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The past 30+ years have witnessed a wide variety of exploration strategies and a number of technological “revolutions” in the search for oil and gas. Although the exploration landscape and tools of the trade are so different than they were in the early 1980’s, in one aspect we appear to have come full circle, realizing that a deep understanding of our basins is the critical element in any success.
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The search for unconventional hydrocarbons is not new. It’s true that almost 100 years separated the early exploration successes in the synclinal valleys of Central Pennsylvania, to the exploitation of Coal-Bed Methane in a number of basins in the U.S. and Canada in the 1980’s. Since the 1980's, however, a quiet revolution began which by today has seen several waves of unconventional resources being pursued with economic success. Coal-bed methane was followed by the search for Center-Basin Gas, Shale Gas and most recently, Liquid-rich Shales (some of which aren't shales).

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Quiz time: When was the Nene Field, a 1.2 billion barrel field on the shelf in 90 feet of water, discovered?
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In international exploration, the new normal is starting to look like the old normal. And 2014 looked a lot like the year before.

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The relatively recent, very large discoveries offshore Brazil have put pre-salt exploration in the South Atlantic back in the foreground. Pre-salt exploration history, however, is far more ancient and marked with some major successes – but also many failures. Here’s a brief overview of this exploration in West Africa until the M’Boundi discovery, which will be described in detail as it brings some lessons that readers can discover for themselves.

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Despite a few lean times – including a stretch when it was derided as the Dead Sea – the GOM always comes roaring back to life to reclaim its position as the shining star of domestic hydrocarbon production.

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There is intense interest by the industry in the Keathley Canyon and Garden Banks region of the Gulf of Mexico following major discoveries there, like BP’s Gila discovery announced late last year, and the multibillion-barrel Tiber oil field. Consequently, rival geoscience companies will offer competing surveys of the area.

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Hydrocarbon exploration beneath the shallow allochthonous salt canopy of the ultra-deepwater central Gulf of Mexico has encountered three thick, sand-rich, submarine fan successions that punctuate an otherwise relatively condensed and fine-grained basin center stratigraphy. These sand-rich fans are Late Paleocene, Early Miocene, and Middle Miocene in age and each coincide with periods of very high sediment flux and basin margin instability. They are the primary exploration targets in most ultra-deepwater fields, recent discoveries, and failed exploration tests.

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