The Sureste Basin of southern Mexico has all the components to be classed as one of the world’s super basins for hydrocarbon exploration and production. This is because of its endowment with one of the world’s great source rock systems, namely, the Late Jurassic Edzna Formation, in combination with stacking of multiple potential reservoirs in a highly structural salt basin.

This paper discusses the hydrocarbon play potential of the Sureste Basin within a tectono-stratigraphic context and outlines the key risks, uncertainties, and opportunities for future exploration. Surface oil seepage and seismic mapping clearly show that many prospective structures extend into the underexplored deeper-water basin area. Key risks are related to charge, with substantial migration required from deeply buried Late Jurassic source rocks into shallower carbonate and clastic reservoirs. In particular, “deep charge focus” and “hydrocarbon charge versus trap timing” are key risk elements.

Two key uncertainties are the deep reservoir quality of the lithic sandstones in Paleogene reservoirs and column height prediction for high-relief traps. The highly structured nature of the underexplored deep-water Campeche slope in combination with extensive hydrocarbon seepage to the seabed bodes well for a prolific exploration future in expanding the proven reservoir systems further, taking advantage of established deep-water drilling practices and advanced wide-azimuth three-dimensional (3-D) seismic imaging. It is also likely that with expanding high-quality 3-D seismic coverage around shallow water and onshore existing discoveries, additional reservoir targets and additional fault blocks will become visible.

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