Innovators in Geosciences Series

Interview with John Snedden

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

Basin-scale modeling can provide new insights into depositional processes in extremely complex deepwater and shelf environments. New models can identify previously overlooked or unenvisioned traps, and can help propose the existence of an entirely new reservoir. Welcome to an interview with John W. Snedden, Senior Research Scientist and Director of the Gulf Basin Depositional Synthesis Project at the University of Texas-Austin.

What is your name and your research focus?
John W. Snedden
Basin-scale Depositional Processes and Stratigraphy

Where are the reservoirs that you're working on?
Greater Gulf of Mexico, including the USA, Mexico and Cuba

How does your work pertain to effectively finding and producing reservoirs?
Our research here at UT-Austin Institute for Geophysics is focused on reconstructing depositional paleogeography, which is key to identifying favorable reservoir fairways. In some areas, data is limited and we need to look at the entire pathway from sediment source (mountain belt) to deep-water basin (sink). Source to sink. We also want to correlate across the basin and reduce risk and uncertainty in vertical (stratigraphic) location of reservoirs.

Please describe your recent research interests and focus.
My students and I have recently published papers or presented papers on Gulf of Mexico Mesozoic deep-water sandstones (Tuscaloosa or Ceno-Turonian, see image), Paleogene sandstones (Wilcox), Jurassic (Norphlet) eolian reservoirs, and other units. Recently, I co-authored a paper on the Cretaceous/Paleogene Boundary unit that was derived from the 10 km scale bolide that impacted the earth at Chicxulub Mexico. It was featured on CNN and in several newspapers. We also have located a field in south Texas that produces gas from a sandstone associated with the impact event (KPg South Texas #1 and #2).

I am also sometimes asked by media to comment on various trends in oil and gas, including an article on new Mexico seismic programs (New York Times) and exploration potential in the Gulf (Houston Chronicle). The Gulf of Mexico Basin keeps reinventing itself.

How do new technologies, sedimentology, and reservoir characterization come together in deepwater environments?
Our ability to do “sedimentology” and characterization of reservoirs in deepwater environments, before exploration drilling begins, depends on our ability to resolve and image the reservoir and its compartments that trap oil and gas and challenge cost-effective development. The amazing improvement in seismic imaging, particularly in subsalt areas of the Gulf is a real testament to our oil and gas industry technology.

What are some of the new tools or techniques that are being used?
Wide azimuth and full azimuth seismic 3D surveys are critical in the US and Mexico for trap definition and reservoir mapping. In producing fields, 4D seismic is telling us a lot about reservoir connectivity and compartmentalization. Geologic interpretation of subsurface pressure data, both static and dynamic pressures, is revealing much about the subtle pathways that fluids follow over geologic and production timescales. Our knowledge of source to sink transport is being greatly aided by detrital zircon provenance analysis which informs us from which basement source that sands are derived (attached ‘zircon” tiff file).

Note: AAPG has several deepwater and shelf events planned for 2017. We will offer a Salt Tectonics course, a Deepwater / Shelf Geosciences Technology Workshop, and other events.

Sign up and earn CEUs now for John Snedden's archived webinar (a video, along with articles)

The Gulf of Mexico Basin: New Science and Emerging Deep-water Plays

For information about events or the series, contact .

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