Advances in Global Petroleum Systems Analysis: New Insights, New Questions

Lori Summa and David Awwiller


Friday, Sep. 6, 2013, 3:00pm
Chase 130

Oil and gas resources continue to play a major role in the global energy mix. However, the portfolio of global petroleum assets has undergone a decisive transformation over the past ten years, and there is a host of new questions for the science of petroleum systems analysis. The fundamentals haven’t changed: we still rely on basic observations, genetic understanding of sedimentary basins, and numerical models to make predictions away from data. However, there is a new demand for more refined predictive capabilities, particularly with the current push to develop continuous-resource plays. Our focus is now on predicting the narrow range of fluid and rock properties that control oil and gas mobility in these new types of reservoirs. An increased understanding of fluid/rock properties and their interactions is also critical for the development of some high-cost conventional plays.

New technology and data allow us address these questions by enhancing our ability to investigate complex geologic processes and the plate- to pore-scale links between them. For example, recent developments in geophysical acquisition and processing have led to exceptional regional scale images of complex depositional geology. These images illuminate subtle variations in petroleum systems linked to equally subtle variations in tectonostratigraphic setting. Nannoscale imaging of newly acquired source rock datasets from a range of depositional settings and maturities, coupled with high-resolution sedimentology and geomechanical analysis, has greatly advanced our ability to predict the physical and mechanical properties of those rocks. In addition, next-generation thermochronology, geochronology, and geomechanical tools also allow us to better constrain the pressure and exhumation history that now appear to have a significant influence on flow properties. In this talk, we examine the evolving landscape of petroleum systems analysis, and discuss our current ability to evaluate new hydrocarbon resources, using field examples drawn from US and global assets.


Dr. Lori Summa is a Senior Technical Consultant at ExxonMobil’s Upstream Research Company. She received a BS in Geology from the University of Rochester, and a PhD in Geology from UC Davis. She has worked for ExxonMobil for 28 years. Her research interests include sedimentary basin analysis, basin modeling, fluid flow, and fluid rock interactions, and she currently serves as general advisor for exploration projects. 

Dr. David Awwiller is a Senior Technical Advisor at ExxonMobil Exploration Company. He received a BS in Geology from Case Western Reserve University, and PhD in Geology from U.T. Austin. He has worked for ExxonMobil for 20 years. His research interests include low temperature geochemistry, diagenesis, and radiogenic and stable isotope analysis.  He currently serves as the team lead for ExxonMobil’s Exploration efforts in Colombia.