Oil exploration is an expensive, high-risk operation. Offshore and remote area exploration is generally only undertaken by very large corporations or national governments. Shallow & Deep Shelf Oil Wells: Typical Shallow shelf oil wells (e.g. North sea) cost $10 – 30 Million, while deep water wells can cost up to $100 Million plus. Hundreds of smaller companies search for onshore hydrocarbon deposits worldwide, with some wells costing as little as $500,000 USD. Elements of a petroleum prospect: A significant amount of geological, structural and seismic investigation must first be completed to redefine the potential hydrocarbon drill location from a lead to a prospect. Five elements have to be present for a petro-prospect to work and if any of them fail neither oil nor gas will be present. Source Rock – When organic-rich rock such as oil shale or coal is subjected to high pressure and temperature over an extended period of time, hydrocarbons form. Migration – The Hydrocarbons are expelled from source rock by three density-related mechanisms: the newly-matured hydrocarbons are less dense than their precursors, which causes overpressure; the hydrocarbons are lighter medium, and so migrate upwards due to buoyancy, and the fluids expand as further burial causes increased heating. Most hydrocarbons migrate to the surface as oil seeps, but some will get trapped. Trap – The hydrocarbons are buoyant and have to be trapped within a structural (e.g. Anticline, fault block) or stratigraphic trap Seal or cap Rock – The hydrocarbon trap has to be covered by an impermeable rock known as a seal or cap-rock in order to prevent hydrocarbons escaping to the surface Reservoir – The hydrocarbons are contained in a reservoir rock. This is a porous sandstone or limestone. The oil collects in the pores within the rock. The reservoir must also be permeable so that the hydrocarbons will flow to surface during production.


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