Think About It: New Ideas Equal New Success

I can remember hearing, way back in 1977, the president of a major oil company that I worked for say that the United States had run out of oil and gas – there was not much left to find and develop.

It seemed like a defeatist attitude for the leader of an oil company to have, and I wondered why I was working there.

In that context, the possibility that the United States could be energy independent – as suggested by several studies, including a recent forecast by the International Energy Agency – is astonishing to me. It also is amazing to consider that we petroleum geologists made it happen, along with a little help from our engineering colleagues.

It all brings to mind Parke Dickey’s famous 1958 quote: “Several times in the past we thought we were running out of oil, whereas actually we were only running out of ideas.”


The ideas brought forth by petroleum geologists have literally changed the world – again and again and again.

AAPG members Dan Stewart and George Mitchell most recently demonstrated this when they persisted with their belief that shales could be gas reservoirs – and eventually brought in the Barnett Shale play. Because of their ideas – their vision – and determination the world will never be the same.

Daniel Yergin, vice president of IHS, calls it the “unconventional oil and gas revolution.” He says that it “is having a bigger impact across the country, including in non-producing states, than is generally recognized.”

According to an IHS report released this January, in the United States the unconventional oil and gas play provided over 1.7 million jobs and $63 billion in annual government revenues in 2012. By the end of this decade the numbers could grow to three million jobs and $113 billion in annual revenues to the U.S. government.

Many of those new jobs are in states without unconventional oil or gas production.

Instead of building facilities to import LNG – like we planned to do in 2008 – the United States is building facilities to export LNG. American energy is so inexpensive that industries are moving back to the United States from China.

And what about the rest of the world?

There are many formations in basins around the world that appear to have tremendous potential for unconventional oil and gas production, including (just to name a few):

  • The Bowland Shale of the Bowland Basin in the United Kingdom.
  • The Vaca Muerta of Argentina’s Neuquen Basin.
  • The La Luna Shale of the Middle Magdalena Basin of Colombia.
  • The Karoo Supergroup of South Africa.

Of course, the main impediment to unconventional oil and gas exploration everywhere is politics. And obviously, not all conditions – political, financial or geological – are equal around the world.

A prominent German AAPG member, for example, recently told me that energy in Germany is three times more expensive than U.S. energy.

Eventually, maybe, the tremendous financial benefits that the United States enjoys from the unconventional play will persuade non-U.S. politicians that their perceived worries are exaggerated and they will give the play a chance.

Wherever and whenever politicians give geologists the freedom and incentive to look for unconventional oil and gas, we have demonstrated we will find it – and it will make life better for the citizens of the countries where it is discovered.

Often, all it takes is a little thought – and there’s always plenty of room for new ideas.

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President's Column

President's Column - Ted Beaumont

Edward A. "Ted" Beaumont, AAPG President (2012-13), is an independent consultant with Cimarex Energy.

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There has been a revival in the interest in hydrocarbon source rock characterization associated with the growing interest in unconventional resources where these fine-grained sediments represent the complete petroleum system. To-date, the primary focus has been on marine unconventional systems. Consider, however, if lacustrine systems may represent future unconventional opportunities in areas where the conventional resource-base is dominated by lacustrine-sourced oil. There are a number of key differences in the nature of these systems that should be considered when assessing.

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Offshore Angola has to date delivered recoverable reserves in excess of 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent. This has been encountered in two distinct play systems: the Upper Cretaceous Pinda carbonates sourced by Lower Creatceous lacustrine mudstones and Tertiary deepwater slope turbidite sands sourced by underlying Upper Cretaceous marine mudstones. An extension of the Girassol play into Block 18 to the south will be used to describe how high quality 3D seismic data coupled with a detailed analysis of rock properties led to an unprecedented 6 successes out of 6 wells in the block, including the giant Plutonio discovery. Industry is turning once more to the carbonate play potential - this time in deepwater. It would seem that the Angola offshore success story is set to continue for some time to come.

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This course will address integration of source rock, produced oil and gas, and mud gas data to better understand and exploit 3-dimensional details of petroleum systems. Carbon isotope and oil biomarker geochemistry will be stressed as a way to determine quantity and type of generated hydrocarbons and migration distance and direction within source rock and tight oil plays.

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