In the search for unconventional shale plays with commercial potential, many operators have properties in petroprovince basins containing wells through potentially productive shale zones. These shales were often encountered as part of exploration or development programs for deeper conventional targets. Often, the overlying shale is known to have had gas or oil shows reported during initial drilling, but little or no additional geological data was acquired at the time.

This paper discusses the workflow and method to use the minimal information from these existing wells, and to quantitatively incorporate them into a basin exploration program. The process begins with a single new well, such as a sidetrack from an existing well, which is evaluated with the full array of open hole logging tools. Coring (conventional or sidewall), DFIT tests, and other shale-specific logging tools are performed on this initial well. Pre-existing wells that penetrate the objective shale can also be quantitatively assessed for relevant shale properties by using specialized logging tools, such as a combined through-casing pulsed neutron and sonic tool, to map relevant shale properties. These tools are calibrated to the open hole data to generate a wider distribution of data points containing critical shale properties that can be demonstrated to have a strong relationship with production.

After the data acquisition process has been performed, the data are combined with existing seismic and structural information to delineate the best areas for further evaluation. Using modern mapping tools, a basin can be rapidly appraised to identify sweet spots, providing further exploration targets for evaluation drilling.

This paper discusses limitations, best practices, workflows, and methods, and includes an example of a European shale evaluation log to demonstrate this exploration technique.

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