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The Western Desert of Egypt, despite many discouragements, has major potential as a petroleum province. Approximately 150 exploratory wells have discovered nine commercial oil and gas fields, with flows of oil or gas recorded from an additional 21 wells.
All discoveries have been in marine inner shelf sandstones and carbonates that range from Aptian to Turonian in age. Potential reservoir rocks are known in Paleozoic to Tertiary sedimentary rocks. Mature source rocks have been recognized in the Devonian and in Jurassic to Upper Cretaceous strata. Seals, mainly shale, but including carbonates and some evaporites, are present in most formations in most areas. Structural traps are abundant.
Despite these favorable factors, in-place reserves of only 800 million bbl of oil and condensate, and up to 1,185 bcf of natural gas have been found. Almost all exploration has been limited to the drilling of relatively small onshore structures and no giant fields have been found. All significant discoveries to date have been in anticlinal traps, commonly modified by faulting.
New investigations utilizing a broad regional tectonic framework provide a means both of recognizing the more prospective provinces of the Western Desert and for understanding the structural evolution in terms of the timing of growth folding and growth faulting. These new investigations have been based on an approximately 10 by 10 km (6 by 6 mi) seismic grid and have identified many structural prospects and leads in the onshore area. Most structures are in the Abu Gharadig, Kattaniya (Gindi basin), and northern province of the Western Desert. The Abu Gharadig basin is of particular interest, being recognized as a major rhombochasmic basin containing numerous localized "highs" provided by northeast-southwest-oriented, doubly plunging (periclinal) anticlines. There are, therefore, suffi ient structures to warrant extensive additional exploration.
Particular attention should be given to testing the lower part of the Cretaceous and Jurassic. The Paleozoic section also warrants further attention as demonstrated by a review of drilling results and by indications from gravity data. The new investigations indicate a considerable potential within the Western Desert for discovery of small to moderate-size accumulations of oil and gas. In addition, possible reefal, carbonate
bank, and partially dolomitized trends (largely in the immediate offshore areas) are recognized. More exploration should test these features, which although high-risk leads, may contain giant fields.
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