Introduction to special section: China shale gas and shale oil plays


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In the last 10 years, the success of shale gas and shale oil productions as a result of technological advances in horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing and nanoscale reservoir characterization have revolutionized the energy landscape in the United States. Resource assessment by the China Ministry of Land and Resources in 2010 and 2012 and by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in 2011 and 2013 indicates China’s shale gas resource is the largest in the world and shale oil resource in China is also potentially significant. Inspired by the success in the United States, China looks forward to replicating the U.S. experience to produce shale gas to power its economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By 2014, China had drilled 400 wells targeting marine, lacustrine, and coastal swamp transitional shales spanning in age from the Precambrian to Cenozoic in the last five years. So far, China is the leading country outside of North America in the viable production of shale gas, with very promising prospects for shale gas and shale oil development, from the Lower Silurian Longmaxi marine shale in Fuling in the southeastern Sichuan Basin. Geological investigations by government and academic institutions as well as exploration and production activities from industry indicate that the tectonic framework, depositional settings, and geomechanical properties of most of the Chinese shales are more complex than many of the producing marine shales in the United States. These differences limit the applicability of geologic analogues from North America for use in Chinese shale oil and gas resource assessments, exploration strategies, reservoir characterization, and determination of optimal hydraulic fracturing techniques. Understanding the unique features of the geology, shale oil and gas resource potential, and reservoir characteristics is crucial for sweet spot identification, hydraulic fracturing optimization, and reservoir performance prediction.

Even though China shale gas and shale oil exploration is still in an early stage, limited data are already available. We are pleased to have selected eight high-quality papers from fifteen submitted manuscripts for this timely section on the topic of China shale gas and shale oil plays. These selected papers discuss various subject areas including regional geology, resource potentials, integrated and multidisciplinary characterization of China shale reservoirs (geology, geophysics, geochemistry, and petrophysics) China shale property measurement using new techniques, case studies for marine, lacustrine, and transitional shale deposits in China, and hydraulic fracturing. One paper summarizes the regional geology and different tectonic and depositional settings of the major prospective shale oil and gas plays in China. Four papers concentrate on the geology, geochemistry, reservoir characterization, lithologic heterogeneity, and sweet spot identification in the Silurian Longmaxi marine shale in the Sichuan Basin in southwest China, which is currently the primary focus of shale gas exploration in China. One paper discusses the Ordovician Salgan Shale in the Tarim Basin in northwest China, and two papers focus on the reservoir characterization and hydraulic fracturing of Triassic lacustrine shale in the Ordos Basin in northern China. Each paper discusses a specific area.

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Journal Article
Introduction to special section: China shale gas and shale oil plays
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Society of Exploration Geophysicists
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Tulsa, OK
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Central Energy Resources Science Center
2 p.
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