The Eocene Lower Barmer Hill (LBH) Formation is the major regional source rock in the Barmer Basin rift, located in Rajasthan, India, and has substantial unconventional shale potential. The basin is almost completely covered with 3D seismic, providing an opportunity for more surgical mapping of the rapid structural and stratigraphic changes typical with any syn-rift deposit. Thick sections of organic-rich black shales reaching 400 meters thickness with TOC up to 14 wt. %, were deposited during a period of widespread basin deepening. Algal-rich type I oil prone kerogens dominate in north and generate oil, with very little gas. These shales mature at much lower temperatures than the mixed type I and III kerogens in the south, which also generate much larger amounts of gas and oil, and at higher threshold temperatures. The variable kinetics, as well as rapid facies variations typical of rifts, provide challenges to high-grading and testing unconventional shale plays.

Extensive Rock Eval pyrolysis and source rock kinetic databases were combined with petrophysical analysis to determine log-based porosity and saturations and productive potential. Modified Passey techniques calibrated to NMR log porosities provide estimates of organic richness as well as maturity and shale oil saturation. Basin modeling using Trinity software provides probabilistic ranges of generated and expelled hydrocarbons to determine storage capacity. The modeled oil window storage capacity varies between 6 to 13 MMBOE/km2, comparable to the values observed in Eagle Ford and Barnett Shale plays, but in a rifted basin and not broad cratonic shelf deposits.

Excess pore pressure was modeled using the kinetics of kerogen-to-oil conversion, and is noted in some of the deeper wells in tight sandstones, but not confirmed in the undrilled grabens. These pressure-gradient maps, along with oil properties (viscosity and oil mass fractions) derived from the geochemical model, are used to compute the producibility index. Composited storage capacity and producibility index maps have high-graded potential pilot areas.

In contrast to cratonic shale plays such as the Bakken or Eagle Ford, rapid and substantial facies variations occur due to local input of clastics and variable turbidite geometries which form potential targets for horizontal drilling. Increasingly more detailed paleogeographic maps are highlighting both the challenge and potential of the rich source rock in this basin.

This paper will cover how geochemical, structural, paleogeographic, petrophysical and other data are being used to derisk unconventional potential in this rich and complex rift system. Learnings from future testing of the Barmer Basin shale plays will be important to understand how to develop shale plays in other lacustrine rift basins.

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