Shale gas play: A new exploration frontier in Pakistan

Qamar Yasin's picture
Qamar Yasin, Research Associate, China University of Petroleum (East China)
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Successful exploration and development of shale gas in the United States and Canada suggest a new solution to the energy crisis in developing countries like Pakistan. Pakistan has more than 827,365 sedimentary basin area (611,307 sq. km onshore and 216,058 offshore) with thick sequences of shale formations, acting as a source rock with proven petroleum system.

Apart from the oil and gas resources found in conventional reservoirs, a large amount of gas is trapped within the unconventional reservoirs include:

  • Tight Gas
  • Coal Bed Methane
  • Shale Gas

Looking through this perspective, it is conspicuous that there is a great business opportunity in Pakistan, especially for shale gas potential in Upper as well as Middle and Lower Indus basin (Figure 1).


Figure 1: Shale and Tight gas perspective areas of Pakistan.

So far, conventional gas resources have been explored and developed in Pakistan but very little attention has been paid to unconventional gas resources. Other than proven reserves of gas, the country has more than 200 TCF of unconventional gas resources in shale formations. According to PacWest Consulting Partners (2011) approx. 70% area of Pakistan is covered by sedimentary basin.

Being called a mother of hydrocarbon it is distributed throughout the Upper, Middle, Lower Indus, Baluchistan and Offshore Basins as thick sequences. Most of the shale sequences are in the mature stage of hydrocarbon generation and acting as self-sourced and trap as a good resource play. These organic rich shale formations in Pakistan are significantly thicker than the shale formation plays in North America.

Studies conducted by Foreign Agencies on Shale Gas Resources have estimated the Original Gas Resources of Sembar and Ranikot Formations to be around 206 TCF out of which 51 TCF is technically recoverable. Currently, no shale gas is being produced in Pakistan and significant work is required to kick start this high potential energy resource.

A brief comparison between typical conventional and unconventional shale gas projects of about 1 TCF gas field in Middle Indus Basin shows that in comparison to 15 wells, 364 wells will be required to produce the same quantity of gas from shale reservoir. For conventional gas the total capital expenditure over the life of field amount to about US$500 Million which compares to US$4000 Million for shale gas mid-size project.

Studies suggest that only a small portion of huge hydrocarbon is reached to generate from conventional reservoirs whereas, a large portion is remained to trapped in shale and in Pakistan the conventional reservoir size and success ratio is decreasing. The preliminary assessment suggest that significant hydrocarbon volume is present in unconventional reservoirs is about 200 Tcf in shale and tight sand. These unconventional reservoirs are required to be evaluated by the collection of more data and initiating Pilot Projects as earliest as possible. From these studies we can conclude that economically, projects in Shale and Tight Gas look viable and sound.

Share your insights and join the conversation: What would you identify as the key benefit of gas exploration in Pakistan? Leave your comment below. 

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