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Global Overview of Deepwater

Exploration and Production

with Henry S. Pettingill


Noble Energy, Houston, Texas, USA

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Introduction
Exploration and production in deep water (5002000 m [16406560 ft]) and ultradeep
water (>2000 m [6560 ft]) have expanded greatly during the past 15 years, to the point at
which they are now major components of the petroleum industrys annual upstream budget.
Most E&P activity has concentrated in only three areas of the world: the northern Gulf of
Mexico, Brazil, and West Africa. Globally, deep water remains an immature frontier, with
many deepwater sedimentary basins being only lightly explored.
Deepwater discoveries account for less than 5% of the current worldwide total oilequivalent resources1 although this amount is increasing rapidly. These resources are predominantly oil and are concentrated in non-OPEC countries; thus, deep water represents an
important component of the worlds future oil equation. Gas exploration in deep water is
extremely immature, reflecting current infrastructure and economic limitations, but it is also
destined to become a major focus in the future.
Although the global deepwater play was initially restricted to a few large major companies, progressively smaller companies have become involved throughout time. Presently, even
large- or medium-size companies must understand the geologic, engineering, and economic
characteristics of the deepwater play. Generally, smaller companies are exploring in areas
where (1) major infrastructure already exists, and consequently they are able to operate, and/or
(2) they can be a partner with a limited working interest, thus limiting their financial risk while
still exposing them to potentially high rewards.
This chapter presents an overview of exploration and development in deepwater settings.
The first part addresses the critical geologic aspects of global deepwater exploration and production by summarizing the geologic habitat, productive trends, and potential reserves. The
second part summarizes these characteristics for the past and present frontiers and presents
common themes and concepts that lead to speculation concerning the future of deepwater
frontiers. The third part addresses trends in the technologic and business requirements necessary for exploring and developing deepwater plays. Finally, we briefly summarize the
workflow for explorationists who develop and work deepwater prospects.
This chapter is, in part, an update of previous work (Weimer and Pettingill, 2000; Pettingill and Weimer, 2001, 2002). The chapter employs data compiled from public information
sources and presentations at recent conferences dedicated to deepwater geology, such as Worrall et al. (1999, 2001), Lawrence and Bosman-Smits (2000), and many trade magazines.

Exploration and production trends of deep and ultradeep water


Discovered petroleum resources in deep and ultradeep water
By the end of 2002, approximately 74 billion BOE of total resources had been discovered in deep water from 18 basins on six continents (Figures 2-1a2-1c, 2-2). Most resources
have been found in the northern Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, and West Africa (Figure 2-2). This
1.

The term resources is employed here, rather than reserves, to reflect the fact that not all of the discovered
hydrocarbons have been proven to be economic, and therefore they are not classified as reserves. For all barrel oil equivalents (BOE), the conversion factor employed is 6000 cu. ft. gas = 1 barrel oil or condensate.

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Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

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Cumulative Gas

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Cumulative Oil/Cond.

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BBOE

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Figure 2-1a. Deep water discovered resources versus time as of end of 2002. (a) oil versus gas.
Updated from Pettingill and Weimer (2001).

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Cumulative Total Deepwater (500-2000m)

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Cumulative Total Ultra-Deep Water (>2000m) BBOE

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30

BBOE

50

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10

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2000

1998

1996

1994

1992

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1978

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Year
Figure 2-1b. Deep water discovered resources versus time as of end of 2002. (b) Resources (billion
BOE) based on deep water (5002000 m) versus ultra-deep water (>2000 m). Updated from Pettingill and Weimer (2001).

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Exploration and production trends of deep and ultradeep water

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Cumulative Total Deep Water


60

Cumulative Total Developed

1995 Total:
69% Developed by 2002

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40

1990 Total:
75% Developed by 2002

Start

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1985 Total:
60% Developed by 2002

BBOE

50

20
2002 Total: 31%
Developed or in
Development

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2002

2000

1998

1996

1994

1992

1990

1988

1986

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1978

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Year

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Figure 2-1c. Deep water discovered resources versus time as of end of 2002. (c) Developed versus
undeveloped resources. A significant amount of gas found prior to 1984 remains as stranded
resources. Updated from Pettingill and Weimer (2001).

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total consists of 43 million bbl of oil and condensate, and approximately 180 trillion ft3 (tcf) of
gas. Deep water (500200 m [16406560 ft] deep) holds about 85% of the discovered
resources; ultradeep water has about 15% (Figure 2-1b). More than half of this total has been
discovered since 1995; however, only about 31% of the total resources are developed or currently under development and less than 5% have been produced, thereby underscoring the
plays immaturity (Figure 2-1c).
The global deepwater exploration success rate2 was about 10% until 1985, but it has
since averaged approximately 30%, having been driven by remarkable success in the Gulf of
Mexico and West Africa (Figures 2-3, 2-4). Exploration success rates have been highest in
West Africa and lowest in Asia. In the lower Congo Basin, the geologic success rate over the
past few years has exceeded 80%.
Since deepwater drilling started during the late 1970s, 38 giant discoveries (>500 million BOE recoverable) have been made in deep water (Table 2-1; Figure 2-5). Of the 58 giants
of the decade 199099 that were true wildcats, roughly one-third were found in deep water
(Pettingill, 2001). Although the total number of giant fields discovered worldwide in recent
decades has leveled off, the discovery rate of deepwater giants is rapidly increasing. Associated deepwater giant reserves are approximately 66% oil, compared with 36% oil for all giants
of the same time period.
2.

Published reports more often do not distinguish geologic success from economic success. Furthermore, it is
difficult to determine economic viability for recent unappraised deepwater discoveries, which are often far
from infrastructure. These quoted success rates are corrected for obviously uneconomic discoveries, but they
undoubtedly reflect some discoveries that will become economic only after further infrastructure growth or
other fiscal/market changes and others that will ultimately be deemed uneconomic. Therefore, these success
rates are probably intermediate between geologic and economic success. Nonetheless, because most of the
discoveries in the major provinces could probably be developed economically once infrastructure is established and/or contract terms improved, these success rates may be taken as a reasonable indication of economic success (i.e., as a slight overapproximation).

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Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

Total Discovered
78 BBOE
48 BBO + 174 TCF

Mid-Norway
0,8

2.9
3,0

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Faroes
White Zone
W. Shetlands

Scotian &
Jeanne DArc

Sakhalin
So. Caspian

Italy

4.4
3,0
Morocco

11
8,6

Egypt

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1.5

3.5

Ref. List

1,8

2.4

Trinidad
US GoM
Tamaulipas
& Campeche

Nigeria
Eq. Guinea
Gabon
Congo
Angola

NW & SE Borneo
Philippines

E. India
Tanzania
NWS & ZOCA

Brazil

Help

18

0.4

Mozambique

Taranaki

6,8
9.6
10,9

S. Africa

17
Recoverable
Resources in BBOE
green=
red =2002
gas
Pettingilloil,
& Weimer

Areas of Prospective Deepwater


and Ultra-Deepwater Basins
1
:

Figure 2-2. Total discovered deep water (>500 m ) recoverable resources per region, announced as of November 2003 (in billion BOE). These resources
include producing reserves, those in development, and technically recoverable resources for which development has not been sanctioned. Major prospective deep and ultradeepwater basins are also shown. Green = oil, red = gas. Updated from Pettingill and Weimer (2001). Note that the resource estimates
in Figures 2-1a to 2-1c (74 billion BOE) were compiled at the end of 2002; the estimates for Figure 2-2 (78 billion BOE) were compiled in November 2003.

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Petroleum geology of deepwater basins

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Success Rate (%)

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30

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0
West
South Gulf of Mediter- Asia
NW
Global
Africa America Mexico ranean Pacific Europe Average

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Region
Figure 2-3. Exploration success rate in six primary deep water regions of the world, and global
average. Data from this study and from Harper (1997). Updated from Pettingill and Weimer
(2001).

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Although the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) accounts for
almost 80% of the worlds current oil reserves (BP, 2003), only 17% of the worlds current oil
reserves lie in OPECs deep waters, all in the waters of Nigeria and Indonesia. In contrast,
members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; an international organization comprising 30 member countries from Europe, Asia, the Middle East,
Australia, and North America; see www.oecd.org) account for only 8% of current global oil
reserves but hold 27% of current deepwater oil resources discovered to date (Figures 2-4, 2-5).
The OECD accounts for 73% of the worlds deepwater gas resources reported to date, but only
9% of the current total global gas resources. Therefore, deep water is a frontier with relatively
more resources for the OECD, particularly when we consider the gas fraction of the total deepwater resources.

Petroleum geology of deepwater basins


Basin types
Worrall et al. (2001) divided the global deepwater play into four broad types of basins:
(1) basins with mobile substrates (salt, shale) fed by large rivers; (2) basins with mobile substrates fed by small rivers; (3) basins with nonmobile substrates fed by small rivers; and (4)
basins containing nondeepwater reservoirs. To date, about 75% of the discoveries in deep
water occur in the first two types of basins (Figure 2-6).
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Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

Deep Water Giants


(>500m Water Depth, >500 MMBOE)

Ormen Lange
11 TCF

35 Discoveries, 38 BBOE

TOC
Thunderhorse
1.0 BBOE
Mars
570 MMBOE
Tahiti 502 MMBOE

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Roncador
Marlim
Marlim Sul
Albacora
Barracuda
1-ESS-121

3.2 BBOE
2.9 BBOE
2.7 BBOE
964 MMBOE
860 MMBOE
660 MMBOE

each stack of barrels


represents one field:
green =

>50% oil

red

gas

500 MMBOE

Scarab-Saffron 4.5 TCF


Simian
2.5-4.0
TCF
Bosi
1.1 BBOE
Agbami
876 MMBOE
Bonga
810 MMBOE
Akpo
790 MMBOE
Bong. SW 583 MMBOE
NNWA-Doro 4.4 TCF

Dhirubhai 4.8 TCF


Malampaya 4.7 TCFE
Kikeh 530 MMBOE

Sunrise-Sunset 9.5 TCFE


Dalia
Girassol
Hungo
Kissanje
1-RJS-582
1-SPS-35

300-600 MMBOE
2.5-14.7 TCF

975
883
725
550

MMBOE
MMBOE
MMBOE
MMBOE

Brecknock 5.9 TCFE

Jansz*
Scarborough
Geryon-Orthrus
Io*
Callirhoe
Chrysaor

20 .0
6.0
4.0
4.0
3.5
3.3

TCF
TCF
TCF
TCF
TCF
TCFE

Figure 2-4. Deep water giant discoveries exceeding 500 million BOE, as of November 2003. The South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico discoveries consist of
oil and gas; Europe, Asia, and Australia are predominantly gas discoveries. MMBOE is million barrels of oil equivalent; BBOE is billion barrels of oil
equivalent. Data from IHS Energy Group (2003, used with permission) and many published references. Includes data supplied by Petroconsultants SA;
copyright 2003. Updated from Pettingill and Weimer (2001).

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Petroleum geology of deepwater basins

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Ref. List

Table 2-1. Giant deepwater discoveries (>500 million BOE). Several are not fully appraised and are expected
to change significantly. Includes data supplied by Petroconsultants SA; Copyright 2003.
Basin/
Country

Discovery
name

Discovery
near

Status

WD
(m)

Resource
reference

Gulf of Mexico,
USA

Mars

1989

Producing

486 million bbl oil +


504 bcf

1014

IHS, 2003

Gulf of Mexico,
USA

Tahiti

2002

Discovery

502 million BOE

1231

IHS, 2003

Gulf of Mexico,
USA

Thunderhorse

1999

Discovery

1.0 billion BOE

1963

IHS, 2003

Campos, Brazil

1-ESS-121

2002

Discovery

660 million bbl oil

1426

IHS, 2003

Campos, Brazil

Albacora

1993

Producing

872 million bbl oil +


549 bcf

1000

IHS, 2003

Campos, Brazil

Barracuda

1989

Producing

807 million bbl oil +


316 bcf

1160

IHS, 2003

Campos, Brazil

Marlim

1985

Producing

2.7 billion bbl oil + 1.2


tcf

853

IHS, 2003

Campos, Brazil

Marlim Sul

1987

Producing

2.5 billion bbl oil + 1.3


tcf

1120

IHS, 2003

Campos, Brazil

Roncador

1996

Producing

2.9 billion bbl oil + 1.75


tcf

1853

IHS, 2003

Santos, Brazil

1-RJS-582

2002

Discovery

288 million bbl oil +


139 bcf (poss. 300
600 million BOE)

1493

IHS, 2003

Santos, Brazil

1-SPS-35

2003

Discovery

7.7 tcf

485

IHS, 2003

Mre, Norway

Ormen Lange

1997

Discovery

13.2 tcf +138 million


bbl cond.

886

IHS, 2003

Nile Delta, Egypt

Scarab-Saffron
Complex

1998

Producing

4.5 tcf total

612

IHS, 2003

Nile Delta, Egypt

Simian

1999

Discovery

2.54.0 tcf

579

IHS, 2003;
Upstream,
2002

Lower Congo,
Angola

Dalia

1997

Developing

900 million bbl oil +


450 bcf

1360

IHS, 2003

Lower Congo,
Angola

Girassol

1996

Producing

725 million bbl oil +


950 bcf

1365

IHS, 2003

Lower Congo,
Angola

Hungo

1998

In development

700 million bbl oil +


150 bcf

1202

IHS, 2003

Lower Congo,
Angola

Kissanje

1998

In development

500 million bbl oil +


300 bcf

1011

IHS, 2003

Niger Delta,
Nigeria

Agbami

1998

Discovery

780 million bbl oil +


576 bcf

1435

IHS, 2003

Niger Delta,
Nigeria

Akpo

2000

Discovery

590 million bbl oil + 1.2


tcf

1366

IHS, 2003

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Recoverable
resources

Table 2-1 continued on next page

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Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

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Table 2-1. (Cont.) Giant deepwater discoveries (>500 million BOE). Several are not fully appraised and are
expected to change significantly. Includes data supplied by Petroconsultants SA; Copyright 2003.
Basin/
Country

Discovery
name

Discovery
near

Status

Recoverable
resources

WD
(m)

Resource
reference

Niger Delta,
Nigeria

Bonga

1995

Developing

735 million bbl oil +


451 bcf

1125

IHS, 2003

Niger Delta,
Nigeria

Bonga Southwest

2001

Discovery

500 million bbl oil +


500 bcf

1245

IHS, 2003

Niger Delta,
Nigeria

Bosi

1996

Discovery

683 million bbl oil + 2.3


tcf

1424

IHS, 2003

Niger Delta,
Nigeria

Nnwa-Doro

1999

Discovery

4.4 tcf

1283

IHS, 2003

Krishna Godavari, India

Dhirubhai

2002

Discovery

4.8 tcf

1006

IHS, 2003

W. Palawan,
Philippines

MalampayaCamago

1989

Producing

3.5 tcf +198 million bbl


oil/C

736

IHS, 2003

Baram (Sabah),
Malaysia

Kikeh

2002

Discovery

530 million bbl oil

1341

IHS, 2003

Bonaparte,
Australia

Sunrise-LoxtonSunset

1975

Discovery

7.7 tcf + 299 million bbl


cond.

159

IHS, 2003

Browse,
Australia

Brecknock

1979

Discovery

5.3 tcf +103 million bbl


cond.

543

IHS, 2003

Carnarvon,
Australia

Callirhoe

2001

Discovery

3.5 tcf

1221

IHS, 2003

Carnarvon,
Australia

Chrysaor

1995

Discovery

2.9 tcf + 75 million bbl


cond.

806

IHS, 2003

Carnarvon,
Australia

Geryon-Orthrus

1999

Discovery

4.0 tcf +1.2 million bbl


cond.

1231

IHS, 2003

Carnarvon,
Australia

Io

2001

Discovery

included in Jansz

1352

Carnarvon,
Australia

Jansz

2000

Discovery

20 tcf + 54 million bbl


cond.

1321

IHS, 2003

Carnarvon,
Australia

Scarborough

1979

Discovery

6.0 tcf

912

IHS, 2003

Mobile-substrate, large-river basins


Where large rivers are available to deliver large volumes of sediment into the deep water,
there is the potential for abundant deepwater reservoirs. The sediment loading and deformation
of the mobile substrate creates stacked reservoirs, a high density of leads, multiple play types,
and migration pathways. Both extensional and contractional domains exist within these
mobile-substrate basin settings. The large volume of sedimentary fill causes the generation of
petroleum. Examples of producing basins with salt as the mobile substrate include the Lower
Congo (deepwater Angola) and the northern Gulf of Mexico. Deepwater Nigeria is the primary example of basins with mobile shale and a large-river sedimentary delivery system
(Figure 2-7).
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Petroleum geology of deepwater basins

Gas
Condensate
Oil

Total:

98 BBOE from 76
Discoveries >500 MMBOE

44%

Deep Water 1990s Giants:


20 BBOE from 23 Discoveries

36%

TOC

20%

Deep Water
Gas
41%

Deep Water
Oil Non-Opec
44%

Start

Ref. List

Confined
Extensional

Contractional

Unconfined
Basin Floor

Mobile
Substrate

Help

Figure 2-5. Giant oil and gas field discoveries of the 1990s (98 billion BOE from 76 discoveries).
Discovered resources versus physical environment (onshore, shallow water: 0500 m, and deep
water: >500 m), and distribution of oil, condensate, and gas. Inset shows distribution of deepwater resources for OPEC, OECD, and the rest of the world. After Pettingill (2001). Reprinted with
permission of SEG.

Non-Mobile
Substrate

Search

Deep Water
Oil Opec
15%

Percent of Global Deepwater Total Reserves (78 BBOE)


10%
10%
0.03%
12%

68%

Mobile Substrate Extensional


Mobile Substrate Contractional
Confined w/o Mobile Substrate
Unconfined
Non-deepwater Reservoirs

Figure 2-6. Discovered resources versus deepwater basin setting. Classification of mobile substrate and unconfined turbidite settings is adapted from Worrall et al. (1999, 2001). Additional
frontier settings are added here, with corresponding reserves from this study. Note that confined and unconfined are end members, and basins may evolve from one to the other or vary
spatially between end members. A portion of the confined resources are actually in a low-confinement setting (e.g., Marlim, Albacora, Campos Basin, Brazil), as shown on the graph. Updated
from Pettingill and Weimer (2001).

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Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

1. RIFT SOURCE ROCK (often lacustrine)


1A Pre-Pass. Marg. Rift SR

1B Rift SR, No Salt

Lower Congo
Campos and Santos

N.W. Australia (Canarvon, Bonaparte)


West Shetlands
Mid-Norway

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2. PASSIVE MARGIN MARINE SOURCE ROCK


2A Early Pass. Marg. Marine SR

2B Tertiary P. Marg. Marine SR

U.S. GoM
Poss. Lower Congo
Nile Delta

Niger Delta
N.E. Borneo
Mahakam Delta

Ref. List

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3. ACTIVE MARGINS

4. BIOGENIC
Nile Delta (partial contribution)
Gulf of Mexico (e.g. Mensa)
Discovered Resources vs.
Source Rock Habitat:

Apennines Foredeep

3. Active Margin
& Other 1%
2B. Pass. Marg.
without Salt,
Marine Deltaic
16%
2A.
Passive Margin,
Post-Salt
Marine
28%

4. Biogenic 2%

1A.
Rift, Pre-Salt
Lacustrine
35%

1B.
Rift, No Salt
(mostly
Marine)
16%

2A. Passive Margin


Marine, Pre-Salt 2%

Figure 2-7. Schematic cross-sections illustrating the different petroleum systems for deepwater settings. Each
section shows the relationship of source rocks with structural styles, stratigraphic fill, and migration pathways. 1. Rift source rocks (often lacustrine) (a) with salt deformation: Campos and Santos Basins (Brazil), and
Lower Congo Basin (offshore Angola), (b) basement blocks: northwest Australia, West of Shetlands, and midNorway; 2. Marine source rock (a) early divergent margins source rock: northern Gulf of Mexico, lower
Congo and Nile, (b) Cenozoic divergent margin (Niger Delta, northwest Borneo Mahakam Delta). 3. Active
margins: Apennine foredeep. 4. Biogenic gas: Nile Delta, northern Gulf of Mexico. Inset chart illustrates the
relative amount of discovered resources versus source rock. Modified from Pettingill and Weimer (2001).

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Petroleum geology of deepwater basins

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Mobile-substrate, small-river basins


Mobile-substrate basins that are fed by smaller high-sediment-load rivers occur along
steep margins. Petroleum-producing examples include several of the basins around the Island
of Borneo (Brunei, Sabah, and Sarawak) and also the Campos Basin in Brazil. For this latter
example, the Neocomian lacustrine source intervals occur below the mobile substrate (Aptian
salt). As a consequence, understanding and predicting the charge history is a greater challenge
in this basin and complicates deepwater prospectivity (Figure 2-7).
Nonmobile-substrate, small-river basins

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Deepwater basins with no mobile substrate that are fed by small rivers have a density of
leads that is about one-half that in basins with mobile substrates, but the lead size is 10 times
as large. Examples of basins that produce from such a setting include (a) West of Shetland
Islands fieldsFoinaven and Schehallion fields, and (b) More and Voring Basins in offshore
middle Norway. The Ormen Lange gas field in the mid-Norwegian Shelf consists of reservoirs
draped over basement structures (Gjelberg et al., 2001) (Figure 2-7). The key aspect in these
kinds of basins is that basement highs help focus petroleum migration. Commonly, the reservoir will occur draped over basement highs.
Nondeepwater-reservoir basins

Help

The final type of deepwater basin contains reservoirs that were not deposited originally
in deep water. For example, the North West Shelf of Australia produces from Jurassic and Cretaceous fluvial-deltaic synrift strata. The overlying postrift section is thin and has subsided
into deep water (>500-m water depth). Examples of shallow-water carbonate reservoirs in
deep water include the Malampaya field, Philippines, and recent Albian discoveries in the
Campos Basin, Brazil. Also, these basins reflect a small portion of production in deep water
(Figure 2-6).

Petroleum systems
The six elements of the petroleum systems of deepwater and ultradeepwater margins are
briefly summarized here. The most common types of petroleum systems found in deep water
are summarized in Figure 2-7.
Reservoirs
To date, most deepwater reserves have been discovered in Cenozoic-age reservoirs,
although there is a modest but growing contribution from Cretaceous reservoirs (Figure 2-8).
Almost 90% of the reserves found, to date, are within deepwater sandstone reservoirs, but
there is a small contribution from shallow-marine and fluvial sandstone reservoirs and a minor
contribution from carbonates. Porosity and permeability in deepwater reservoirs can be excellent (>30% porosity and thousands of md permeability), because many are fed from mature
river systems that drain stable cratons. Furthermore, high porosities are often maintained by
low geothermal gradients (which retard diagenesis) and underconsolidation resulting from
overpressures. These are typical characteristics of deepwater areas downdip of young deltaic
depocenters. Reservoir architecture (connectivity and continuity) ranges from poor to excellent in deepwater sands. In general, high net/gross channel-fill and basin-floor sheet sands
provide excellent reservoirs, whereas low net/gross channel-fill and thin-bed levee reservoirs
can be more difficult to develop economically. Predrill predictive capability for these reservoirs is critical.
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Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

60
50
40
30
20

TOC

10
2002

2000

1998

1996

1994

1992

1990

1988

1986

1984

1982

1980

1978

Start

B.

70

Not Published
Neogene-Pleistocene
Paleogene
Cretaceous
Triassic-Jurassic

Percent of Deep Water


Reserves (%)

A.

BBOE

100%

11

Carbonates

75%
50%

91
85

25%
0%

Turbidite
Sandstone
Shallow
Marine &
Fluvial Sst.

200-500
>500
Water Depth (m)

Year

Ref. List

Search

Figure 2-8. (a) Deepwater resources discovered after 1978 plotted versus reservoir age and (b) deepwater
resources versus lithology. Lithology data for 200500 m are from Cook (1999, used with permission); data for
>500 m are from Pettingill and Weimer (2001). Note the differences in reservoir types with the water depths.
Updated from Pettingill and Weimer (2001).

Help
Traps
Trap styles vary, and the main trap types of turbidite plays are shown in Figure 2-9. Total
reserves associated with these trap types have yet to be quantified; however, a significant proportion of resources is from fields having a stratigraphic component to their trap. To date,
structural closure is dominant in West Africa, although often the trap volume is defined by the
overprint of stratigraphic pinch-outs and discontinuities. In the salt minibasin plays of the central Gulf of Mexico, combination structural-stratigraphic traps are most common (Pettingill,
1998), whereas in the emerging foldbelt plays, structural trapping is dominant. In the unconfined setting, depositional mounding may create or enhance structural closure (e.g.,
Scarborough discovery; Kirk, 1994). On the other hand, pure stratigraphic traps also occur in
the unconfined setting, where offlapping fan deposits pinch out laterally (e.g., Ram-Powell
field; Clemenceau et al., 2000).
Seals
In the deep-marine depositional environment, adequate top seals are generally present.
Top-seal integrity, on the other hand, is often a serious risk because of overpressures and
crestal faulting. Understanding the relation between reservoir pressure (from both bouyancy
and overpressure), overburden pressure, and rock strength, is critical. In Nigeria, Brunei, and
the northern Gulf of Mexico, some accumulations are more aptly described as imperfect
leaks than as perfect traps. When a component of stratigraphic trapping is required, the presence of a side seal can also introduce risk, especially in the case where the updip axis of a
feeder channel is required to seal. Relatively few fields are documented to have this seal component, although several exist in the northeastern deep Gulf of Mexico.
2-30

Petroleum geology of deepwater basins

A.

Confined Settings
Fault-Related

Rollovers

Unconfined Settings

Shale Diapir
Traps

Fault-Dependent

Stratigraphic Traps

Fault Traps

(A) Updip Pinchout

TOC
Salt Flank Traps

Turtles

(B) Erosional
truncation

Basement
Block

Start

Ref. List

(C) Updip channel


pinchout

Combination Structural - Stratigraphic


(a) Fault & pinchout

Foldbelt Structures

(b) Diapir flank & pinchout

(may be either
salt- or shalecored)

Search

24

Pettingill & Weimer 2002

B. Discovered Resources vs. Trap Type

Help

Combination
64%
Structural
26%

Pure
Stratigraphic
10%

C. Classification of Trap Type

1. STRUCTURAL
a. with no stratigraphic overprint
Sand

2. COMBINATION
A`

A`

B`
B

C`

Trapping depends on both:

A1

-Stratigraphic variation
(pinchout, erosional,
truncation, diagenesis)

-Structure-dependent
-Structure-dependent
(fault,
diapiric)
(fault,4-way,
4-way,
diapiric)

b. with no stratigraphic overprint


A

Sand

B`

C`

AND
-Structural element

-Filled
equal
- elevation
-Filledtoto
equal
- elevation
(often
to to
spill)
(often
spill)

Shale

A`

A
Shale

3. PURE STRATIGRAPHIC
A`

Shale

A`

B`

A`

Sand
B

1
A

-Structure-dependent
(fault, 4-way, diapiric)

Stratigraphic dependent only

-Not filled to equal-elevation


due to strat. limitations

(pinchout, erosional
truncation, diagenesis)

B`

Figure 2-9. (a) Schematic diagram showing different trap styles for the deepwater settings. After
Pettingill and Weimer (2001). Reprinted with permission of the Gulf Coast Section SEPM Foundation. (b) Discovered deepwater resources versus the trap categories. Note that total resources
with published trap information is 28 BBOE (about one third of resources discovered), so observations are preliminary. (c) Classification of trap type employed for this study. As defined by this
classification scheme, structural traps have only structural elements (faults, dip-closure, or diaper interface), whereas pure stratigraphic traps depend solely on reservoir discontinuity. Combination traps, however, exist only if both types of elements are in place (examples shown in lower
left of A).

k
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Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

3
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Source rocks
The potential for source rocks is good in deep water; world-class source rocks have been
found in Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Tertiary strata (Figure 2-10). In general, five kinds of source
rocks have been identified for deepwater and ultra deepwater settings: three are oil-prone and
two are gas prone.
Potential oil source rocks for deepwater plays can be either continental or deep-marine
in origin. First, good lacustrine source rocks have been documented in synrift settings, such as
in the Campos Basin of Brazil and in portions of West Africa (Guardado et al., 1990, Teisserenc and Villemin, 1990, Sequeria et al., 1998, Schiefelbein et al., 2000).
Second, deep-marine potential source rocks were deposited during the later stages of
evolution of several of the worlds continental margins and are associated with major transgressions or relative rises (Mitchum et al., 1993; Duval et al., 1998). The present-day
deepwater environment is a continuation of ultradeepwater depths established during the
Mesozoic in most frontier regions of the world (e.g., the Atlantic margins and the Gulf of Mexico). This prolonged period of deposition in bathyal water depths can produce excellent source
rocks, although their efficiency varies through time and space. Along the West African margin,
multiple marine source rocks exist and are progressively younger with movement into deeper
water. Some of these may be considered world class, such as the Akata Shale in Nigeria
(Doust and Omatsola, 1990, Tuttle et al., 1999) and the Iabe/Landana Formations in the lower
Congo Basin (Rummelhart et al., 2001).
35

Roverable Resources (BBOE)

Gas (BBOE)
Oil & Cond. (BBO/C)

30
25
20
15
10
5
0

pr

u
-J

r
ra

Ju

us

ic
ss

et

Cr

o
ce

Pa

le

e
og

ne
Ne

n
ge

e
B

e
iog

nic

Source Rock Age


Figure 2-10. Graph showing recoverable resources in deep water versus the age of the source
rocks. Most of the discovered resources have Jurassic or Cretaceous source rocks. Updated from
Pettingill and Weimer (2001).

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2-32

Petroleum geology of deepwater basins

3
TOC

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Third, in some equatorial regions, Tertiary land-plant material, which is traditionally


gas-prone, can contribute to oil-producing source rocks. This material initially was deposited
in coastal and shallow-marine depocenters (Schiefelbein et al., 2000). However, during Tertiary lowstands, some of this humic material was transported into deeper water and
concentrated in zones that ultimately formed oil source rocks, as shown by Peters et al. (2000).
This kind of source rock is now recognized in Nigeria, Brunei, and southeast Borneo.
Oil quality varies in the worlds deepwater basins and even locally in some basins. This
variable quality can be a concern for development, especially in ultradeep water, where there is
less overburden to mature source material. Specific problems include the presence of high-sulfur oils (from Type II S-carbonate source rocks), waxy oils (common with lacustrine sources
and from biodegradation), asphaltenes, low API gravity, acids, and hydrates.
In most deepwater areas explored to date, there is enough disseminated organic matter in
the sediments to generate large volumes of biogenic gas. Therefore, in areas where infrastructure allows economic gas extraction, there is an excellent chance of economic quantities of gas
charge. For example, the producing Mensa field in the northern deepwater Gulf of Mexico is
mostly biogenic gas (Pfeiffer et al., 2000). In some regions, however, such as Southeast Asia,
nonhydrocarbon gas (e.g., CO2, N2) is a risk.

Search
Generation and migration

Help

Because source rocks in most of the major producing regions have only recently become
mature, timing is often a lower risk in deep water. Migration routes into traps are sometimes
straightforward via adjacent depocenters and faults (Figure 2-7). In other regions, however,
migration can be more problematic. For example, in mobile-substrate basins, there are usually
sufficient faults and piercements to provide adequate vertical migration. However, (paleo-)
fetch relationships and migration conduits can be complicated locally, particularly for those
traps that depend on charge from older grabens or minibasins that do not lie directly underneath. Many of the Cenozoic mobile-substrate deepwater regions are overpressured, with a
dynamic system of fluid trapping and leaking, such that unique conditions are required that
allow oil to migrate into a trap via a fault but not to escape upward. In the relatively unstructured, unconfined setting, vertical oil migration is sometimes impossible.

Critical geologic success factors


On the basis of the above six components of deepwater petroleum systems and of industrys collective global experience, four critical factors have been identified for successful
exploration and development in deepwater settings (Worrall et al., 2001).
1.
2.

3.
4.

Multiple large traps in an area tend to lead to the discovery and development of multiple
fields with multiple reservoirs (Figures 2-6, 2-7).
High-rate, high-ultimate-recovery (HRHU) reservoirs are necessary for economic development in deep water (Figure 2-11, and discussion below). Thick net-pay sections are a
prerequisite for success; other geologic properties are also critical contributors. Economics also plays an important role.
A working charge system is required, with the following components: source rocks with
good potential, late generation, and clear migration pathways (Figure 2-7).
Multiple play concepts targeting different trapping styles are necessary for drilling and
testing different kinds of plays. This is important because play concepts can be nearly
identical in different basins, yet one will prove successful in one area and not in another
area of the same basin or in different basins.
2-33

Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

35000

30000

TOC

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Search

Well Flow Rate (BOEPD)

25000
20000
15000
10000
5000
0

Help

10

20

30

40

50

Well Ultimate (MMBOE)


Figure 2-11. Crossplot of well flow rates versus ultimate production from one well. HRHU reservoirs plot in the upper right part of the graph.

Field sizes in deep water


Deepwater field sizes (ultimate recoverable resources) vary greatly from one basin to the
next. This variability reflects the vagaries of trap geometries, pay thicknesses, and the economic realities of drilling in remote, expensive frontier areas. Basins with eight or more
deepwater discoveries are shown in Table 2-2.
Mean field size differs greatly for several reasons. First, differences in trap area and net
pay, and, to a lesser extent, recovery factor cause differences in mean field size. For example,
in confined basin settings, which are often composed of small minibasins, fields often have
large net-pay thicknesses but limited trap areas (e.g., the suprasalt areas of the northern Gulf of
Mexico). In contrast, the less confined basin settings, such as the Campos Basin, have large
trap areas with less restriction between salt bodies, thus causing a larger mean field size but
thinner reservoirs. In addition, traps in deepwater Nigeria and Angola are primarily rollover
anticlines and/or diapir flanks that have a large area. These traps are accompanied by stacked
sand sequences of high net pay, which lead to large field sizes.
Second, mean field size also corresponds to our ability to economically develop smaller
fields after infrastructure is in place. For example, in the northern Gulf of Mexico, the lower
mean field size is associated with a smaller mean trap area. The drilling of smaller traps is an
economic phenomenon that has resulted from favorable contract terms and advancing infrastructure, both of which make it more economical to develop smaller fields. For example,
many of the more than 150 northern Gulf of Mexico discoveries are, or will be, developed as
subsea tie-ins to existing infrastructure. This small-trap phenomenon is mostly limited to the
2-34

Petroleum geology of deepwater basins

4
Table 2-2. Deepwater discovery ultimate recoverable resources for the major producing regions.

3
TOC

Start

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Search

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Region

Total
deepwater
resources

Number of
discoveries

Average
discovery
size*

Largest discovery

Reservoir
age

Campos Basin,
Brazil

15.9 million
BOE

45

385 million
BOE

3.2 billion
BOE

Roncador

Cretaceous,
Paleogene,
Miocene

US Gulf of Mexico

15.5 million
BOE

160+

119 million
BOE

1.0 billion
BOE

Thunderhorse

Neogene,
Pleistocene

Lower Congo,
Angola/Congo

10.6 million
BOE

49

216 million
BOE

975 million
BOE

Dalia

Paleogene,
Neogene

Niger Delta,
Nigeria/
Eq. Guinea

8.6 million
BOE

34

308 million
BOE

880 million
BOE

Agbami

Neogene

Borneo
(Mahakam +
Baram), Indonesia/Malaysia

3.9 million
BOE

20

< 305 million


BOE

550 million
BOE

Kikeh

Neogene

NW Shelf,
Australia

60.1 tcfe

15

4.6 tcfe

20.0 tcf

Jansz

Jurassic,
Cretaceous

Nile Delta, Egypt

21.0 tcfe

23

0.9 tcfe

4.0 tcf

Simian

Neogene

Mid-Norway (More
+ Voring)

15.3 tcfe

n.m.

13.9 tcf

Ormen Lange

Cretaceous,
Paleocene

*published discoveries only


n.m. = not meaningful (only 2 discoveries with resources disclosed)
tcfe = trillion cubic feet equivalent

traditional suprasalt plays in the ponded minibasin setting, as demonstrated by the discoverysize-versus-play analysis of Rains and Meyers (2001). Nonetheless, the smaller-discoverysize/trap-size observation still holds for the basin as a whole, because the mean of the largest
30 Gulf of Mexico discoveries (250 million BOE) is about equal to the mean of all 35 Lower
Congo discoveries (247 million BOE), and the mean of the largest 19 Lower Congo discoveries (350 million BOE) is less than that of all 19 Campos Basin discoveries (631 million BOE).

High-rate, high-ultimate-recovery (HRHU) reservoirs


High-rate, high-ultimate-recovery reservoirs (HRHU) is a term that has crept into the
geologic usage for deepwater reservoirs, with no formal definition in the literature. The term
was used internally by Shell geoscientists and refers to reservoirs that can produce initially at
high rates (HR) to help pay for the initial capital investment, as well as with high ultimate
(HU) recoveries, meaning the reserves justify the large economic investment of the infrastructure (Figure 2-11). The term is used today primarily for reservoirs in greater than 500 m of
water depth. HRHU reservoirs are necessary for many deepwater and ultra deepwater discoveries, to justify the high exploration and development costs.
The best HRHU reservoirs found to date are sheet sands (usually amalgamated sheets)
and amalgamated channel fill that have good reservoir drive, good reservoir properties (porosity and permeability), and good oil quality. Amalgamated sheets in the northern Gulf of
2-35

Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

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Mexico are the best documented HRHU sheet reservoirs, and the amalgamated channels of the
North Sea and West Africa are the best channel-fill examples (Chapter 6 and
Chapter 8).HRHU reservoirs are defined on the basis of economics. Although there are essential geologic conditions that create these kinds of reservoirs, the presence of an amalgamated
sheet sand or amalgamated channel fill does not necessarily guarantee HRHU reservoirs. Reservoir quality, connectivity, temperature, depth, fluid pressure, compaction, and oil quality are
all concerns that must be considered in evaluating HRHU reservoirs. For example, many of the
large discoveries in the Campos Basin, offshore Brazil, would probably not be considered
HRHU reservoirs because of these kinds of constraints (Chapter 8).
Although HRHU is a commonly used term, HRHU reservoirs are not necessary for the
economic completion of deepwater reservoirs. Many sedimentary basins of the world are
mature basins with a well-developed infrastructure (either onshore or offshore). As a consequence, lower rates of production can still be economic.

Thickness versus confinement of reservoirs


Deepwater discoveries have variable relationships of area versus thickness, as shown in
Figure 2-12. These variations result from the level of confinement, as described previously.
HRHU reservoirs commonly develop in ponded basins, where high kH reservoirs develop
(the result of permeability and thickness) in conjunction with excellent porosity values. These
conditions are often found in undercompacted Neogene deepwater reservoirs. For example, the
Mars field in the northern deep Gulf of Mexico represents an extreme case of high reserves in
a small ponded area (Figure 2-12) (Mahaffie, 1994). Overpressures and strong water drive
often contribute to high flow rates in individual cases of these thick, confined reservoirs. Also,
drive enhancement from reservoir compaction during production can occur in some cases.
Advances in drilling and completion techniques have played an additional role in achieving
high individual well-flow rates often greater than 15,000 BOPD (Figure 2-11)despite the
fact that deepwater well flows are often constrained by tubing size.
In areas where confinement is low and sands do not stack vertically within small trap
areas, development economics are more problematic and sometimes require high-angle deviated wells and subsea tiebacks. It is therefore not surprising that some of the unconfined
discoveries remain undeveloped or only partially developed many years after discovery, or are
developed only after similar or smaller discoveries in the basin (e.g., Ram Powell, Scarborough, Marlim Sul, and Albacora East, although Scarborough gas has been complicated by
remoteness and Albacora East by heavy oil).

Direct hydrocarbon indicators


Seismic direct hydrocarbon indicators (DHIs), including amplitude variation with offset
(AVO), have been critical in our understanding of reservoir and charge risk (Figure 2-13)
(Society of Exploration Geophysicists, 2000). Because of the associated risk reduction, DHIs
were a major driving force behind the initiation of significant deepwater drilling in the 1980s.
Although there has clearly been a winning formula in mobile-substrate basins containing Cenozoic deepwater reservoirs with excellent DHI support (Figures 2-14 to 2-17), leading
exploration companies are moving into other geologic settings and non-DHI plays, including
pre-Cenozoic objectives and areas lacking major updip reserves. For example, Thunder Horse,
a major discovery in the deepwater northern Gulf of Mexico, is partially overlain by salt and
lacks DHI support. With respect to emerging geologic settings, Mesozoic discoveries have
recently been made in Equatorial Guinea and Mauritania, both in basins lacking updip
production.
2-36

Future deepwater frontiers and exploration trends

Ref. List

Help

45 m

10 km

Orman Lange
& Barden:

Therefore, high net


thick per area is critical.

y d.
all
rti p e
Pa v e l o
r
te
de
af
yr
14 c.
dis

O. Lange:
11 TCF

Scarab-Saffron:
4.5 TCF

Roncador:
3.2 BBO
Marlim Sur: :
. BBOE
1.5

Mars:
700
MMBOE

150 m

High reserves per well


are critical to offshore
economics.

ed

Barden:

ck

st

a
Tr

93 m

Marlim: 2.8 BBOE

Agbami: 890 MMBOE

147 m

ed
lop c. .
e
v
is
de d
er fter
d
a
Un yr
27

Marlim
Leste

Search

Girassol:
883 MMBOE

221 m

Start

Scarborough:
8 TCF

113 m

TOC

Confined

Maenad-OrthusGeryon:
10 TCF?

150 m

Unconfined
30 m

Fa

10 km

Figure 2-12. Deepwater giant fields with field area and net pay (vertical bar) drawn at identical scales. In general, those reservoirs deposited in confined basins have smaller trap areas and larger net pay values than do
reservoirs deposited in unconfined settings. Reservoirs deposited in unconfined settings include Scarborough
(northwestern Australia) and the Marlim complex (Campos Basin, Brazil). Reservoirs deposited in confined
settings include Maenad-Orthus-Geryon (offshore North West Australia), Girassol (offshore Angola), Agbami
(offshore Nigeria), Mars (northern Gulf of Mexico, Ormen Lange and Barden (offshore central Norway),
Roncador (Campos Basin, Brazil), Scarab-Saffron (offshore Nile). Modified from Pettingill and Weimer
(2001).

Seismic imaging
Advances in seismic-reflection imaging have arguably been the most important element
in allowing companies to explore deep water, because seismic imaging often reduces geologic
risk to acceptable levels (Rudolph, 2001). Prestack depth migration (PSDM) of seismic has
become critical for imaging deepwater traps, particularly along steeply dipping salt flanks and
underneath salt. Recently, PSDM was cited as a critical success factor during discovery and
appraisal, because it imaged reservoir architecture and field extent in multistoried channels
that were stratigraphically trapped.

Future deepwater frontiers and exploration trends


Most of the worlds established deepwater play areas are at a relatively immature state of
exploration. As of year end 2000, 900 wells had been drilled in 81 basins in greater than 400 m
of water depth, with most wells being drilled in six basins globally (Worrall et al., 2001). This
relative paucity in drilling means that there is still considerable potential in the global deepwater play that has not been adequately tested. Nine general play trends or concepts are reviewed
here that illustrate the emerging and future areas for deepwater exploration.
2-37

Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

70
DHI-Supported
60

Non-DHI Supported

50
40

TOC

30

83%

Start

20
10

Ref. List

Search

Help

2002

2000

1998

1996

1994

1992

1990

1988

1986

1984

1982

1980

1978

Cumulative Discovered Resources


(BBOE)

Year
Figure 2-13. Graph showing the percentage of global deepwater reserves with DHI support versus those lacking DHI support.

Other NonReservoir
8%
Shale / Marl
14%

Ash
6%

Thin or NonReservoir
Sand
15%

Low Sat.
Gas
20%
Low-Sat.
Oil
2%

Clean Wet
Sand
35%

Figure 2-14. Pie diagram showing the relative percentages of failures using DHI in exploration for
deepwater sands. Data from Noble Energy and Rocky Roden.

k
2-38

Future deepwater frontiers and exploration trends

4
60

3
SUCCESS RATE

50

TOC

Start

40
30
20

DHI TECHNOLOGY
APPLICABLE
DHI TECHNOLOGY
NOT APPLICABLE

10

Ref. List

GEOL.

Search

Help

ECON.

N=95

SUCCESS

Figure 2-15. Graph showing the global success rate of wildcat wells when drilled by Exxon with
DHI support and without DHI support. After Rudolph (2001). Reprinted with permission of
AAPG and Kurt Rudolph.

100

80

SUCCESS RATE
(%)

60

40

20
GOOD FLAT SPOT
0

POOR/NO FLAT SPOT


HIGH DHI
QUALITY (>=3)

MED-LOW DHI
QUALITY (<3)

Figure 2-16. Graph showing the global success rate of wildcat wells identified on flat spots when
drilled by Exxon with DHI support and without DHI support. After Rudolph (2001). Reprinted
with permission of AAPG and Kurt Rudolph.

k
2-39

Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

4
100

3
TOC

80

SUCCESS
RATE (%)

60
40

Start
20
POSITIVE AVO

Ref. List

NEGATIVE OR FLAT AVO


HIGH DHI
QUALITY (>=3)

Search

MED-LOW DHI
QUALITY (<3)

Figure 2-17. Graph showing the global success rate of wildcat wells when drilled by Exxon with
AVO support . After Rudolph (2001). Reprinted with permission of AAPG and Kurt Rudolph.

Help
Continued exploration in proven basins

The simplest play with high chances for success in global deep water is one with continued drilling in the proven plays. Some basins with substantial shallow-water production lack
substantial deepwater reserves (Figure 2-18). In some areas, such as southeast Asia, deep
water is moderately leased. Consequently, reserves found to date are modest (Figure 2-19),
partially because of low drilling density. Most of the Asian deepwater plays are gas-prone, and
this has limited drilling to date.
Immediate future success will most likely be from drilling deeper in proven basins,
especially in basins below the mobile substrate. In this case, development infrastructure is
already present, thus reducing the cycle time and lowering development costs. Brazil and the
northern Gulf of Mexico are the two best examples. Source rocks mature below the salt, and
large discoveries have been made in the northern Gulf of Mexico (Thunder Horse, Atlantis, St.
Malo) and in offshore Angola. A few dry holes have been drilled in the Campos Basin below
the autochthonous Aptian salt; however, there is still considerable potential. Good depth-imaging seismic techniques are mandatory for this kind of play to be successful.

Undrilled, mobile-substrate basins


Many mobile-substrate basins in the world are similar to those described above, but are
still unexplored. Basins with mobile salt and shale substrates are shown in Figure 2-20. Salt
basins include: Brazil, north of the Campos Basin: Sergipe-Alagoas and north along the Brazilian coast; East Africa; Red Sea; Madagascar; Nova Scotia; northwest Africa; the Nile; and
several Mediterranean basins. Deepwater basins with large shale masses include southern Brazil, Columbus Basin (Trinidad), Mexico, Colombia, Mackenzie Delta in northwestern Canada,
Krishna Godavari (offshore southern India), southeast Asia, Indus, large portions of the
Mahakam Delta, and Brunei.
2-40

Future deepwater frontiers and exploration trends

79

12

South
Barents
0%

78

24

North
Sakhal in
0% 6

28
4

NW Europe
4%

TOC
12

4.4

3 Nwflnd-

Start

Ref. List

Scotian
0%

US Gulf of
Mexico
15%

55

J. dArc
0%

0.6

Sicil y
0%

15

4
0.2

11

Trinidad
5%
2.2

0.8

Talara
0%

Niger 10%
R. Muni
0.5
100%
0.5 17

Potigar
0.9

Serg.-Al.
Campos
0.5 78%
Santos
Total ult. reserves 43%
Gabon
(BBOE)
0.3%
DW ult. reserves
(BBOE)

Pettingill & Weimer 2002

12
1

3.5

24

<0.2

NW Palawan
50%
2

Indus

Mahakam
17%
NW Shelf
29%

L. Congo
48%
8

0.5

16

1.1

NW Borneo
2%

South
Caspi an
0%

0.024
2

Nile 50%

Search

Help

Apennines

1.7

Taranaki
0%
<0.1

Figure 2-18. Map showing deepwater frontier basins with the fraction of the basins ultimate discovered resources found to date in deep water. Updated
from Pettingill and Weimer (2001).

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2-41

Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

Reserves Per Leased Area


Hig
he
r
lea rese
sed r ve
are s pe
r
a

TOC

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Ref. List

Search

Help

Discovered Reserves (BBOE)

3
15

Africa
South
America

GoM

10

Australia
5

Europe

Asia

Red: >50% gas

200

400

600

800

1000

Leased Area in > 500m Water


(1000s km2)

Figure 2-19. Map showing global deepwater future frontier areas in terms of discovered resources per leased
area. Leased area taken from Cook (1999, used with permission); resource estimates from Pettingill and
Weimer (2001). Asia has had the fewest deepwater wells drilled per area, which may or may not account for
the current low deepwater resource density. Updated from Pettingill and Weimer (2001).

Ultradeep water, unstructured abyssal plain


The downdip, unstructured abyssal plain (ultradeep water) remains a large undrilled
frontier. This frontier presents many challenges in identifying a working petroleum system.
Challenges include low thermal gradients and the presence of traps. Oceanic crust has a low
thermal gradient, which causes slower maturation of source rocks. Source rocks will all be
open marine in their origin. Source-rock maturation along these margins requires a fairly large
sediment load for burying the source rocks sufficiently to elevate temperature into the oil-generation window. An example of an active petroleum system in this setting is the Congo Fan.
Traps are also a major challenge. Because of the lack of structural development, traps
develop from compaction relief. Examples include Odin and Frigg fields of the North Sea
(deepwater reservoirs that are not at deepwater depths today), and the North West Shelf of
Australia. Stratigraphic traps are a possibility but require homoclinal dip and updip seals.
Deepwater systems tend to be leaky traps because of channels continuing updip.

Unstructured, deepwater margins


The challenges of exploring in less-structured, deepwater divergent margins are the need
to access petroleum charge, lack of structural traps, and lack of updip seal to petroleum migrating updip. Examples include offshore Venezuela west of Trinidad, offshore east Africa, and
large portions of the deepwater margins of Australia.
2-42

Future deepwater frontiers and exploration trends


fi

4
3

TOC

17
18

Start

H
4
5
6
7

Search

Help

14
G

Salt

L
15

Ref. List

16

J
19
18

13
12
11
10

Q
R

20

Shale

Figure 2-20. Map showing the global distribution of deepwater basins with mobile substrates: salt (numbers) and shale (letters). See Chapter 15 for
names of basins, discussion of the structural styles, associated traps, and ages of autochthonous salt.

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Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

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Ref. List

Rift/transform/active margins
These kinds of margins have had little exploration to date, but will grow in importance
(e.g., Bird et al., 2001; Nibblelink and Huggard, 2002). The presence of traps and migration
pathways is generally not a problem, because there are abundant faults and traps. An updip
seal and the presence of a working charge system are the main risks in these basins.

Deeper drilling
Drilling deeper has two meanings: (1) drilling deeper in the subsurface and (2) drilling
in deeper water depths. Although current Gulf of Mexico deepwater exploration wells routinely have total depths exceeding 6000 m, relatively few exploration wells in other deepwater
frontiers have drilled beyond 4000 m of total depth. Subsalt objectives occur in several deepwater basins around the globe. However, only the northern Gulf of Mexico has seen deepwater
subsalt drilling, in both turtle trends as well as a subsalt foldbelt (Sumner and Shinol, 2001).
Ultradeepwater frontiers occur along several margins of the world, as shown in Weimer and
Pettingill (2000). This would include ultradeepwater and deeper drilling depths, including subsalt, subdetachment, and subvolcanic targets.

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Emerging trends

Help

Going beyond the established geologic formula described above, exploration is


extremely immature in basins that lack updip production, for obvious reasons. The risk for
drilling in unproven provinces is high and greater than some companies are willing to tolerate.
Plays with pre-Cenozoic deepwater reservoirs are expected to increase. To date, most deepwater production occurs in Cenozoic reservoirs (Figure 2-8). Non-DHI exploration is expected to
increase, particularly in pre-Cenozoic and deeply buried objectives. In several cases, petroleum systems have been established updip of deep water but produce only marginal or
noncommercial accumulations. The recent success in the deep water Rio Muni Basin of Equatorial Guinea is an example of such a setting and also includes pre-Cenozoic targets.
Finally, contractional settings have, to date, been very lightly explored in deep water.
Drilling activity has, for the most part, been limited to the terminal foldbelts that constitute
contraction downdip of the main extensional areas of passive margins (e.g., Nigeria, northern
Gulf of Mexico). However, some classic contractional continental margins have had recent
leasing and seismic activityfor instance, those in southern Italy, Mexico, Cuba, and southern
Argentina.

Deliberate gas exploration


As pipeline networks and liquefaction technologies advance, deepwater gas exploration
should increase in conjunction with increased worldwide consumption. Many of the worlds
deepwater basins are gas-prone, but many of them currently lack markets. Others that are oilbearing have large amounts of associated gas (e.g., Nigeria, U.S. Gulf of Mexico). LNG plants
to accept deepwater gas are currently being planned in at least four locations, and a floating
LNG plant has recently been proposed for the North West Shelf of offshore Australia.

Political openings
New opportunities may arise in areas that were previously closed because of monopolies, moratoriums, and boundary disputes. In Brazil, the removal of a monopoly has resulted in
sequential offerings of prospective deepwater areas for licensing. In several West Africa
nations, Egypt, and Indonesia, the opening of new areas during the past decade has led to
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many significant discoveries and expanded reserves. In the northeastern deep Gulf of Mexico,
a 10-year leasing moratorium ended in late 2001. The subsequent leasing has already led to
discoveries, although a large portion of the surrounding area remains off limits. Thus, there is
considerable potential for increased deepwater activities, provided that select countries make
their deepwater margins available for exploration.

Business and technology trends of deep water: Key learnings and future
challenges
The deepwater play has a unique set of business and technology issues that push the limits of what geoscientists can do. Companies have learned that they must be innovative to
advance the deepwater play and make it economically viable. The following is a summary of
the key learnings and challenges for the business models and technologic needs for deep and
ultradeep water. This summary is based on presentations by Lawrence and Bosman-Smits
(2000), Weimer et al. (2000), and many public sources in different trade journals, as well as
the authors own opinions. Some of these items represent critical success factors in the managerial aspects of deepwater exploration and production.

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Deepwater versus shelf plays

Help

Deep water, in all aspects, is not a simple extension of the petroleum plays that exist on
continental shelves around the world (e.g., northern Gulf of Mexico, Nigeria, Brazil). In several basins, additional marine source rocks are present in deep water that are either not present
or not active under the updip shelfal part of the basin. Trapping styles are usually different,
particularly for basins that have a mobile substrate and/or are associated with salt evacuation
surfaces, and contractional structures become more prevalent; there is also an increased
emphasis on stratigraphic trap components. Deepwater reservoirs are different from those fluvial-deltaic and shallow-marine sands that constitute the bulk of the reservoirs on continental
shelves (Figure 2-21). Although fluvial-deltaic reservoirs on the shelf can have total trap areas
as large or larger than deepwater fields, drainage areas tend to be larger in deepwater reservoirs. For example, in the northern GOM, deltaic traps are generally developed on 320-acre
spacing or less, whereas deepwater reservoirs tend to be developed at 640-acre spacing or
more. However, the reserves per area of individual deepwater fields are considerably larger,
because of larger net pay per area, larger net-to-gross ratio, stacked pays, and/or thick individual sands (Figure 2-21).
All this implies that development planning and facilities are different for deepwater reservoirs. The deepwater reservoir can produce at much higher rates than shallow to marginal
marine reservoirs can, with some individual wells producing in excess of 30,000 bbl/day.
Development scenarios must handle different reservoir geometries and greater thicknesses to
perforate, with fewer slots in platforms with which to develop the fields. Finally, pressure
regimes are radically different in deepwater counterparts of basins and can affect petroleum
migration, trapping, and containment because of relatively shallow development of
overpressure.

Work in integrated teams


To reduce the amount of time between exploration and development, most of the companies exploring and producing in deep water today work in integrated teams of geoscientists
and specialized engineers (reservoir, drilling, and production facilities). Each group has a different set of roles, challenges, technical languages, and risks. Successful integrated teams
2-45

Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

1000

18 Deepwater Fields
60 Deltaic Fields

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Trap Area (km2)

Shelf
100

(Deltaic
Reservoirs)
Reservoirs)

10

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1
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10

100

1000

Reserves (MMBOE)
Figure 2-21. Log-log graph showing trap area versus reserves for deltaic and deep water reservoirs for the northern Gulf of Mexico. In general, deepwater reservoirs have higher net/area than
deltaic reservoirs in the same basin (necessary).

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f

require that the right people be involved and that they work well together. Because of the
extremely high operating costs, industry now considers development and production plans as
part of the exploration workflow. This forward-planning significantly reduces the cycle-time in
developing these kinds of fields.
Most deepwater projects have the traditional risks, such as the presence of a good reservoir, the commerciality of the project, and long-term political stability of an area. A unique
risk in deeper water is marine processesbottom currents, loop currents, eddies, associated
vibrationthat may impact the development facilities. Thus, oceanographers and naval architects will have increasingly important roles in the team. These deep-marine processes all
clearly affect development structures being installed, sometimes adversely.

Drilling technology for deep water


Advances in drilling technology, for exploration and especially for development, remain
the impetus for increased drilling in deep water. Industry can currently drill in greater than 3
km of water depth, and will soon be able to produce in these water depths. To date, the deepest
well was drilled in 10,011 ft of water (>3 km), and the deepest production facility is the Na
Kika development in northern Gulf of Mexico in 1900 m (6300 ft) of water. During the past 17
years, there have been rapid changes in the increase in water depths for drilling. In 1987, the
deepest water drilled in was 2310 m (7590 ft) (Coulomb field; Mississippi Canyon 657). By
April 1996, water depths were extended to 2320 m (7612 ft) (Baha #1, Alaminos Canyon 601),
and by early 2002, the deepest water was 3000 m (9800 ft) (Trident #2, Alaminos Canyon
2-46

Business and technology trends of deep water: Key learnings and future challenges

903); as of November 2003, the deepest well was in 3051 m (10,011 ft) of water (Toledo well,
Alaminos Canyon 951). Innovative systems are also being developed for production facilities
and production techniques for these extraordinary water depths. Innovation must continue if
deep water is to be economic.

Reduction in drilling costs

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Reducing total development costs, including drilling costs, is essential to future success
for the deepwater play. Rig costs are routinely $250,000$400,000/day for the larger drilling
facilities. Significant improvement in drill times (via bits, fluids, pore-pressure prediction,
etc.) and dual-activity drill ships (reducing drilling times by 2030% alone) are two significant
areas in which costs can be reduced. Cheaper and more numerous production wells are necessary for larger fields and for increased ultimate recovery. In some wells, such as those
involving subsalt drilling, the development wells can be extremely expensive because of the
difficulty in predicting pressure regimes below salt and the need to insure the robustness of the
wellbore against the mobility of the salt body over time.

Fast-track development
Fast-track development is becoming critical for many companies, to assure a quicker
return on the enormous up-front cash investment. This direction, however, potentially conflicts
with important development decisions that must be based on learnings and observations of
performance of the reservoir made throughout the life of a field. The need to minimize costs
also is of paramount importance. Thus, the tradeoff between data collection and development
costs is difficult.
Within companies, there is a real need for frankly discussing the kinds of data that must
be collected to maximize long-term production but minimize time between discovery and
start-up. Much of the data that are collected will be field and basin dependent. More-mature
basins, where generic issues concerning the development of different play types are well
known, require different data sets and analytical approaches, compared with new frontiers or
lightly explored plays. For instance, the approach to a new development of the Paleocene
North Sea reservoirs will be different from the new fan plays in deepwater West Africa, northern Gulf of Mexico, or Brazil.

Data collection during field development


Technical judgment must be exercised early about what kinds of data must be collected
during the appraisal and development of discoveries. Often this decision may determine the
performance of the field. Two types of reservoir data collectionstatic and dynamicare recognized as being critical to maximize long-term production. Both are needed from the early
stage of a discoverys appraisal and should be fully integrated to get maximum value. Two
general considerations for appropriate data collection and management in a field are (1) goodpractice data, which are data collected at various stages in field life that produce good investment returns, and (2) problem-solving data, which can provide appropriate information for
contingencies when something goes wrong in the production of a well.
Static data are crucial early in the development of a field, especially when dynamic data
are sparse and indicators of major reservoir heterogeneities are equivocal. Static rock data
come from cores, sidewall cores, and full-suite conventional wireline logs. The importance of
specialized logs, such as borehole images and nuclear magnetic resonance logs, is just now
being realized. Other data that are important to capture include initial potentials (IPs), fluid
2-47

Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

distribution data, fluid properties, initial reservoir pressure data, productivities, and hydrocarbon and water chemistries.
Collection of dynamic data during the life of a field is also of paramount importance,
particularly to maximize production as the field matures. In the future, the need for pressure
monitoring through downhole gauges will be essential to subsea tiebacks and similar production scenarios that minimize intervention. The use of time-lapse 3D seismic imaging for
monitoring fluid movement is increasing and has been used successfully in areas only where
favorable reservoir properties exist (Calvert, 2005). This seismic monitoring can be accomplished in two primary ways: by placing permanent geophones on the seafloor and acquiring
data at different times (e.g., Foinaven field, West of Shetland; Entralgo and Spitz, 2001) or by
conducting repeated 3D seismic surveys using similar acquisition parameters (e.g., Forties
field, U.K. North Sea; Leonard et al., 2000).

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Reduction in cycle time


Continuous cycle-time reduction is critical for the economic and business success of a
deepwater play (Figures 2-22, 2-23). In many areas, production can occur as soon as 12 years
after the initial discovery (for the small subsea cases). However, the industrys track record on
meeting schedules has not been especially good. Fewer than 25% of recent projects are on
schedule.

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13 YRS

7 YEARS

-10000

Initial Oil Flow


Water Depth

-9000
-8000

15000
-7000
-6000
10000

-5000
-4000
-3000

5000
-2000
-1000
0

2000
2002

2000

1998

1996

1990

-5000

1983

1000

Water Depth (m)

Initial Oil Flow Rate (BOPD)

20000

Discoveries by Year
Figure 2-22. Oil flow rates for West Africa discoveries in >100-m water depth, ordered by year. Note the initial
steady increase in flow rate as the industry moved into deeper water. A decrease has occurred during the last
two recorded years, probably reflecting both the limits of learning and a maturing prospect inventory in
Angola. Reprinted with permission of the Gulf Coast Section SEPM Foundation.

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Discovery to First Prod. (Years)

A: Gulf of M exico
15

10

1999

1997

1998

1997

1996

1995

1995

1991

1990

1989

1988

1986

2000

Dark Bars: onstream

Brazil

Light Bars: planned

15

NW Europe
West Africa

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Discovery (by Wildcat Year)

1999

1996

1995

1996

0
1992

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B: I nter national

1985

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Discovery (by Wildcat Year)


Discovery
to Fir
First
Oil (y
(years)
Dis
c o v e r y to
s t Oil
ear s )

Ref. List

1984

1981

12

Figure 2-23. Discovery to first production for deepwater developments: (a) northern Gulf of Mexico, (b) international: Brazil, northwest Europe offshore, and West Africa. Much of the reduction in development time
since 1990 in the northern Gulf of Mexico resulted from advancing infrastructure and subsea developments;
however, the remaining reduction represents the learning curve for industry. The other areas use floating production schemes. Therefore, most of the reduction in Brazil is due to the learning curve. Unconfined reservoirs
in the West of Shetlands are problematical for development economics, and minor advances have been made
in reduction time. West Africa is in its earliest years and may soon achieve a learning curve similar to those for
Brazil and the Gulf of Mexico. Reprinted with permission of the Gulf Coast Section SEPM Foundation.

k
Reduced cycle time is illustrated by two pairs of fields discovered 1416 years apart in
two different provinces. The Jolliet field (discovered in August 1981) and Bullwinkle field
(discovered in October 1983) were two of the initial deepwater discoveries in the northern
Gulf of Mexico. Both fields were developed as if they held deltaic reservoirs like those in the
shelf fields to the north. In the case of Bullwinkle, the reservoirs consist of sheets and channel
fill (Holman and Robertson, 1994; Shew, 1997); for Jolliet, reservoirs are channel fill and thinbed levees (Schneider and Clifton, 1995). Development facilities were designed with many
drilling slots that were never used, because both fields performed far better than expected. For
both fields, full production was reached 89 years after discovery. In general, the rigs were
overengineered and were never used to their full capacity. After reaching its production
decline, Bullwinkle platform was used as a hub for subsea tiebacks for other fields (Rocky,
Troika, Angus, Manatee).
In contrast, two large fields discovered offshore Equatorial Guinea in West Africa in the
middle to late 1990s illustrate how lessons were learned in development and design. The
Zafiro field, discovered by Mobil and partners in March 1995, was fast-tracked for develop2-49

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ment, with initial oil produced 17 months later (Humphreys et al., 1999). The Ceiba field was
discovered in October 1999 by Triton and partners, and development was fast tracked (Dailly
et al., 2002). The first oil was produced from an FPSO (Floating Production, Storage and Offloading) unit 13-1/2 months after initial discovery. Continued production of both fields
eventually led to the development of platforms being set, in addition to the initial FPSO units.
However, there are problems in developing a geologic model that later may be wrong.

Subsea development
Subsea wells will increasingly be used for development in two main areas: single-well
tiebacks from small discoveries, and where several smaller fields can be tied back to one gathering production facility. Subsea development has had an important impact on how and
whether small discoveries can be developed without large investment. Subsea development
techniques are becoming standard in basins with a modest to well-developed infrastructure.
Current records for length of the tieback are 48 km (30 mi) for oil and 100 km (65 mi) for gas
(Mensa field, northern deep Gulf of Mexico; Pfeiffer et al., 2000). What makes subsea development unique is that investment can be done in a staged fashion, where the initial investment
is smaller and can be increased with favorable learnings. However, as a total investment, subsea development is costlier than a central processing facility.
The Na Kika subsea development in the northern deep Gulf of Mexico (Mississippi Canyon protraction area) illustrates this important development. Na Kika Development consists of
six oil and gas fields discovered during the past 15 years in different water depths: Kepler
(1987, 5600 ft [1700 m]; oil), Fourier (1989, 6000 ft [1800 m], oil and gas), Ariel (1995, 6500
ft [1980 m], oil), Herschel (1996, 6000 ft [1800 m], oil), East Antsey (1997, 7000 ft [2100 m],
dry gas), and Coulomb (1988, 7592 feet [2314 m] gas). None of the fields has large enough
reserves to warrant a stand-alone development structure. Instead, a host platform was established, consisting of a permanently moored, floating and development system. Different
pipelines are used for oil and gas. Initial production began in November 2003. Total ultimate
production is estimated to be 300 million BOE. The Coulomb gas field was brought on line in
2004.
The use of subsea wells is an application that has grown substantially during the past
decade, yet significant problems remain. Reliability of this process is essential because the
industry, as a whole, has experienced many mechanical failures on subsea wells during the
first year of production. In the future, a number of issues must be addressed with more rigorous requirements: the use of these facilities in remote areas, an utmost reliability, and
nonintervention, once the wells are turned on.

Reservoir monitoring
The future possibilities for intelligent oil-field development, using automation of reservoir monitoring of the field, have been summarized by Entralgo and Spitz (2001), Hottman
and Curtis (2001), and Lumley (2001). This will include a number of technologies capable of
measuring fluid movement through time, both with seismic monitoring and downhole pressure
gauges. Downhole pressure gauges have been essential for development, yet they have a history of breaking down after a few years of use.
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Exploration workflow for deep water


What is the best workflow for deepwater explorationists? For a person working deep
water for the first time, this task may be daunting because of the complexity and enormity of
deepwater geology and the high cost of exploration in this environment.
The remaining chapters in this book will address the technical geological, geopyhysical,
and certain engineering aspects of the deepwater play in greater detail. Summarized below are
typical steps that use modern exploration techniques with the geologic concepts for working in
deep water. This discussion is based on our own experience plus that reported by Mitchum et
al. (1990), Richards et al. (1998), and R. Mitchum (personal communication, 2003).
In general, one begins to work at the large scale (regional) and then narrows the works
focus to progressively smaller scales (from play to prospect). We use the same general workflow in the organization of this book.

Regional scale
1.

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2.

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3.
4.

5.

Establish the major plate-tectonic setting, basin evolution, patterns of basin fill, and basinwide controls on the following petroleum parameters: source-rock deposition, maturation, migration, trap formation, reservoir and seal deposition.
Establish the approximate areal extent of petroleum source rock(s), their richness, and
their maturation. This can be difficult in frontier areas, where the source rock has not
been penetrated and can only be estimated from seismic data.
Recognize the basinwide sequence stratigraphic framework (second- to fourth-order
relationships) and its relationship to tectonostratigraphic packages (Chapter 3).
Recognize basin-scale depositional environments: shelf-slope-basin transitions, sandrich provenances, and entry areas for coarser-grained sediment into the deepwater
basins.
Map regional patterns and trends of deepwater deposition: channels, levees, and sheets
(Chapter 6 through Chapter 8)

Play scale
1.
2.
3.

4.

5.
6.
7.
8.

Recognize sequences with coarse deepwater systems (usually third-order sequences


(Chapter 3).
Define the tectonic trends of the structural traps that are present (Chapter 15).
Map depositional patterns in specific sequences (second- to fourth-order depositional
sequences (Chapter 3), and link them to tectonic controls of deposition, when appropriate.
Study any previous production in the area, looking for additional information about the
play, and carry out a thorough dry-hole post-mortem analysis to understand key risks
and critical success factors.
Establish the mechanisms required for petroleum maturation, generation, and migration
into prospects.
Establish the pressure regime for the interval that encompasses the source rock horizon
up to the prospective trapped reservoir interval.
Check analogs from other deepwater basins and test for common elements between
those established plays and the deepwater play.
Conduct shallow analog studies, where appropriate and possible. One technique that has
been used successfully is to study the distribution of upper Pleistocene slope deposi2-51

Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

tional systems using 3D seismic data. These systems commonly are good analogs for the
underlying deep, buried-slope deepwater systems that are the prospects. After initial
exploration drilling, the seismic response is calibrated to the rock physics of the sediments.

Prospect scale

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2.

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3.

4.

5.

As we discussed above, most companies still stress structural prospects (e.g.. salt and
shale structures, strike-slip faults, foldbelts, growth faults) in their portfolios, even
though most prospects are combined stratigraphic-structural traps (Figures 2-1a to 2-1c).
Good stratigraphic control is necessary for mapping sand-prone portions of structures.
In certain cases, well control somewhat delimits the reservoirs extent. However, in most
deepwater cases, 3D seismic data are employed to fully delimit the extent of the reservoir. Additional 3D analyses of seismic attributes, such as amplitude extractions, frequency, continuity cubes (edge cubes), artificial intelligence, or combinations of
these, help develop map views of deepwater architecture such as channels, sheets, and
thin beds in overbank settings. Commonly, detailed analyses will reduce the amount of
reservoir placed in these structures, much to the chagrin of the exploration team.
The recovery factor used for this reservoir analysis is most important, as is the portion of
the mapped trap that is effectively recoverable, that is, limits of reservoir continuity
and connectivity may reduce the effective size of the prospect. In some cases, the proportion of the in-place resources that will be recovered is further reduced when the most
profitable development plan is one that would only develop part of the field (most commonly, in subsea production tie-ins).
Analyses of direct hydrocarbon indicators (DHIs), such as seismic amplitude anomalies
including bright spots, seismic flat spots, and amplitude-variation-with-offset (AVO)
anomalies are most important in obtaining managements approval for a prospect
(Rudolph, 2001; Brown, 2004). Although some companies are moving into non-DHI
plays, most deepwater prospects still live and die with these analyses. Many companies
are recognizing more-subtle low-amplitude plays, including prospects that lack fullstack anomalies but have far-angle anomalies. Two recent symposia on exploration dry
holes have revealed notable failures in DHI analyses (Houston Geological Society, 2000,
2003). Although AVOs success is unequivocal in some basins, such as the northern Gulf
of Mexico, its overall success in basins worldwide has been limited (e.g., West of Shetlands, Loizou, 2003). Common prospect-scale evaluation steps to define the quality of a
seismic anomaly that is thought to be a DHI include (a) calibration to well control in
both positive and negative examples, including, but not limited to, synthetic seismograms, fluid substitutions, and wedge models; (b) presence of a downdip conformance
of the anomaly to a structural contour, indicating a hydrocarbon-water contact; (c) presence of a flat spot (Rudolph, 2001); (d) visual inspection of near- and far-angle gathers,
crossplots, and sophisticated analyses (Society of Exploration Geophysicists, 2000); and
(e) understanding DHI pitfalls in the prospect area (Figure 2-11).
In addition to the aforementioned use of seismic anomalies to detect fluid indicators,
seismic amplitude is also a reliable predictor of lithology in most deepwater basins.
Hence, it is employed to define reservoir and seal. In several oil-bearing deepwater
basins, amplitude anomalies are indicators of lithology only but are still a critical aspect
of defining a stratigraphic trap and a drillable prospect location.
Technological improvements have helped to analyze bed-bed subsequence architecture
(amplitude extractions, amplitude seeding in volume visualization products, quantified
2-52

Summary: Lessons learned

seismic facies mapping, other attribute analyses) for individual sand mapping. Often, the
use of these tools leads explorationists to avoid a thorough stratigraphic analysis, sometimes to the long-term detriment of the prospect.

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Final prospect risking


Most prospects receive a rigorous, formalized, quantitative probability and risk analysis
for the following factors: (1) analyzing source-rock presence, thickness, and richness; (2)
modeling maturation and migration history, and tying to the timing of structural growth of the
prospect; (3) reservoir analyses, as described above; (4) evaluating the structural versus stratigraphic trap components and the integrity of the traps through time (pressures often play a role
in trap integrity). Four-way dip closures are considered lower-risk than three-way closures
against a fault, where fault seals are commonly high-risk; (5) seal: evaluating the top seal, lateral seal, and faults: in the deepwater environment, condensed-section shales may serve as
excellent seals, separating sands in different third-order sequences, although sands within a
sequence may commonly be in pressure and fluid communication. All of these factors are used
to establish the ranking in prospect portfolios for probable size, cost, and profit of prospects. In
many cases, we rely heavily on seismic-amplitude anomalies to define both the risk and the
size of a prospect; and (6) risking deepwater prospects, acknowledging the high degree of
interdependence between the prospect elements described above. All elements of the petroleum system generally develop during the same stage of basin evolution (e.g., mature passive
margin) and share a common syntectonic control. Therefore, petroleum maturation and generation, reservoir-seal deposition, and development of pressures that affect migration and
trapping might all be interrelated by the same basin-scale forces.

Summary: Lessons learned


1.

2.

3.

4.

Global exploration in deepwater settings has significantly increased during the past
decade, adding 74 billion BOE discovered. However, globally deep water remains an
immature frontier, accounting for less than 5% of the current worldwide total oil-equivalent resources. Only about 20% of the discovered deepwater resources are developed,
and less than 5% have been produced.
Most of the exploration activity has concentrated in only three areas of the world, with a
majority of the discovered resources in the northern Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, and West
Africa. Consequently, large portions of the worlds deepwater margins remain lightly
explored. Deepwater gas exploration is extremely immature, reflecting current infrastructure and economic limitations, but it is destined to become a major future focus.
The petroleum systems of deepwater margins are highly variable among different
basins. Successful exploration efforts will depend on an understanding of the differences
both within and among basins. Oil source rocks include synrift lacustrine, open-marine
(postrift), and transported delta-plain material. Gas source rocks include disseminated
organic material and biogenic gas. Timing of petroleum generation and migration is a
crucial factor in deep water and is highly variable, depending on the margins geologic
evolution, basin heat-flow history, and the distribution of fetch areas in space and time.
Migration conduits (faults, carrier beds) must also be in place at the crucial moment. Oil
quality is a major issue for economics in many basins, most often because of immature
heavy oils but occasionally because of sulfur and wax contents.
Most reservoirs in deep water are associated with gravity deposits, although in some
basins, shallow-water carbonates and siliciclastics are potential reservoirs. Trapping
styles vary considerably in the deep water associated with faulting, salt and shale defor2-53

Global Overview of Deepwater Exploration and Production

5.

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mation, and contractional features. Purely stratigraphic traps occur infrequently; however, many traps have a stratigraphic component and some are reduced or enlarged by a
stratigraphic pinch-out. Adequate seals are present because shale dominates in these
basins, although potential leakage can be a significant risk.
Five main themes will drive deepwater exploration in the future: (a) a continuation of
established trends; (b) emerging trends that include basins lacking updip production,
unconfined basins, compressive margins, pre-Cenozoic targets, nondeepwater targets,
and non-DHI targets; (c) increased exploration specifically for gas; (d) going deeper:
ultradeepwater and deeper drilling; and (e) politically driven opportunities.

References
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Fillon, N. C. Rosen, P. Weimer, A. Lowrie, H. W. Pettingill, R. L. Phair, H. H. Roberts, and B. Van Hoorn,
eds., Petroleum systems of deep-water basins: global and Gulf and Mexico experience: Gulf Coast Section
SEPM Foundation Bob F. Perkins 21st Annual Research Conference, p. 539548.
BP, 2003, Statistical Review of World Energy, http://www.bp.com/subsection.do?categoryId=95&contentId=2006480 [accessed January 2004].
Brown, A. R., 2004, Interpretation of three-dimensional seismic data, 6th ed.: AAPG Memoir 42/SEG Investigations in Geophysics No. 9, 541 p.
Calvert, R., 2005, Insights and methods for 4-D reservoir monitoring and characterization: SEG Distinguished
Instructor Short Course Notes No. 8, 219 p.
Clemenceau, G. R., J. Colbert, and D. Edens, 2000, Production results from levee-overbank turbidite sands at Ram/
Powell field, deep water Gulf of Mexico, in P. Weimer, R. Slatt, J. Coleman, N. Rosen, H. Nelson, A.
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