Abstract

This paper reviews ideas presented at the February 1997 Hedberg Research Symposium on petroleum exploration and production in fold and thrust belts, held in Veracruz, Mexico. Exploration in fold-thrust belts has been expanding rapidly due to recent discoveries, improved demand for gas, and improved access to promising areas. At the same time, the methods for exploring in fold-thrust belts and in developing fields have evolved significantly. This was the first AAPG conference to focus on exploration and production within this structural domain. This conference brought together geologists and geophysicists from around the world who are actively working in fold-thrust belts to share their experiences and to address a broad range of exploration and production concerns. Symposium topics included hydrocarbon generation, migration, entrapment and preservation, exploration methods and strategies, field development, and data acquisition. Numerous case studies were presented illustrating these topics. Although exploration and production in fold-thrust belts must address many of the same issues as in other structural plays, there are additional challenges. Fold and thrust belts, for example, are characterized by complex trap geometry; a complex burial and thermal history; a narrow time line between the onset of petroleum generation, migration, and trap development; and a complex history of fill and spill. Other challenges can include difficult terrain, poor seismic quality, high cost of field operations, environmental constraints, and drilling problems related to active tectonic stress regimes. Success in this setting requires efficient application of all available tools to mitigate risk and costs, but given the complex geology and relatively poor imageability, explorationists must be willing to persist in the face of initial failures. The conference offered many illustrations of successful exploration and development programs to encourage geologists and geophysicists working in this setting.

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