How do oil companies determine the best places to drill?

The answer to this question will determine if an oil company wants to lease your land, or if they decide that your neighbors property looks better. The decision is actually not as complicated as it would seem.

Based on my studies of the Bakken Shale (the most similar play to the Niobrara), the key to these Shale Oil plays are vertical formation fractures caused by basement rock movement (both laterally and vertically) along faults that are typically indicated by mapping surface lineaments (surface expressions of basement faults) from satellite imagery and also by bedding fractures caused in overpressured zones of the formation, typically inter-bedded limestones within the shale unit.

Since these formations are already known to be hydrocarbon source rocks, it is not a question of if there is oil, it is a question of if the oil present will flow out. The key to this play is to find areas that will produce due to the permability caused by natural… or man-made (hydrofracking) fracturing. Obviously these companies want to optimize for both types of fracturing. While it is still possible to drill and produce oil in areas without optimal  natural formation fracturing, it is not as lucrative, and the hydrofracking costs will be higher making these areas secondary targets for drilling.

I have found other research that indicates that 3D seismic can confirm the presence of these fractured zones because seismic shear waves do not propagate as readily in these fractured areas.

I have first hand reports from some local mineral owners that Chesapeake Energy (the largest leaseholder in this area) is actively running seismic trucks in Douglas County, CO.  The combination of lineaments and positive seismic surveys will determine the “Sweet Spots” in this play. If your property has these attributes, you will be definitely be getting a notification of interest to drill.

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One Response to How do oil companies determine the best places to drill?

  1. I’ve been interested in how companies know where to begin looking for oil. You stated in your article that often the question isn’t if there is oil but if it flows. That’s really interesting and I also that the fact that there are artificial ways to create flow. If there are means to do it artificially that would create a lot more potential places a company could get oil.

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