Exploration for shales has become an integral part of many operators’ processes in the North American shale boom. While leveraging public data in existing plays is a major advantage, when looking outside those existing areas, a comprehensive plan must be developed. The shale-exploration methodology is fundamentally different from conventional exploration, with different drivers and metrics.

Shale exploration requires an exploration program that includes a heavy data-acquisition element. Beyond the initial geological identification of the prospect, wells need to be drilled to evaluate the potential of the shale prospect. Extensive coring, open-hole logging and formation pressure testing are required to answer four basic questions: Does the shale have enough total organic content? Does the shale have the thermal maturity necessary? Does the shale have the stimulation potential? Does the sale have a simple structural environment conducive to horizontal drilling? Once these questions have a satisfactory answer, the key shale properties can be mapped using multiple sources with the goal of identifying core areas suitable for further horizontal well evaluation.

This paper describes the process and workflow for a data-acquisition program and demonstrates not only the benefits of acquiring specific data, but also highlights the uses of the data to aid the exploration decision process. Examples are given of the type data acquired, and the analytical workflow is discussed.

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