Geology is the study of the Earth’s structure, composition, and processes. Geologists use many different techniques to locate where sizable quantities of oil and natural gas exist beneath the Earth’s surface. One of the primary techniques employed by geologists is seismic imaging. Think of this process as an ultrasound, which involves sending sound waves into the Earth and recording the echoes that bounce back. By analyzing the echoes, geologists can create an image of the rock layers beneath the Earth’s surface. This image helps them determine the depth and thickness of the shale formations as well as the size and potential quantity of oil and natural gas.

We’ve seen the demand for oil and natural gas increase steadily over the years, but onshore “conventional” plays have struggled to keep up. Energy companies needed a solution to continue meeting the demand, so they turned to unconventional sources, like the shale formations we mentioned above. Coterra will continue to explore these formations across the Anadarko, Permian and Marcellus basins, to grow production volumes and secure our country’s energy future.

Shale is a sedimentary rock that can be rich in organic matter. This type of matter included preserved remnants of plant and algal materials that were deposited with the rock in the geologic past. After deposition, the rocks are buried deeper beneath the Earth’s surface where pressures and temperatures are increased. It’s after this phase that the organic matter is converted into hydrocarbons, like oil and natural gas.

After identifying potential areas for exploration, geologists collect and examine rock samples from the shale formations while drilling. These samples provide valuable information on the composition and properties of the shale, such as porosity (the amount of space in a rock that can contain oil or natural gas) and permeability (how easily oil or natural gas can flow through the rock). 

Geologists also analyze the fossils present in the rock to help aid in the determination of the age of the shale formations. This, along with other information, helps them better understand the timing in the geologic past in which the shale was formed, environment, and the type of organic matter present. This kind of information allows the geologist to determine the quality and quantity of oil and natural gas that could have been generated by the shale over geologic time.

Once the geologists have gathered all the necessary data, they use computer models to simulate how the oil and natural gas move through the porous and permeable shale layers. Energy companies use this information to design effective production techniques, such as hydraulic fracturing.

When all is said and done, geology plays an essential role in finding and producing oil and natural gas in shale formations. This information helps energy companies design effective extraction techniques and maximize the yield of oil and natural gas from the shale. By leveraging the power of geology, we can meet the increasing energy demand.