Unconventional gas exploration in the Cooper Basin, Australia, has historically concentrated on fracture stimulation of tight gas sandstones within mapped structural closures. In drilling these sandstones, and other clastic reservoir targets, it has been recognised for many years that the Permian coal measures of the Toolachee, Epsilon and Patchawarra Formations record high levels of gas, often in excess of 4000 units, encountered at depths between 2500 and 3500m. Unlike shallower Coal-Seam-Gas reservoirs, which rely on de-pressuristion through de-watering to liberate adsorbed gas from the kerogen surface, deep coals are a "dry" system in which the free gas component is produced via kerogen and fracture permeability.

However maintaining a consistent and commercial flow rate from deep coals alone remained enigmatic until the first dedicated fracture stimulation program of deep Permian coals was commenced in the Moomba Field in 2007. Understandings of Permian source-rock reservoirs, the roles of the coal type and rank on sorption capacity and porosity, the influence of effective pressure and depth on coal permeability and the interrelation of coal fracture permeability with in-situ stress and mechanical stratigraphy has now advanced.

The deep Permian coal fairway in the Patchawarra and Nappamerri Trough of the Cooper Basin has been defined and mapped using a generative potential approach within a comprehensive 3D basin model. Net coal thicknesses from log electro-facies for 879 wells has been combined with available well maturity, TOC, HI and kerogen kinetic data, and calibrated against corrected temperatures in a basin-wide Trinity retention model which incorporates 14 mapped regional horizons. Play fairways have been overlain with observations of in-situ stress direction and fracture orientations from 3D seismic curvature volumes, FMI data and stress states from Mechanical Earth Models (MEM).

Within the basin, this approach has defined a P50 in-place resource of 14.6 TCF of gas and a P10 of 20.7 TCF of gas within the deep coals of the Permian Toolachee, Epsilon and Patchawarra Formations in Senex permits, of which 8-11 TCF is within the North Patchawarra Trough. MEM's have also demonstrated that deep coal seams are consistently in a normal stress state and therefore provide excellent scope for both propagating and constraining vertical fracture growth. Work is now underway to define further those areas, within the mapped resource parameters, which provide the best opportunity to site pilot lateral wells for multi-stage fracture stimulation within deep coals.

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