‘It’s not a simple problem’

Monterey Development Possible – Eventually

Fred Aminzadeh
Fred Aminzadeh

Monterey Shale oil development will happen – but it could take a decade, said AAPG member Fred Aminzadeh, AAPG member and professor of petroleum engineering at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and a former president of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists.

Aminzadeh serves as executive director of the USC Reservoir Monitoring Consortium and Induced Seismicity Consortium, as well as managing director of the USC Global Energy Network.

“My best estimation is, over the next 10 years we will see a game change in the Monterey Shale,” he said.

He naturally thinks seismic technology and other geophysical methods will be a key part of any progress in the Monterey Shale, “not just conventional, but three-component and passive seismic,” he said.

Oil and gas associated with the Monterey as a source rock has been produced for the past 50 years, he noted. Producing Monterey Shale oil play as a resource rock is a trickier business.

“It’s not a simple problem,” he said. “If it was simple, we would have seen it by now.”

Aminzadeh identified challenges in several areas:

  • Technology: “We’re still improving on the technology we need,” he said.
  • Characterization: “Positioning your wellhead in the Monterey Shale is very important.”
  • Regulation: “A potential issue is environmental considerations, including those in connection with hydraulic fracturing.”
  • Geophysics: “You are going to need a lot more development in three-component seismic analysis and shear wave technology, both from technical and economic view points.”

And much more seismic work will be done in California in the coming years, Aminzadeh believes.

“I predict you will see an order of magnitude change in seismic acquisition, not only for the Monterey Shale, but also for the deeper targets we are looking at,” he said.

In his description, development of Monterey Shale oil production begins to sound like the history of development of the Barnett Shale.

Aminzadeh himself has used the Barnett comparison.

“The Barnett Shale took 15 years to develop,” he said. “It’s not unusual in shale plays for things to take so long.” 

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