Analyzing Vintage Data with Modern Techniques in Papua New Guinea


One of EGI’s latest collaborative research projects, Petroleum Systems of the Southern Papuan Basin of Papua New Guinea (PNG), recently embarked upon the sample collection phase of the project. The project will define and quantify source and reservoir potential of the petroleum systems, as well as to evaluate the stratigraphic and paleoenvironmental geological controls of those intervals. What makes this project exciting and different is the definition and quantification of vintage open file data using EGI’s state of the art analytical techniques.

The project has begun with the collection phase from archives of the Department of Petroleum & Energy (DPE) facility in Port Moresby. The data set comprises over a thousand drill core samples, sidewall cores, and drill cuttings. These samples form part of a valuable historic collection of subsurface material that in many cases has not been studied or even opened since the holes were drilled.

The Papuan Basin has been explored for over 100 years and has been producing oil since 1986– from the Kutubu fields– and exporting gas since 2014 via the Exxon-Oil Search PNG LNG project. The basin overall, however, remains vastly underexplored due in no small part to the extreme difficulty and cost of exploration in the tropical island. Operating environments in PNG range from high altitude “cloud forest” and karstified ranges, through the flatter but baking hot foreland, to marginal marine swamp and mangrove marsh.

A key driver to undertaking the Petroleum Systems of the Southern Papuan Basin project has been the discovery in the last decade of the multi-TCF Elk-Antelope field; a new petroleum system, play type, age of system, and paradigm for exploration in PNG. Elk-Antelope is currently being quantified by Total, Oil Search, and Interoil as the basis for a second LNG project in PNG— Papuan LNG.

EGI affiliate scientists Dr. John Conolly and Dr. Simon McDonald will also be collecting any available oil and gas samples from downhole formation tests and surface seeps. Drs. Conolly and McDonald have between them almost 60 years of PNG experience comprising field mapping, seismic acquisition, exploration drilling, and interpretation activities.

Samples are being collected from over 50 wells within the Southern Papuan Basin (Figure 1), many of which were drilled before 1975, when Papua and New Guinea were Australian Trust Territories under UN mandate. The Australian Government instigated the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act (PSSA) and paid for half the cost of each well between 1958 and 1974 to encourage exploration in all of the (then) Australian Basins.

Figure 1. Selected wells sampled to date.

A few of the sample intervals were studied previously for apatite fission track analysis (AFTA) and also a Papuan Basin study in the early 1980’s, but the vast majority of down-hole samples have never been studied before.

The modern analytical capabilities of the EGI Petroleum Geochemistry Laboratory will primarily focus on use of the HAWKTM Analyzer, which is capable of providing S1, S2, S3, and TOC data as well as Tmax information.  EGI will also use the recently acquired Parr Pressure Vessels to conduct laboratory hydrous pyrolysis investigations on collected shales. The organic geochemistry lab run by EGI Manager of Petroleum Systems and Geochemistry, David Thul, will also be routinely running samples through the gas chromatograph (GC) and gas chromatograph–mass spectrometer (GC-MS). These techniques will all quantify the geochemical attributes of the source rock intervals of the southern Papuan Basin.

For project details and sponsorship inquiry, visit the Southern Papuan Basin Integrated Petroleum Systems page or send us an email.