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Energy Policy Blog

Not oil, not shale, but a huge resource! Industry interest in developing oil shale production technology rises and falls with oil prices and the availability of cheaper options. Shale oil in formations like the Bakken is currently more economically attractive and less risky. Chevron, Shell and Exxon-Mobil have ended their oil shale projects in the past year, but Red Leaf Resources is moving ahead.

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Explorer Policy Watch

The president’s Climate Action Plan, released June 25, aims to slow the effects of climate change.

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Sequence stratigraphy and coal cycles based on accommodation trends were investigated in the coal-bearing Lower Cretaceous Mannville Group in the Lloydminster heavy oil field, eastern Alberta. The study area is in a low accommodation setting on the cratonic margin of the Western Canada sedimentary basin. Geophysical log correlation of coal seams, shoreface facies, and the identification of incised valleys has produced a sequence-stratigraphic framework for petrographic data from 3 cored and 115 geophysical-logged wells. Maceral analysis, telovitrinite reflectance, and fluorescence measurements were taken from a total of 206 samples. Three terrestrial depositional environments were interpreted from the petrographic data: ombrotrophic mire coal, limnotelmatic mire coal, and carbonaceous shale horizons. Accommodation-based coal (wetting- and drying-upward) cycles represent trends in depositional environment shifts, and these cycles were used to investigate the development and preservation of the coal seams across the study area.

The low-accommodation strata are characterized by a high-frequency occurrence of significant surfaces, coal seam splitting, paleosol, and incised-valley development. Three sequence boundary unconformities are identified in only 20 m (66 ft) of strata. Coal cycle correlations illustrate that each coal seam in this study area was not produced by a single peat-accumulation episode but as an amalgamation of a series of depositional events. Complex relations between the Cummings and Lloydminster coal seams are caused by the lateral fragmentation of strata resulting from the removal of sediment by subaerial erosion or periods of nondeposition. Syndepositional faulting of the underlying basement rock changed local accommodation space and increased the complexity of the coal cycle development.

This study represents a low-accommodation example from a spectrum of stratigraphic studies that have been used to establish a terrestrial sequence-stratigraphic model. The frequency of changes in coal seam quality is an important control on methane distribution within coalbed methane reservoirs and resource calculations in coal mining. A depositional model based on the coal cycle correlations, as shown by this study, can provide coal quality prediction for coalbed methane exploration, reservoir completions, and coal mining.

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Explorer Article

Japan has taken a leap forward in natural gas production by conducting the first successful production test of natural gas from marine hydrates. Could this be the“bridge” fuel needed in the coming energy transition?

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Thus far, the subject of deep-marine sands emplaced by baroclinic currents associated with internal waves and internal tides as potential reservoirs has remained an alien topic in petroleum exploration. Internal waves are gravity waves that oscillate along oceanic pycnoclines. Internal tides are internal waves with a tidal frequency. Internal solitary waves (i.e., solitons), the most common type, are commonly generated near the shelf edge (100–200 m [328–656 ft] in bathymetry) and in the deep ocean over areas of sea-floor irregularities, such as mid-ocean ridges, seamounts, and guyots. Empirical data from 51 locations in the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Antarctic oceans reveal that internal solitary waves travel in packets. Internal waves commonly exhibit (1) higher wave amplitudes (5–50 m [16–164 ft]) than surface waves (lt2 m [6.56 ft]), (2) longer wavelengths (0.5–15 km [0.31–9 mi]) than surface waves (100 m [328 ft]), (3) longer wave periods (5–50 min) than surface waves (9–10 s), and (4) higher wave speeds (0.5–2 m s–1 [1.64–6.56 ft s–1]) than surface waves (25 cm s–1 [10 in. s–1]). Maximum speeds of 48 cm s–1 (19 in. s–1) for baroclinic currents were measured on guyots. However, core-based sedimentologic studies of modern sediments emplaced by baroclinic currents on continental slopes, in submarine canyons, and on submarine guyots are lacking. No cogent sedimentologic or seismic criteria exist for distinguishing ancient counterparts. Outcrop-based facies models of these deposits are untenable. Therefore, potential exists for misinterpreting deep-marine baroclinic sands as turbidites, contourites, basin-floor fans, and others. Economic risks associated with such misinterpretations could be real.
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Integrated three-dimensional (3-D) paleomorphologic and sedimentary modeling was used to predict the basin architecture and depositional pattern of Pleistocene forearc basin turbidites in a gas hydrate field along the northeast Nankai Trough, off central Japan. Structural unfolding and stratigraphic decompaction of the targeted stratigraphic unit resulted in successful modeling of the paleobathymetry at the time of deposition. This paleobathymetry was characterized by a simple U-shaped paleominibasin. Subsequent turbidity current modeling on the reconstructed paleobathymetric surface demonstrated morphologically controlled turbidity current behavior and selective turbidite sand distribution within the minibasin, which strongly suggests the development of a confined turbidite system. Among three candidate inflow patterns, a northeasterly inflow pattern was determined as most likely. In this scenario, flow reflection and deflection caused ponding and a concentration of sandy turbidite accumulation in the basin center, which facilitated filling of the minibasin. Such a sedimentary character is undetected by seismic data in the studied gas hydrate reservoir formation because of hydrate-cementation–induced seismic anomalies. Our model suggests that 3-D horizon surfaces mapped from 3-D seismic data along with well-log data can be used to predict paleobasin characteristics and depositional processes in deep-water turbidite systems even if seismic profiles cannot be determined because of the presence of gas hydrates.
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The American Association of Petroleum Geologists sponsored a Hedberg Research Conference on Enhanced Geothermal Systems in Napa, California, March 18 to 23, 2011. The workshop was attended by 67 participants from 10 different countries: United States, Australia, Austria, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, and Norway.
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Explorer Division Column EMD

The AAPG Energy Minerals Division covers many scientific disciplines and interests – and because previous EXPLORER articles featured shale gas and oil shale, this quarter will focus on highlights from this year’s EMD November Mid-Year Meeting Commodity Reports.

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Explorer Historical Highlight

When New York began its first state geological survey in 1836, seep petroleum was used in small quantities primarily for medicinal purposes.

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A new well in Oklahoma may be the most historic and geologically interesting project in the entire country – and for a bonus, it may involve a new helium province.

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