Neftex Exploration Insights magazine, March 2017

In the March 2017 issue of our Neftex Exploration Insights magazine we have a diverse set of articles that we hope will provide something of interest for everyone. We examine the Cenozoic geodynamic history of Southeast Asia and how a globally integrated plate model can offer insight into the generation of frontier play concepts. We examine the shale gas potential of the Karoo Basin of South Africa and assess the risks to this play posed by igneous intrusions. The need for graduates joining the industry to be ‘work-ready’ is a growing challenge — we review whether graduates leaving academia are equipped with geoscience skills that are industry-relevant and how industry can work with academia to address any skills gaps. Our Great Geologist this month is T.C. Chamberlin, arguably the greatest American geologist of the early 20th Century. Amongst his many achievements, he attempted to link geological history and processes to the manner in which the Earth formed. He also encouraged geologists to work with multiple hypotheses in attempting to explain the phenomena they encountered. Good advice that is still relevant today!

Plate models are useful tools to help prediction of hydrocarbon play elements in areas where data are sparse. The creation of a new high-resolution Cenozoic plate model that is constrained globally in terms of relative plate positions, and regionally by a wide-ranging suite of geological data types, can deliver insight into basin evolution throughout Southeast Asia. A better understanding of the onset, duration, termination and number of rift phases can improve burial history modelling of syn-rift source rocks and perhaps aid finding oil-bearing prospects in a gas-prone region. Constraint on the timing and severity of compressional episodes in north-western Borneo has significant b earing on delivery of hinterland detritus for reservoir units on the margin, as well as the formation, modification and filling of traps in the fold-thrust belt.

Shale gas interest in the Karoo Basin has focussed on the early Permian Ecca Group shales, comprising the Prince Albert, Whitehill and Collingham formations. The Whitehill Formation has the best overall parameters that make it suitable for shale gas exploration, but the presence of substantial igneous intrusions relating the emplacement of the Karoo Large Igneous Province c. 182 million years ago, create significant risks to success. These include the early generation and loss of methane, reductions in porosity and permeability, and complications by fracturing. Nonetheless, 20% of the Whitehill Formation is both unaffected by igneous sills and lies within the present-day gas window. This still provides a significant potential resource for exploration.

University education provides a high-level understanding of a broad range of fundamental geologic principles, but graduates and postgraduates often lack insight into the industry relevance of this knowledge, and rarely have experience in industry specific subjects. Industry actively participates in and engages with academia by, for example, providing appropriate training and data to accompany software, or delivering lectures on industry-relevant topics. But, by better developing industry–academia partnerships and becoming active members of the industry-academic community, we can help universities produce better-informed, well-rounded and more flexible individuals read y to ‘hit the ground running’ in their careers.

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If you have any comments on the Exploration Insights presented in this issue, or these magazines in general, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – your feedback will be very valuable. And, of course, if you’d like to know more about the solutions we provide and the science and technology that underpin them, we’d love to hear from you.