AAPG ICE: Seismic reprocessing enhances potential for Russia’s legacy basins

Russia’s Precaucus and Uralian Foreland basins are the oldest and most developed oil and gas producing regions in the country. As the “birthplace” of Russia’s oil industry, the Precaucus was first developed in the late 19th century. Production improved rapidly after 1920 and entered steep decline after 1970.

In the Urals, Russia’s first commercial field was developed in 1929. Vuktyl field would go on to become the most prolific in the Uralian basin.

Today, most of Russia’s Soviet-era legacy fields have been auctioned. As the country looks for ways to arrest decline, several options are under consideration including Arctic shelf exploration, unconventional resource development, and technology driven rejuvenation of conventional plays.

“Arctic exploration and unconventional resources are possible in Russia,” said Konstantin Sobornov of North Uralian Petroleum Co. at the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) International Conference & Exhibition on Sept. 16. Projects are very limited, and according to Sobornov, due to the abundance of conventional resources still available in Russia, it may be quite some years before unconventional development becomes a priority.

One of the key focuses in many parts of the world where legacy fields have been in decline for some time is to revalue aging assets with updated seismic technology.

Vintage data can be reprocessed in conjunction with new seismic acquisition. Better imaging of complex geologies can now open up opportunities in previously overlooked areas. Better resolution images provide insights on fold-and-thrust belts, barred carbonate build ups, subtle stratigraphic traps, transition zones, and missed pools. In Russia’s case, newly reprocessed seismic data are helping several operators identify new opportunities in the Uralian syn-rift section.

“In areas where older seismic failed to exhibit the true complexity of the subsurface, new exploration technology can have a game-changing effect,” Sobornov said.

As a result, operators are now viewing many of Russia’s mature fields, once thought to be fully exploited, with new perspectives. “While Russia is afforded with many opportunities for future development, new exploration technology is increasing opportunities in its oldest producing basins as well,” Sobornov said.

Contact Tayvis Dunnahoe at tayvisd@ogjonline.com.

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