Oman's petroleum systems are related to four known source rocks: the Precambrian-Lower Cambrian Huqf, the Lower Silurian Sahmah, the Late Jurassic Shuaiba-Tuwaiq and the Cretaceous Natih. The Huqf and the Natih have sourced almost all the discovered fields in the country. This study examines the shale-gas and shale-oil potential of the Lower Silurian Sahmah in the Omani side of the Rub al Khali basin along the Saudi border. The prospective area exceeds 12,000 square miles (31,300 km2).

The Silurian hot shale at the base of the Sahmah shale is equivalent to the known world-class source rock, widespread throughout North Africa (Tannezouft) and the Arabian Peninsula (Sahmah/Qusaiba). Both thickness and thermal maturities increase northward toward Saudi Arabia, with an apparent depocentre extending southward into Oman Block 36 where the hot shale is up to 55 m thick and reached 1.4% vitrinite reflectance (in Burkanah-1 and ATA-1 wells).

The present-day measured TOC and estimated from log signatures range from 0.8 to 9%. 1D thermal modeling and burial history of the Sahmah source rock in some wells indicate that, depending on the used kinetics, hydrocarbon generation/expulsion began from the Early Jurassic (ca 160 M.a.b.p) to Cretaceous.

Shale oil/gas resource density estimates, particularly in countries and plays outside North America remain highly uncertain, due to the lack of geochemical data, the lack of history of shale oil/gas production, and the valuation method undertaken. Based on available geological and geochemical data, we applied both Jarvie (2007) and Talukdar (2010) methods for the resource estimation of: (1) the amount of hydrocarbon generated and expelled into conventional reservoirs and (2) the amount of hydrocarbon retained within the Silurian hot shale.

Preliminary results show that the hydrocarbon potential is distributed equally between wet natural gas and oil within an area of 11,000 square mile. The Silurian Sahmah shale has generated and expelled (and/or partly lost) about 116.8 billion of oil and 275.6 TCF of gas. Likewise, our estimates indicate that 56 billion of oil and 273.4 TCF of gas are potentially retained within the Sahmah source rock, making this interval a future unconventional resource play. The average calculated retained oil and gas yields are estimated to be 6 MMbbl/mi2 (or 117 bbl oil/ac-ft) and 25.3 bcf/mi2 (or 403 mcf gas/ac-ft) respectively.

To better compare our estimates with Advanced Resources International (EIA/ARI) studies on several Silurian shale plays, we also carried out estimates based on the volumetric method. The total oil in-place is 50.2 billion barrels, while the total gas in-place is 107.6 TCF. The average oil and gas yield is respectively 7 MMbbl/mi2 and 15.5 bcf/mi2.

Our findings, in term of oil and gas concentration, are in line or often smaller than all the shale oil/gas plays assessed by EIA/ARI and others.

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