Super basins are sedimentary basins with more than 5 billion BOE cumulative production and at least 5 billion BOE remaining recoverable resources. Super basins are characterized by two or more source rocks, stacked reservoirs, mature infrastructure, established service sectors, large amounts of data, and access to markets. Super basins commonly have multiple operators that form a community whose competitive atmosphere helps drive efficiency and performance. In an effort to identify sources for future oil and gas supplies, studies of the geology, hydrocarbon richness, and above-ground factors for 400 global basins led to the super basin concept. Super basins have continuous organic-rich mud rocks and other tight reservoirs that heretofore were not considered commercial targets. Based on analogy with proven resource plays in North American super basins, it is now possible to unlock substantial hydrocarbon potential in these tight rocks by employing horizontal drilling and multistage fracturing technologies.
Super basins exist both onshore and offshore. The largest super basins are onshore, dominantly in forelands and passive margins, and have both conventional and tight rock potential. This paper focuses on the top 25 onshore super basins that are estimated to have 859 billion BOE of incremental technically recoverable resources. Offshore basins do not have the massive tight rock potential as onshore basins because of higher infrastructure costs. The archetype for the onshore super basin is the Permian Basin (west Texas) with 37 billion BOE produced and 60 billion bbl of oil and 300 TCF gas remaining.
With huge resources, super basins can serve as supply disrupters and act as a regulator for the global price of crude oil and natural gas. Super basin concepts have caused geoscientists to think differently about petroleum basins. Super basins should be viewed as ecosystems that have below- and above-ground questions and technology and market considerations that must be resolved to assure commercial success.