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Total petroleum system assessment of undiscovered resources in the giant Barnett Shale continuous (unconventional) gas accumulation, Fort Worth Basin, Texas

Richard M. Pollastro1

1Central Energy Resources Team, U.S. Geological Survey, Box 25046, MS 939, Denver, Colorado 80225; [email protected]


Undiscovered natural gas having potential for additions to reserves in the Mississippian Barnett Shale of the Fort Worth Basin, north-central Texas, was assessed using the total petroleum system assessment unit concept and a cell-based methodology for continuous-type (unconventional) resources. The Barnett-Paleozoic total petroleum system is defined in the Bend arch–Fort Worth Basin as encompassing the area in which the organic-rich Barnett is the primary source rock for oil and gas produced from Paleozoic carbonate and clastic reservoirs. Exploration, technology, and drilling in the Barnett Shale play have rapidly evolved in recent years, with about 3500 vertical and 1000 horizontal wells completed in the Barnett through 2005 and more than 85% of the them completed since 1999. Using framework geology and historical production data, assessment of the Barnett Shale was performed by the U.S. Geological Survey using vertical wells at the peak of vertical well completions and before a transition to completions with horizontal wells. The assessment was performed after (1) mapping critical geological and geochemical parameters to define assessment unit areas with future potential, (2) defining distributions of drainage area (cell size) and estimating ultimate recovery per cell, and (3) estimating future success rates.

Two assessment units are defined and assessed for the Barnett Shale continuous gas accumulation, resulting in a total mean undiscovered volume having potential for additions to reserves of 26.2 TCFG. The greater Newark East fracture-barrier continuous Barnett Shale gas assessment unit represents a core-producing area where thick, organic-rich, siliceous Barnett Shale is within the thermal window for gas generation (Roge 1.1%) and is overlain and underlain by impermeable limestone barriers (Pennsylvanian Marble Falls Limestone and Ordovician Viola Limestone, respectively) that serve to confine induced fractures during well completion to maximize gas recovery. The extended continuous Barnett Shale gas assessment unit, which had been less explored, defines a geographic area where Barnett Shale is (1) within the thermal window for gas generation, (2) greater than 100 ft (30 m) thick, and (3) where at least one impermeable limestone barrier is absent. Mean undiscovered gas having potential for additions to reserves in the greater Newark East assessment unit is estimated at 14.6 tcf, and in the less tested extended assessment unit, a mean resource is estimated at 11.6 TCFG. A third hypothetical basin-arch Barnett Shale oil assessment unit was defined but not assessed because of a lack of production data.

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