Egypt’s Western Desert Focus of First GTW

A comprehensive look at the use of cutting-edge technology in Egypt’s Western Desert – including the application of new seismic, drilling and stimulation operations – helped make AAPG’s first international Geoscience Technical Workshop a big success.

The GTW, held in late April near Cairo, Egypt, was a specialized workshop on a petroleum province that has been the site of extensive oil and gas exploration for more than 50 years – but one that has experienced revitalization due to technological advances and the resulting improvements in discovery rates and increased production.

The workshop was dedicated to examining the Mesozoic geology and petroleum systems, geophysics and drilling of the Western Desert with the goal to understand what makes the system work and how to best explore and develop.

Held at the Sofitel Towers and Casino in Maadi, a suburb just south of Cairo, the workshop agenda comprised four sessions that focused on particular technical challenges as recognized by the technical program committee that was co-chaired by William Bosworth, Apache Egypt Companies, and Ahmed El-Barkooky, Shell Egypt and adjunct professor at Cairo University.

These sessions delivered up-to-date technical content to AAPG members and the industry in a highly interactive environment. In order to provide an open environment for workshop speakers and participants no formal record of the GTW was taken nor will be published.

A generalized summary of the event is provided below.

  • Session one, chaired by Fred Wehr, Apache Egypt Companies, started with “Petroleum Systems,” which dove into questions of source rock, generation and critically, long-range versus vertical migration as well as secondary migration.
  • In the Western Desert a complex history of multi-phase deformation, both extensional and compressional, occurred during which hydrocarbon source rocks were deposited in both the Jurassic and Cretaceous. Mohamed Said, Stratochem, presented a regional framing that highlighted the presence of two major oil types and their known distributions. Tim Dodd, BP Egypt, dove into the oil-to-oil correlations that helped put the regional field distribution in context.
  • What this means in terms of structural history and migration timing was reviewed by Adel Ramadan Moustafa, Ain Shams University, who provided a regional structural context.
  • Session two, chaired by Adel Moustafa, followed with Basin Analysis, spanning a range of topics from Fred Wehr’s presentation on Qasr Field and recent discoveries by Apache to George Pemberton, University of Edmonton, contribution providing in depth perspective on the sedimentary response to rifting. The resulting syn-rift sediments were either in communication with, or proximal to, the opening Neotethyan seaway.
  • Lateral and vertical facies changes in the Western Desert are therefore complex – and in certain areas and at some geologic times, strongly influenced by eustatic sea-level fluctuations.
  • John Dolson, DPS Consultants, opened his talk with a broad look at tectonostratigraphy and challenged the delegates to look at the Western Desert with new ideas about Paleozoic and Jurassic potential and what this means to future exploration.
  • Dolson also challenged the delegates to consider a different data access model.
  • Session Three, co-chaired by Samir Abdel Moaty, BP Egypt, and Aafke Bouma, Shell Egypt, addressed Geophysics and the continuing challenges faced by operators and technical service providers to acquire high resolution data.
  • Abdel Moaty and Bouma provided context for this session by stating that the resurgence of the Western Desert as an important area of exploration focus during the late 1990s and into the present decade is directly correlative to the widespread application of 3-D seismic technology. They stated the challenge here is to acquire and process extended bandwidth seismic data, with lower frequencies for deeper penetration and higher frequencies for better resolution.
  • Ali Bakr, IPR Egypt, highlighted the recent IPR discovery at Zain which was based on using the latest acquisition and processing tools available. This was followed by excellent summaries of the issues facing acquisition in the specific surface and subsurface conditions of the Western Desert.
  • The fourth and final formal session, co-chaired by Faron Thibodeaux, Apache Egypt Companies, and Mohamed Abdel-Momeim, Bapetco, dealt with Drilling and Completion Technology in the Western Desert, which has been an increasingly important, growing center of hydrocarbon production since the discovery of a commercial oil accumulation at Alamein in 1966.
  • The drilling environment remains technically challenging, and some formations and basins remain particularly difficult in which to drill wells that are amenable to high-quality logging and conventional straight-forward completions.
  • Mohamed Abdel Momein, of Bapetco, shared their successes in the use of oil based muds to maintain borehole continuity, and discussed the benefits and advantages to consider using performance turbine motors and high technology impregnated diamond bits to increase ROP.
  • Mahmoud Emam with Schlumberger introduced the group to the benefits of utilizing high technology image logs to better understand fracturing orientations along with other valuable rock information. There is also a growing awareness of the importance of water-flooding and well-stimulations to increase productivity and ultimate recovery.
  • Aristides Orlandi Neto of Schlumberger shared the value of re-entering old wells in mature fields using horizontal drilling technology available in the market.

The session was ended with Mark Van Domelen with Halliburton sharing the technology involved with hydraulically fracturing wells in the Western Desert along with the successes of operators in the Western Desert.

A late afternoon discussion on the workshop’s final day led to a lively and valuable discussion on data access in Egypt, comparison with other countries and how a different model might inevitably lead in the coming decades to new discoveries in this complex and increasingly important hydrocarbon setting.

Generous sponsorship support of the first AAPG GTW was provided by Apache Egypt Companies and El Paso Corporation. Thanks also go to the Technical Committee co-chairs and their companies who volunteered time to make this workshop a success.

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About the Author

David Blanchard is with El Paso Egypt, and Mostafa El Bahr is with the Egyptian General Petroleum Company.

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