Technology and exploration paradigm shift lead to resurgence of super basins

Misfir AzZahrani, Executive Director of Exploration, Saudi Aramco
Misfir AzZahrani, Executive Director of Exploration, Saudi Aramco offers insights on Arabian ‘Super Basins’ during his keynote at the AAPG Super Basins Leadership Conference 2020.

There is a resurgence in the world's greatest oil and gas basins driven by technology and shifting strategies taking exploration and production teams back to these giant basins to further unlock their potential.

AzZahrani joins panel discussion during the opening session of AAPG’s Global Super Basins Leadership Conference 2020
AzZahrani joins panel discussion during the opening session of AAPG’s Global Super Basins Leadership Conference 2020. Technology and geoscience integration is creating a resurgence in super basin exploration.

During the opening keynote of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Global Super Basins Leadership Conference 2020 held in SugarLand, Texas, Misfir AzZahrani, Executive Director of Exploration, Saudi Aramco, noted that while exploration principles remain the same, it is tools and data integration allowing for better predictive models and risk mitigation.
“Technology, inherently, is only a tool.  A tool is only of value in the hands of the right people.  Today, our professionals are capable of simultaneously placing horizontal wells continuously in real time while drilling,” said AzZahrani.
New Data and the Story It Tells
He pointed out that unlocking additional hydrocarbon potential of super basins requires advanced 3D seismic data, integration of more than 30 different geoscience disciplines and the inclusion of data scientists to help organize and manage complex data sets faster.
“Due to the unseen and untouched nature of subsurface landscape, the arrival of new data always tells us the details of its story,” said AzZahrani.
The History of 'Super Basins'
The concept of a 'super basin' was introduced by oil consultancy IHS Markit in 2016.  This label applies to a world-class petroleum basin with at least 5 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BBOE) produced with a potential of more than 5 BBOE left to produce.  Beyond individual fields or plays, the super basins framework fosters a wider view of the entire basin considering commercial viability, infrastructure and potential future resources such as unconventional or tight gas.
While differences exist, key essentials to all big super basins are: prolific reservoirs and regional seals, and often more than one source rock, leading to stacked petroleum systems.
There are about 100 or so super basins around the world with recognition that the Middle East basins have some of the most prolific reservoirs and source rocks. Attendees from Venezuela, Brazil, Guyana, Africa, Eastern Mediterranean and the U.S. shared their insights on regional basin differences, similarities and challenges during the two-day conference.

Opening AAPG’s Super Basins Leadership Conference were industry leaders
Opening AAPG’s Super Basins Leadership Conference were industry leaders: (right to left) Charles A. Sternbach, Star Creek Energy; Robert Fryklund, IHS Markit; Misfir A. AzZahrani, Executive Director of Exploration, Saudi Aramco; J. Mike Party, 2020 AAPG President and President Beryl Oil & Gas.

A Geological Journey Around the Kingdom
During his remarks, AzZahrani took attendees on a geological journey through Saudi Arabia highlighting the main surface features of Arabian Basins, stopping to discuss key basins such as the Rub' Al-Khali, Gotnia, Jafurah, and the Red Sea, commenting on the complexity of the Red Sea geology that requires high resolution 3D seismic with accurate depth imaging.
Recognizing the mind shift of going back to the big, mature super basins with the technology to rejuvenate reservoirs, AzZahrani pointed to Aramco's successful gas exploration and its Unconventional Gas Program reaching new milestones
“We have been pleasantly rewarded with positive results of our unconventionals program—both in the North and Jafurah Basin,” AzZahrani told attendees during the panel discussion.
Aramco supported the inaugural AAPG Super Basins Leadership conference in 2018 and served as the platinum sponsor for this year's event.  Decision makers from the world's most significant basins around the world attend with and audience of 150 and 32 global experts contributing with a review of 20 of the world's greatest basins.  Growing interest in super basins has expanded AAPG's coverage on the subject with a number of hosted conferences, forums and an initiative for more papers on the subject in the AAPG Bulletin.
Aramco announces development of Jafurah gas field
Since the conference, Saudi Aramco has received regulatory approval and announced plans for major investment to develop unconventional gas reserves in the Jafurah field in the Eastern Province, the largest non-associated gas field in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to date, with a length of 170 km and width of 100 km.  The volume of gas resources in the field is estimated at 200 trillion cubic feet of rich raw gas, which will provide a valuable feedstock for the petrochemical industries.

The Company expects the field's production, to commence early 2024, to reach approximately 2.2 billion standard cubic feet per day of sales gas by 2036, with an associated approximately 425 million standard cubic feet per day of ethane, representing about 40 percent of current production. The Company also expects the field to produce approximately 550 thousand barrels per day of gas liquids and condensates. Learn more

Aramco participates in the annual Unconventional Resources Technology Conference (URTeC), sponsored by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, American Association of Petroleum Geologists and Society of Exploration Geophysicists, July 20-22, Austin, Texas.  Since the inaugural conference in 2013, Aramco has exhibited and contributed to the technical program.  The conference brings together key disciplines and technologies engaged in the development of unconventional resource plays. 

Learn more about URTeC 2020 


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