From Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin (
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2004 West Texas Geological Society Fall Symposium, Midland, Texas, October 27–29.

Digital Portfolio of Oil Plays in the Permian Basin

Shirley P. Dutton, Eugene M. Kim, Caroline L. Breton, Ronald F. Broadhead, William D. Raatz, Stephen C. Ruppel, and Charles Kerans


The Permian Basin of west Texas and southeast New Mexico remains an important oil-producing province and contains an estimated 30 Bbbl of remaining mobile oil. Increased use of enhanced-recovery practices in the Permian Basin can have a substantial impact on U.S. oil production. A new digital oil-play portfolio has been compiled for oil reservoirs in the Permian Basin. A total of 1,339 significant-sized reservoirs in the basin had cumulative production of >1 MMbbl of oil through 2000; total production from these reservoirs was 28.9 Bbbl. Thirty-two oil plays covering both the Texas and New Mexico parts of the Permian Basin were defined on the basis of reservoir stratigraphy, lithology, depositional environment, and structural and tectonic setting. Each of the 1,339 significant-sized reservoirs was assigned to a play and mapped in a Geographic Information System (GIS). The play portfolio contains a summary description of each play, including key reservoir characteristics and successful reservoir development methods. Enhanced-recovery methods that have been demonstrated to work well in one reservoir in a particular play should be applicable to analogous reservoirs in that play.

The plays having the largest cumulative production are the Northwest Shelf San Andres Platform Carbonate play (4.0 Bbbl), the Leonard Restricted Platform Carbonate play (3.3 Bbbl), the Pennsylvanian and Lower Permian Horseshoe Atoll Carbonate play (2.7 Bbbl), and the San Andres Platform Carbonate play (2.2 Bbbl). The Permian System dominates production, accounting for 21.2 Bbbl, followed by the Pennsylvanian (3.8 Bbbl) and the Ordovician (1.8 Bbbl). Carbonate reservoirs have produced 75% of the oil, clastics 14%, mixed clastics and carbonates 8%, and chert 3%. Remaining reserves are 3.25 Bbbl from that component of the resource base that is already discovered and producing. Additional future production from the Permian Basin will be attributable to reserve growth and undiscovered resources.