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Introduction to Petroleum Systems

How many times have we heard that...."the expected pay sands were encountered but they are water-bearing and the well was plugged and abandoned." What happened? Why was there no oil or gas? In many cases, the prospect was not located within the boundaries of a petroleum system. Economic failures such as this can be minimized by conducting a petroleum system study prior to drilling.

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A petroleum system study looks at the genetic relationship between a source rock and all related oil and gas and seeks to map the distribution of hydrocarbons in the subsurface prior to drilling. It describes all of the elements and processes needed to make and preserve an oil or gas accumulation. Such a study examines a basin beginning at the time of oil and gas generation, migration, and entrapment up to the present. It draws geology, geochemistry, geophysics, modeling, and engineering data and concepts together in a way that can significantly reduce exploration risk in well-developed basins, as well as in frontier areas. The basic elements of a petroleum system report are a burial history chart, a map and cross-section drawn at the time of initial oil or gas migration, an events chart, geochemical data to correlate source rocks to oils and gases, and the history of a prospect from the time oil and gas were first trapped until the present. Prospects selected with petroleum system analysis will much more frequently result in wells where "the expected pay sands were encountered, they contained oil and gas, and the well was completed as a producer."

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DGSI actively supports the petroleum system approach to oil and gas exploration. We can help our clients with petroleum system studies and provide the geochemical data that is an essential part of any petroleum system report. No company is better qualified to do this because we wrote the book* on the subject.

*AAPG Memoir 60 "The Petroleum System--From Source to Trap" by Leslie B. Magoon (USGS) and Wallace G. Dow (DGSI)


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