MORGAN CITY — Technology may be giving new life to onshore oil and gas drilling in south Louisiana.
James Orth, president of New Orleans-based ORX Resources, talked about the techniques his company is using to recharge the industry at Tuesday’s meeting of the Atchafalaya Chapter of the American Petroleum Institute.
While hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas has become the focus of most current onshore exploration, ORX is using a geologic imaging technique called seismic reprocessing to explore areas around and beneath salt domes for trapped reservoirs of oil and gas.
The deepwater seismic reprocessing technology and drilling experiences prompted Orth and his company to experiment with using the reprocessing technology onshore. “When we did that, we saw structures that could hold oil and gas,” Orth said.
“We developed a concept and looked at some plays,” he said. “Then we were at the point that we needed money.”
ORX and ORX Explorations has since partnered with Repsol, the former Spanish state petroleum company, to finance exploration.
Orth said salt domes near Leeville and Iowa offer promising possibilities. Near Leeville, drilling would have to go to a depth of about 40,000 feet to reach below the salt dome. The Iowa area has had many wells drilled, but none through the salt layers.
A map of the approximately 150 salt domes in south Louisiana in Orth’s computer presentation shows that much of St. Mary Parish could also be a source of untapped oil and gas.
Many salt domes and layers in south Louisiana hide sands and shales that were not evident until seismic reprocessing uncovered their existence. Orth and his partners discovered this in an area known as the White Castle field.
“We thought, what if this isn’t an anomaly, but is going on under other salt domes?” Orth said.
One of the early deepwater fields, Ursa, had a similar structure to White Castle, and produced 175 million barrels of oil.
The imaging technique does not work on all salt domes, Orth said, but the company was able to image about 45 of them, and is exploring 17 of them with Repsol.
A test well at Garden Island Bay, south of South Pass in Plaquemine Parish, “was not a commercial find, but it did have reservoir-quality sands,” Orth said. “It was a technical success.”
The onshore and near-shore fields in question could be 1,000 to 2,000 acres, and would need to be large and productive to be worth drilling. The wells in many of those areas could cost $30 million or more to drill.
Though the cost is high, return on a commercial find could come quickly. Orth said, had the Garden Island Bay well resulted in commercial capacity, production could have started in 90 days.