Drilling deep in the Deep South

Louisiana’s Story Is More Than Shale

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

Oil patch activity in north Louisiana with its many aging oil and gas fields has long been overshadowed by E&P action in the southern part of the state.

After all, Cajun country is a region where often-big deep finds in the many hydrocarbon-rich deposits, particularly the Miocene, attract considerable attention – and investment capital.

Leave it to one of the sexy shale plays to shake up the status quo.

Once the attention-grabbing Haynesville shale gas play came into being in the northwestern part of the state, old was new again and the area became a kind of beacon to oil patch players who came running, seemingly toting bags of greenbacks.

Suddenly, south Louisiana appeared to be so yesterday.

Nonsense, according to many in-the-know folks who continue to view this region as a land of opportunity, particularly in the deeper horizons.

“People drilling in the Haynesville are talking about $6 million wells, and you can get a pretty good start in south Louisiana for that kind of money,” said AAPG member Don Frye, geologist turned geophysicist at Magnum Producing in Houston.

“South Louisiana has produced billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of gas – and it hasn’t all been found,” he emphasized.

Frye said that while Magnum concentrates mainly on the Texas onshore, he and his fellow AAPG member and cohort at Magnum, geologist Gar Willis, focus on St. Mary and Terrebonne parishes in South Louisiana, which they consider to be a profitable niche.

“We generate prospects and dial for dollars,” Frye said with humor.

Going Deeper

He pointed out that over the past decade there have been many Miocene Cristellaria I and Cibicides opima discoveries in south Louisiana, resulting from integration of detailed geology and advanced geophysical techniques.

“These discoveries, typically in a depth range of 13,000 to 15,000 feet, are in a geopressured environment, have excellent productive capabilities and high liquid content,” Frye said. “They can pay out in a few months.”

He noted many of these are AVO Class 2, where the sands are a bit faster than the shales when wet – but with density change and shear wave properties that come up and the difference in sonic velocity, they begin to look like bright spots that have been exploited on the Gulf shelf for many years.

Willis emphasized there are a number of deeper discoveries typically greater than 15,000 feet that have excellent sand quality and proven capability.

He cited, for example, the UPR/Cabot Etouffee find in 1999 in Terrebonne Parish, which encountered a more than 260-foot gross pay interval beginning at a depth of 18,500 feet.

“Etouffee was a bit off-putting at first as it was a different kind of trap, which was spooky to some, and there was some resistance to drilling,” he said. “But we prevailed, and the field has produced more than 200 Bcfe from a few hundred acres.”

He noted that another example of good quality deep sands is Contango’s Eugene Island Block 10 discovery at 15,000 feet in 2007; it encountered 150 feet of pay in the first well. Other wells were drilled, and current production is over 100 MMcfde.

“We think there’s still a lot of potential in south Louisiana, but it’s going to take deeper drilling to do it,” Frye said. “Once you get below 15,000 feet, the number of wells (drilled) drops off, and you have a lot more opportunities to find things that haven’t been tested.

“We’re following the trends,” he said. “Some continue right on offshore.

“By far the most active player in the deeper stuff has been McMoRan,” he noted, “with discoveries such as Flatrock, Mound Point and now Davy Jones.”

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At ACE 2010...

Don Frye, with Magnum Producing in Houston, will present the paper “South Louisiana – Today and Tomorrow” at 10:50 a.m. Tuesday, April 13, at the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in New Orleans.

Gar Willis, also of Magnum Producing, is the co-author.

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