Interest in the hydrocarbon potential of the subsalt play in the Gulf of Mexico has continued to grow over the last decade, especially now that the play has produced economic results. The emphasis on economics is crucial. The rapid evolution of ideas on the interaction of sedimentation, salt, and hydrocarbons has been driven by the fact that the oil industry believes that it can make money and generate value for its shareholders, and therefore is willing to invest in research and technical work to support the play.
High drilling costs and a lack of consistent success in finding world-class reserves are two main factors that are generating doubt as to the continued economic viability of the play. However, the industry as a whole must still believe that the future rewards are worth the current investment. Activity at the recent lease sales has been high, and numerous subsalt wells continue to be drilled each year.
Continued success in the short-term will be necessary to maintain the high level of funding for both operations and research. The challenge facing geoscientists is to reduce the exploration risk and attendant high costs by gaining a better understanding of the relationship between salt, sediment, and hydrocarbons.