Johnston Seismic Consulting Ltd.

Maracaibo Basin: CSPG International Group Talks and References

Structure, Hydrocarbon Habitat and Politics in the Lago Medio Area, Maracaibo Basin, Venezuela

Speaker: C.D. (Sam) Johnston, Johnston Seismic Consulting Ltd./Core Lab Reservoir Technologies Division, Maracaibo

12:00 noon, Friday October 17, 2003 - Encana Theatre


Few things happen in Venezuela that don't have something to do with oil.

The Lago Medio area is situated in the center of the Maracaibo Sub-plate along the Icotea Wrench Fault System. In the Eocene the Caribbean Plate slid dextrally past the Maracaibo sub-plate and initially created accommodation space for the tide-dominated deltaic Misoa Formation. Further local transpression and transtension led to differential uplift and erosion or collapse and preservation.

In the north, hydrocarbons are trapped in the lower Misoa C6/C7 sequences that subcrop against the Mio-Eocene unconformity along the Atico/Icotea transpressive fault/fold system. In the central area the Misoa B6/9 sequences were preserved by differential collapse and hydrocarbons are trapped in subcropping and fault delineated sequences. In the south transtensional forces led to the formation of major grabens with local wrench induced folds. The Miocene Santa Barbara is producing over most of the area.

The failed April, 2002 coup and the recent December-January strike/lockout established the control by the Hugo Chavez populist government over PDVSA – the national oil company – and oil policy. Now the Venezuelan opposition is only left with constitutional means in its struggle with the government for the control of oil, money, power and Venezuela.


A series of Maracaibo Basin references can be found at: http://www.cuug.ab.ca/~johnstos/maracaibo.html

Acknowledgement: Bob Rieser (geologist) and Hugo Lazarde (project leader), Core Lab, Reservoir Technologies Division, Maracaibo; PDVSA, Maracaibo

Biography: Since 1972 C.D. (Sam) Johnston has worked on a diverse variety of seismic interpretation and integration projects with Mobil, Gulf, Davitt Consultants, Norcen, and for the last eight years Johnston Seismic Consulting Ltd. He has lived and worked in six countries and worked and/or traveled in over forty.


The Maracaibo Basin, Venezuela: Hydrocarbon History, Habitat, and Challenges

SPEAKER: Sam Johnston, Johnston Seismic Consulting Ltd.

12:00 noon, Thursday April 25th, 2002 - PCP Theatre


The Maracaibo Basin provided its first export oil in 1918, and from 1929 to 1970 Venezuela was the largest oil exporter in the world. From the beginning to the present, Venezuela has followed a strategy of assertive, flexible experimentation in its attempt to manage this dependence and "sow the oil".

The Maracaibo Basin is the second most petroliferous basin in the world. About 17,000 wells have produced 37B bbls since 1914. Remaining recoverable reserves are near 20B bbls, and estimated original total oil and gas in place is as high as 320B bbls and 90TCF. The area evolved through time from a Cretaceous to Eocene (transtensional) back-arc basin, to a (transpressive and changing) foreland basin during Eocene time. Hydrocarbon, mainly from the U. Cretaceous source rock, is now found in fractured Cretaceous carbonates (6%), Eocene clastics (50%), and Miocene clastics (44%). Most oil accumulation in the west and northwest are related to faulted anticlines, while in the east structures are generally homoclinal and accumulation is largely due to truncation and lenticularity of the Miocene reservoir beds and a tar seal at the Miocene outcrop. Often oil is trapped in the faulted and truncated Eocene.

The challenges facing workers in the Maracaibo Basin range from complex enhanced recovery projects to continuing political considerations.


A series of Maracaibo Basin references can be found at: http://www.cuug.ab.ca/~johnstos/maracaibo.html .

Biography: Since 1972 C.D. (Sam) Johnston has worked on a diverse variety of seismic interpretation and integration projects with Mobil, Gulf, Davitt Consultants, Norcen, and for the last seven years Johnston Seismic Consulting Ltd. He has lived and worked in five countries and worked and/or traveled in over forty.


The Eastern Venezuelan Basin: Structure, Hydrocarbon Habitat, and Challenges

SPEAKER: C.D. (Sam) Johnston, Johnston Seismic Consulting Ltd.


Exploration in Eastern Venezuela had started in 1890, and discoveries were made in 1912, 1928 and 1934, but the first important commercial oil development was in 1937. Present and future challenges in this, the second most productive South American basin, are the optimization and maintenance of oil and gas production in older fields, the certification of reserves and expansion of production from the Orinoco Heavy Oil Belt, and the development of offshore gas production and export facilities. The politics of Hugo Chavez with his Bolivarian Revolution is an important ingredient to these challenges.

The Eastern Venezuela Basin was a passive margin in the Cretaceous. A diachronous foreland basin formed after the Eocene as the Caribbean plate started its oblique slide past South America influencing reservoirs and later creating traps. In the northern thrust plays reservoirs are in upper Cretaceous to Miocene clastics. In the south the Oligocene-Miocene clastics of the Oficina Formation are one of the most important reservoir units. The reservoirs are composed of a complex mix of fluvial, estuarine, incised valley and deltaic facies. In general traping mechanisms change from north to south from thrusted hanging-wall anticlines, folded transpressive traps, transtensional structures, normal faults, to combination-stratigraphic traps.

The characteristics and hydrocarbon habitat of seven major producing trends will be outlined: the thrusted El Furrial/Quiriquire trend, the folded Greater Anoco trend, the Las Mercedes trend, the Temblador trend, the Greater Oficina trend, the Orinoco Heavy Oil Belt, and the offshore Deltan Platform/Marshal Sucre gas projects.

The work of PDVSA and many oil and service companies is acknowledged. A series of Maracaibo Basin and Eastern Venezuela Basin references can be found at: http://www.cuug.ab.ca/~johnstos/maracaibo.html

Biography: Since 1972 C.D. (Sam) Johnston has worked on a diverse set of exploration or development seismic interpretation and integration projects with Mobil, Gulf, Davitt Consultants, Norcen, and for the last fifteen years Johnston Seismic Consulting Ltd. He has lived and worked on six continents and worked and/or traveled in almost fifty countries. Sam has completed eleven projects in Venezuela and lived in Maracaibo or Puerto la Cruz during six of them.


Venezuela: a country evaluation - the structure, hydrocarbon habitat, and challenges

SPEAKER: C.D. (Sam) Johnston, Johnston Seismic Consulting Ltd.


For a large or a small oil or gas company, a service company or an independent geoscience consultant, working in Venezuela may be a challenge. One has to evaluate whether the problems are worth the reward. The hydrocarbon rewards are certainly large on both a present day and a future basis for oil, heavy oil and gas.

This summary talk will first outline the history and present day status of the Venezuelan upstream petroleum industry. It will then quickly look at political risk, financial risk and personal risk. Then it will concentrate on the structural development and hydrocarbon habitat of the two main producing basins in South America, the Maracaibo Basin in the northwest and the Eastern Venezuelan Basin. The major conclusions are that the main risks in attempting to work in Venezuela are not of a geoscience nature, but that deep pockets are necessary. Thus attempting to work in Venezuela can only be a long-term project.

Exploration in Eastern Venezuela had started in 1890, and discoveries were made in 1912, 1928 and 1934, but the first important commercial oil development was in 1937. The Maracaibo Basin provided its first major discovery in 1914, export oil in 1918, and a world changing major discovery in 1922 resulted in increased production and made Venezuela the largest oil exporter in the world from 1929 to 1970. The major producers were Exxon and Shell affiliates. As the lease expiries approached, foreign investment slowed and a negociated take-over by the national oil company PDVSA resulted. From the beginning to the present, Venezuela has followed a strategy of assertive, flexible experimentation in its attempt to manage this hydrocarbon dependence and "sow the oil".

The work of PDVSA and many oil and service companies is acknowledged. A series of Maracaibo Basin and Eastern Venezuela Basin references can be found at: http://www.cuug.ab.ca/~johnstos/maracaibo.html

Biography: Since 1972 C.D. (Sam) Johnston has worked on a diverse set of exploration or development seismic interpretation and integration projects with Mobil, Gulf, Davitt Consultants, Norcen, and for the last fifteen years Johnston Seismic Consulting Ltd. He has lived and worked on six continents and worked and/or traveled in almost fifty countries. Sam has completed eleven projects in Venezuela and lived in Maracaibo or Puerto la Cruz during six of them

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