Summary

The Early Tithonian – Early Valanginian Vaca Muerta Formation of the Neuquén Basin in Argentina, constitutes a world-class shale play outside the US and Canada, and corresponds to distal marine facies of the Vaca Muerta-Quintuco System. The aim of this work is to present a basin-scale characterization of the vertical and lateral distribution of the organic-rich units (TOC>2% by weight) of the Vaca Muerta Formation, integrating them within a sequence stratigraphic framework. The dataset comprises basin-scale 3D seismic coverage and almost five hundred wells widely distributed over an area of 30,000 km2. The Vaca Muerta Play includes twelve organic-rich units (OVM, Organic-rich Vaca Muerta with TOC ≥ 2% by weight), where the first eight correspond to the up-to-date tested landing zones. These OVM units correspond to transgressive systems tracts and lower section of highstand system tracts of high frequency sequences and were defined considering a well marker framework including chronostratigraphic surfaces and diachronic surfaces (top of organic-rich facies). Multiple regional well correlations were developed and calibrated with well geochemical data and acoustic impedance seismic sections. Finally, the results of this study are presented through eight thickness maps of the main organic-rich units (OVM1-OVM8) and several regional well and seismic interpreted sections. These regional maps allow us to infer stratigraphic controls (e.g. systems tracts, previous clinoform paleo-topography, etc.) and influences of regional tectonic controls (morpho-structural domains). Regional thickness maps presented in this paper allow a detailed understanding of the 3D distribution of the main landing zones of the Vaca Muerta Play in the Neuquén Basin and are very useful in exploration and development subsurface assessments. The methodologies and results in this paper are also applicable to others unconventional resources of marine shales.

Introduction

The Early Tithonian – Early Valanginian Vaca Muerta Formation (Weaver, 1931, emend. Leanza, 1973) of the Neuquén Basin in Argentina, constitutes a world-class shale play outside the US and Canada. The Vaca Muerta Formation corresponds to distal marine facies (outer ramp to basinal facies in a mixed siliciclastic-carbonate setting) of the Vaca Muerta-Quintuco System.

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