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Assessment of undiscovered conventional oil and gas resources, onshore Claiborne Group, United States part of the northern Gulf of Mexico Basin

Paul C. Hackley,1 Thomas E. Ewing2

1U.S. Geological Survey, MS 956 National Center, Reston, Virginia 20192; [email protected]
2Yegua Energy Associates, LLC, 19240 Redland Rd., Ste. 200, San Antonio, Texas 78259; [email protected]


The middle Eocene Claiborne Group was assessed for undiscovered conventional hydrocarbon resources using established U.S. Geological Survey assessment methodology. This work was conducted as part of a 2007 assessment of Paleogene–Neogene strata of the northern Gulf of Mexico Basin, including the United States onshore and state waters (Dubiel et al., 2007). The assessed area is within the Upper Jurassic–Cretaceous–Tertiary composite total petroleum system, which was defined for the assessment. Source rocks for Claiborne oil accumulations are interpreted to be organic-rich, downdip, shaley facies of the Wilcox Group and the Sparta Sand of the Claiborne Group; gas accumulations may have originated from multiple sources, including the Jurassic Smackover Formation and the Haynesville and Bossier shales, the Cretaceous Eagle Ford and Pearsall (?) formations, and the Paleogene Wilcox Group and Sparta Sand. Hydrocarbon generation in the basin started prior to deposition of Claiborne sediments and is currently ongoing. Primary reservoir sandstones in the Claiborne Group include, from oldest to youngest, the Queen City Sand, Cook Mountain Formation, Sparta Sand, Yegua Formation, and the laterally equivalent Cockfield Formation.

A geologic model, supported by spatial analysis of petroleum geology data, including discovered reservoir depths, thicknesses, temperatures, porosities, permeabilities, and pressures, was used to divide the Claiborne Group into seven assessment units (AUs) with three distinctive structural and depositional settings. The three structural and depositional settings are (1) stable shelf, (2) expanded fault zone, and (3) slope and basin floor; the seven AUs are (1) lower Claiborne stable-shelf gas and oil, (2) lower Claiborne expanded fault-zone gas, (3) lower Claiborne slope and basin-floor gas, (4) lower Claiborne Cane River, (5) upper Claiborne stable-shelf gas and oil, (6) upper Claiborne expanded fault-zone gas, and (7) upper Claiborne slope and basin-floor gas. Based on Monte Carlo simulation of justified input parameters, the total estimated mean undiscovered conventional hydrocarbon resources in the seven AUs combined are 52 million bbl of oil, 19.145 tcf of natural gas, and 1.205 billion bbl of natural gas liquids.

This article describes the conceptual geologic model used to define the seven Claiborne AUs, the characteristics of each AU, and the justification behind the input parameters used to estimate undiscovered resources for each AU. The great bulk of undiscovered hydrocarbon resources are predicted to be nonassociated gas and natural gas liquids contained in deep (mostly gt12,000-ft [3658 m], present-day drilling depths), overpressured, structurally complex outer shelf or slope and basin-floor Claiborne reservoirs. The continuing development of these downdip objectives is expected to be the primary focus of exploration activity for the onshore middle Eocene Gulf Coast in the coming decades.

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