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Production from unconventional petroleum reservoirs includes petroleum from shale, coal, tight-sand and oil-sand. These reservoirs contain enormous quantities of oil and natural gas but pose a technology challenge to both geoscientists and engineers to produce economically on a commercial scale. These reservoirs store large volumes and are widely distributed at different stratigraphic levels and basin types, offering long-term potential for energy supply. Most of these reservoirs are low permeability and porosity that need enhancement with hydraulic fracture stimulation to maximize fluid drainage. Production from these reservoirs is increasing with continued advancement in geological characterization techniques and technology for well drilling, logging, and completion with drainage enhancement. Currently, Australia, Argentina, Canada, Egypt, USA, and Venezuela are producing natural gas from low permeability reservoirs: tight-sand, shale, and coal (CBM). Canada, Russia, USA, and Venezuela are producing heavy oil from oilsand. USA is leading the development of techniques for exploring, and technology for exploiting unconventional gas resources, which can help to develop potential gas-bearing shales of Thailand.

The main focus is on source-reservoir-seal shale petroleum plays. In these tight rocks petroleum resides in the micro-pores as well as adsorbed on and in the organics. Shale has very low matrix permeability (nano-darcies) and has highly layered formations with differences in vertical and horizontal properties, vertically non-homogeneous and horizontally anisotropic with complicate natural fractures. Understanding the rocks is critical in selecting fluid drainage enhancement mechanisms; rock properties such as where shale is clay or silica rich, clay types and maturation , kerogen type and maturation, permeability, porosity, and saturation. Most of these plays require horizontal development with large numbers of wells that require an understanding of formation structure, setting and reservoir character and its lateral extension.

The quality of shale-gas resources depend on thickness of net pay (>100 m), adequate porosity (>2%), high reservoir pressure (ideally overpressure), high thermal maturity (>1.5% Ro), high organic richness (>2% TOC), low in clay (<50%), high in brittle minerals (quartz, carbonates, feldspars), and favourable in-situ stress.

During the past decade, unconventional shale and tight-sand gas plays have become an important supply of natural gas in the US, and now in shale oil as well. As a consequence, interest to assess and explore these plays is rapidly spreading worldwide. The high production potential of shale petroleum resources has contributed to a comparably favourable outlook for increased future petroleum supplies globally.

Application of 2D and 3D seismic for defining reservoirs and micro seismic for monitoring fracturing, measuring rock properties downhole (borehole imaging) and in laboratory (mineralogy, porosity, permeability), horizontal drilling (downhole GPS), and hydraulic fracture stimulation (cross-linked gel, slick-water, nitrogen or nitrogen foam) is key in improving production from these huge resources with low productivity factors.

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The Energy and Minerals Division of the AAPG focuses on unconventional hydrocarbon energy resources, such as coalbed methane and gas hydrates and alternative energy resources, such as coal, uranium and geothermal energy. These resources are important to members of AAPG.

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The long-term projections have changed little in the year since this column last reported on the annual International Energy Agency (IEA) “World Energy Outlook,” but the tone is much different. Last year’s report was concerned about finding the investments to meet demand; now the world has surpluses of oil and gas and a booming renewables industry.  
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After many months of harnessing mind-bending ideas, a Houston-based team of engineers, geologists and geophysicists has developed technology to monitor hydraulic fractures from the surface and wellbore simultaneously. Adding multiple dimensions to the monitoring process, they say, allows operators to more clearly understand drainage patterns of hydrocarbons in shale reservoirs and, more importantly, know with greater certainty where to drill the next well, how to optimize completions and maximize asset value.

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MOOSE – Multiphysics Object-Oriented Simulation Environment – is a software platform designed to make predictive modeling and simulation faster and easier.

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The “Converting Technology Into Dollars” panel will explore how top-tier organizations lead the way by rapidly improving and deploying unconventional resource technologies and incorporating new learnings across their organizations.

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The Department of Energy (DOE) envisions that recent advances in subsurface mapping, data collection, data dissemination and leveraging of oil and gas industry techniques can translate into widespread commercial adoption of enhanced geothermal systems (EGS).
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