Elephant Hunt: The Search for the Oil and Gas Supplies to 2050
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Elephant Hunt: The Search for the Oil and Gas Supplies to 2050

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Editor’s Note: The below is an excerpt from the larger article which first appeared online in the Journal of Petroleum Technology, on October 1, 2023. To read the full article click here.

Reprinted with permission by JPT and written by Jennifer Presley

The oil and gas industry is at a critical juncture in the evolving global energy landscape. As the world intensifies its focus on combating climate change and embracing renewable energy sources, traditional fossil fuel exploration faces unprecedented challenges.

Gulf of Mexico Aging Gracefully

When compared against the recent discoveries offshore Guyana and Suriname or Namibia and South Africa that were decades in the making, the Gulf of Mexico basin is considered a mature basin that continues to yield new resources.

According to David Hajovsky, executive vice president of the Western Hemisphere with TGS, the Gulf of Mexico is a prime example of how exploration and technology advancements continue to unlock resources.

“Every decade, as technology improves, the basin rediscovers itself with another play type, whether you’re talking about the Pliocene, the Miocene, or the lower Paleogene. Improvements in the quality of seismic data imaging allow you to see new things. As the drilling technology improves, you can test deeper objectives like the 20k high-pressure environments. Technology helps us to discover more in that way.”

Hess views the Gulf of Mexico as an important cash engine and platform for growth, participating in seven key producing fields and holding more than 85 leasehold blocks. The company’s objective for the basin is to sustain or grow its production through tiebacks and hub-class exploration success.

“Even though the Gulf of Mexico is a mature basin, technology is continuously improving, making it an attractive investment opportunity,” said Tim Cordingley, vice president of exploration North America for Hess. “Enhanced technology has enabled us to image areas in the GoM that couldn’t be confidently mapped before, and this has allowed us to unlock more drillable prospects.”

Cordingley noted that the company has been actively shooting OBN surveys in and around its hubs.

“When coupled with new algorithms, this process allows us to see new opportunities in the subsalt in the Gulf of Mexico,” he said. “These seismic improvements are leading that charge to help us unlock further opportunities in the GoM.”

One such opportunity credited to using OBN technology and full-waveform inversion is Hess’s Pickerel-1 oil discovery on Mississippi Canyon Block 727, which encountered about 90 ft of net pay in a high-quality oil-bearing Miocene-aged reservoir. The infrastructure-led exploration well will be tied back to the Hess-operated Tubular Bells production hub.

Pickerel was the first well of the company’s Gulf of Mexico drilling program for the year. Hess is currently drilling its Black Pearl development well. The well is planned as a tieback to the Stampede production hub about a mile away. Following Black Pearl, the company plans to drill its Vancouver prospect located in Green Canyon Block 287. It is a large hub-class exploration prospect targeting a subsalt Miocene-age reservoir.

Industry activity is increasing in the Gulf of Mexico’s Paleogene as technological advances have enabled work in the play’s challenging conditions.

The exploration prowess of today’s supermajors, majors, national oil companies, and independents, paired with technological advances and capital investment, will deliver the supply needed to meet future energy demand. Doing so will require capital in various forms—financial, mental, physical—and a little wildcatter’s luck and perseverance.

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