The Denver-Julesburg (D-J) Basin is centered on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains and extends from south of Denver northward into southeast Wyoming, western Nebraska and western Kansas. The basin consists of a large asymmetric syncline of sedimentary rock layers that trend north to south along the east side of the Front Range.
The basin started forming as early as 300 million years ago, during the Colorado Orogeny that created the Ancestral Rockies. Many of the sediments (including the Niobrara) were deposited in and along the Western Interior Seaway that ran north from the present-day Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean during the Cretaceous.
Oil and gas have been produced from the D-J Basin since 1901. A decades-old USGS study estimated that nearly two billion BOE have been produced from more than 20,000 wells, notably from the Wattenberg Field.
Over the last several years, the Niobrara has become the focus of renewed industry interest, especially following the success of EOG’s Jake well in Weld County, Colorado. ‘Jake’ flowed an average of 1,750 bbls of oil per day during its first eight days of production in late 2009. Leasing and drilling activity boomed thereafter as operators targeted the tight, liquids-prone Niobrara with horizontal wells and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing, the two core technologies that had unlocked other unconventional plays including the Barnett, Marcellus, Bakken, and Eagle Ford.
Unfortunately, the excitement that accompanied the early days of the Niobrara boom were soon tempered by the realization that the Niobrara was an especially heterogeneous play and that explorationists had thus far failed to ‘crack the code’ on Niobrara productivity (click here to read a 9/2012 World Oil article).
Industry experts, including Professor Steven Sonnenberg of the Colorado School of Mines, have written extensively on the drivers of Niobrara productivity, with basement topography, thermal regimes, regional faulting, lithology, and localized fracture systems all having been postulated as key determinants of well productivity.
Another Niobrara expert, a senior scientist from one of the world’s largest pressure pumping companies, offered up a possible ‘sweet spot’ hypothesis at an RMAG gathering in March 2012. After studying the results of fracing in the Niobrara, and watching his E&P clients try to make sense of seismic datasets of every size and type, he concluded that “potential fields methods offered the most promise for unlocking the structural complexity of the Niobrara, in particular for mapping the deep basement faults that acted as conduits for hydrothermal fluids which impact both the thermal maturity of the shale and the location of the sweet spots throughout the play.”
And that’s exactly what NEOS has been hired to do. The company recently announced that it will be undertaking a multi-client neoBASIN study over the D-J Basin, results from which are expected to be available in the first half of 2014 (click here to read the press release).
NEOS’s Denver-Julesburg geoscience program has been designed to provide a regional view into the subsurface from the basement up through the target reservoir intervals, including the liquids-rich Niobrara shale. By applying an advanced geostatistical technique known as predictive analytics, NEOS will be working on behalf of the project’s underwriters to identify the geological and geophysical measurements and attributes that correspond to the best producing wells in the survey area and to determine where similar areas occur in less developed parts of the play.
Lance Moreland, Director of Rockies Programs for NEOS, commented,
We’ll be acquiring new airborne geophysical datasets – magnetic, electromagnetic, radiometric, and gravity – using fixed-wing aircraft and integrating these with existing seismic and well information. We’ll analyze all of the acquired datasets individually, but also interpret them simultaneously to determine the measurements, attributes, and derivatives that correspond with the best wells in the basin. Our predictive analytics methodology will then ‘pattern search’ for these same measurements in less developed parts of the region and identify areas that appear to be more prospective for the next wave of development drilling.
[important]To learn more about the D-J neoBASIN program, send an email to Lance using the form below: