic which we discuss further in this issue.

While much of South East Asia has been explored, it still contains unexplored frontier basins and regions which for either practical or political reasons – as in the case of Myanmar – have not been fully explored. When looking at these relatively untouched areas, it may also be time to consider our industry’s ‘social licence to operate’. Should oil and gas exploration ever be terminated – or not even begun – for environmental or social reasons? And do we individually hold any responsibility for the consequences of exploration?

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