Assessment of undiscovered conventionally recoverable petroleum resources of the Northwest European region

Circular 922-A




The estimates of undiscovered conventionally recoverable petroleum resources in the northwest European region at probability levels of 95 percent, 5 percent, statistical mean, and mode are for oil (in billions of barrels): 9, 34, 20, and 15; and for gas (in trillions of cubic feet): 92, 258, 167, and 162. The occurrence of petroleum can be accounted for in two distinct geological plays located in the various subbasins of the region. Play I is associated with the distribution of mature source rocks of Late Jurassic age relative to four distinct trapping conditions. The play has been demonstrated productive mostly in the Viking and Central Grabens of the North Sea, where the shale has been buried to optimum depths for the generation of both oil and gas. To the north of 62 ? N. latitude up to the Barents Sea, source rocks become increasingly deeply buried and are interpreted to be dominantly gas prone; a narrow band of potentially oil-prone shales tracks most of the coast of Norway, but water depths in favorable localities commonly range from 600 to 1,200 feet. To the south of the Central Graben, the Jurassic source rocks are either immature or minimally productive because of a change in facies. Undrilled traps remain within the favorable source-rock area, and exploration will continue to challenge the boundaries of conventional wisdom, especially on the Norwegian side where little has .been reported on the geology of the adjoining Bergen High or Horda Basin, though, reportedly, the Jurassic source rocks are missing on the high and are immature in the southern part of the basin. Play II is associated with the distribution of a coal facies of Carboniferous age that is mature for the generation of gas and locally underlies favorable reservoir and sealing rocks. The play is limited largely by facies development to the present area of discovery and production but is limited as well to the southeast into onshore Netherlands and Germany by the unfavorable economics of an increasing nitrogen content in the gas. This increase is apparently caused by excessive temperatures associated with increasing depth of burial of the source rock. The history of discovery in the North Sea would appear to deny the commonly held maxim that large fields are found first and early in the exploration process. However, if the discovery data are examined from the perspective of the award date of each exploration license, then it is clear that the largest fields and most of the reserves have indeed been found early in the exploration process of a particular license. Discoveries made within 1 year of granting the license are on average large giants, and they account for slightly less than two-thirds of the original reserves. Discoveries made within 2 to 5 years of the granting of the license are on average less than giant size and smaller than increment-l-year discoveries by a factor of 4; these fields account for a little less than one-third of the reserves. Those fields found 6 or more years after the granting of the license are relatively small and account for 20 percent of all discoveries but only 4 percent of total original reserves. These data suggest that a measure of an area's exploration maturity is the length of time elapsed since the award of the concession.

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Assessment of undiscovered conventionally recoverable petroleum resources of the Northwest European region
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U.S. Geological Survey,
vi, 22 p. :ill., maps ;26 cm.