Raul Ochoa

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Source Rock Prediction for Optimizing Unconventional Targets: Agrio Formation Neuquén Basin, Argentina

-Raul Ochoa, Lauren Birgenheier

I am currently a PhD candidate at the University of Utah in the Geology and Geophysics department. I have over five years’ experience working as a professional geologist in the energy industry prior to moving to Utah. In my spare time I enjoy backpacking, trekking, and exploring Utah and destinations all along the west.

Increasing energy demands are highlighting the need for reliable and economic energy resources. Hydrocarbon resources will continue to meet ever-increasing demand in the near future. Therefore, it is important that hydrocarbon exploration is developed in a sustainable manner. Argentina has played a growing role in supplying hydrocarbons from unconventional resources (low porosity, low permeability reservoirs).  The Neuquén Basin of Argentina hosts one of the most prolific hydrocarbon systems outside of the United States. The Cretaceous Agrio Formation, is the youngest of three organic-rich marine source rocks that has the potential for hydrocarbons but remains relatively unexplored. Detailed geologic characterization of the Agrio Formation from outcrops have recently been published identifying organic-rich, hydrocarbon source rock intervals. But the extent of hydrocarbon potential in the subsurface is unconstrained. Through detailed source rock interval identification in the subsurface, drilling and extraction can be optimized, minimizing land impact and needless exploration for resources.

As part of my PhD research project at the U, I am interested in characterization and evaluating the hydrocarbon potential the mudstone-dominated Agrio Formation, Neuquén Basin, Argentina. The Neuquén Basin is home to multiple source rocks and hydrocarbon bearing zones. The Agrio Formation subsurface source intervals have yet to be evaluated in detail. Using a modified petrophysical model, calibrated to actual rock data, I am using it to estimate and predict source intervals in the subsurface. By identifying and specifically targeting zones of interest rich in organic matter, this can aid in minimizing necessary resources for exploration and reduce environmental impact while optimizing hydrocarbon production.