Bressay Oil Api

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The red quadrant to the lower left is where combinations to be avoided lie – for example, developing ‘heavy’ oil in fractured ‘basement’ may encounter technology and economic barriers.

Of course this diagram is simplistic and the detail is key.

One could take the view that the best cash flow from shale gas has, in fact, come to oil field service companies that supply fracturing/stimulation, horizontal drilling and 3D/4D seismic, and to the US ‘resource play’ companies that have sold or farmed-down their shale gas assets.

For more detailed reviews of the issues surrounding shale gas, I refer you to the work of the respected petroleum geologist Arthur Berman(1)(2).

It is not surprising, therefore, that having learned how to apply the key technologies, these US ‘resource play’ companies are switching their attention to shale oil, in most cases in basins which have a long history of conventional oil exploration and are now in decline.

The economics of shale oil are generally better than those for shale gas because of the linkage to global oil prices.

As in 20, the top three for 2011 were Fracturing/Stimulation, Horizontal Drilling and 3D/4D Seismic, accumulating between them more than 70% of the responses.

What is more, the same technologies have dominated this survey for all 12 years for which data has been published, invariably accumulating more than 60% of the responses between them.

Put another way, wherever there is a prolific source rock, our industry has developed the technical capacity to move away from conventional reservoirs with good porosity/permeability characteristics, and extract petroleum wherever it is reservoired – whether still in the source rock, in ‘tight’ sands, in fractured basement and so on.

The North American industry is leading this charge.

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