Lessons learned in the Eagle Ford play and applicability to Mexico
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Mexico’s oil and gas production decline from conventional reservoirs calls for the assessment of their Late Cenomanian-Turonian shale resources. However, a geological screening of the Texas Gulf coast and east and northeast Mexico indicates that their distinct paleogeographic and tectonic development preclude a straightforward correlation between the Upper Cretaceous Eagle Ford Group of Texas and equivalent formations in Mexico. In Texas, east of the Frio River Line, extensional tectonics prevailed during the Mesozoic-Cenozoic; while in Mexico compressional tectonics influenced sedimentation from the late Cenomanian through the Eocene. Late Cenomanian compression led to paleobathymetry variations that may have influenced the lithology, distribution, and thickness of the lower organic-rich interval of the Eagle Ford Group, as well as the uplift of a western landmass that was a source of detrital argillaceous sediments. Laramide orogeny produced the exhumation of the late Cenomanian-Turonian section in most of the eastern part of Mexico, and its burial in foreland basins below Cenozoic sediments with contrasting thickness. Therefore, uplift and loading burial impacted critical depth-dependent factors such as thermal maturation, pore pressure, and viscosity. Hence, in east and northeast Mexico four areas have geological and geotechnical characteristics to be potential sweet spots in the Eagle Ford trend. The areas are the Sabinas Coal Basin, the western part of the Burgos Basin, the southwestern part of the Maverick Basin, and the southwestern part of the Tampico-Misantla Basin. Each area may be an opportunity to ensure Mexico´s energy mix and offset the declining production; nevertheless, these areas present significant technical, operational, and public challenges such as water shortage or mismanagement, insufficient road and pipeline infrastructure, and the ability to deal with people with strong cultures and social roots. Once the geologic and engineering data extracted from the appraisal wells permit the understanding of the economic potential of the sweet spots, supply chains may develop around a Northeastern Hub embracing the Burgos, Maverick, and Sabinas Coal Basins, and an Eastern Hub, including the Tampico-Misantla Basin. High-quality project management and decision-making process based on economic and scientific facts may permit a fruitful learning curve.