How to Explore for Oil and Gas


By Reed Stiles

Step 1- Explore

It’s hard to imagine sitting here in my cubicle in Houston, TX, but there are thousands of feet of Earth directly below my feet. For reference, the Earth’s radius is more than 3,000 miles. Most oil and gas deposits are found in the first several miles beneath the surface, so image how to explore for oil and gas.

Oil and gas deposits were formed millions of years ago when organic organisms (think plankton-like) died and accumulated over time. The seasons changed, weather occurred, water levels changed, the climate changed, and Earth’s tectonics changed for millions of years. And those deposits are now thousands of feet beneath you. Some of these oil and gas deposits expand over hundreds of square miles of land and some are small “pockets” that are scattered and “localized”.

How to Explore for Oil and Gas

You may have heard of some of the famous oil and gas fields in the United States that cover large areas and often multiple states. With the excited and activity in unconventional resource plays these are the most active areas in the US over the last 10 years: Permian Basin (Texas & New Mexico), Bakken Oil field (Montana & North Dakota), SCOOP/STACK (Oklahoma) and Eagle Ford Shale (Texas).

These oil and gas reserves require millions of dollars to develop and utilize horizontal drilling, large hydraulic fractures and produce high volumes of petroleum.

These “hot” resource plays are exciting. But it’s important to understand that the majority of wells in the United States are “stripper wells” or vertical oil and gas wells producing small volumes (less than 10 bopd. There are tens of thousands of new wells to drill and old vertical wells to workover that can deliver value to investors.

How to Explore for Oil and Gas

Exploring for hydrocarbons (oil and gas) involves geoscientists (Petroleum geologists and geophysicists) searching for deposits of oil and gas beneath the Earth’s surface. Most exploration for oil and gas involves highly sophisticated technology that detects the location and size of these deposits. When underground “features of interest” or “leads” are detected, more detailed seismic surveys can be collected. Seismic surveying is a method (on the surface of the Earth) to measure the time it takes for sound waves to travel underground and through rock of varying densities.

Oil and gas exploration is an expensive, high-risk operation. The maps that these geoscientists create of an area are the first steps to finding out in there are actually oil and gas deposits 1000s of feet below the surface of the Earth. The next step in the process is to capture or “acquire rights” to drill before drilling a well. Click here to see Step 2.

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