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Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Program
Phase 7 (2017 Deadline)

Hydrocarbon potential of the northern Pakistan fold-thrust belt
US Partner: Delores Robinson, University of Alabama
Pakistan Partner: Shah Faisal, University of Peshawar
Project summary
This project aims to determine the hydrocarbon potential of the Salt Range-Potwar Plateau, Kohat Plateau, and Bannu Basin region of Pakistan using field data and modeling. It will contribute to earthquake assessment and alleviating the energy crisis in Pakistan.

Progress Report

2020: The objective of this research was to understand the distribution of the rocks and configuration of the rocks that might contain hydrocarbons in northern Pakistan. To do this research, U.S. and Pakistani colleagues worked together to determine how the rocks are distributed on the surface and used available data to determine how the rocks are distributed in the subsurface. Drs. Robinson and Faisal, along with Pakistani graduate students, conducted a month of field work in 2018 and 2019. We collected data on the type of rock, orientations of the rocks, and rock samples. These data help us determine the distribution of rocks at the surface. We also conducted more focused studies in certain hydrocarbon bearing rock units to understand how the cracks (fractures) in the rock are distributed, and the porosity and permeability of the rocks. These characteristics determine if rocks can store hydrocarbons through time and allow hydrocarbons to flow through rocks.
In between the field work, our team worked on building models from the surface data that will help us determine what is happening under the surface. This involves using computer software to hypothesize how the distribution of rocks of the surface got there through time. We ran model after model with different distributions of rocks to converging on a solution. This work is ongoing. From the rock samples collected, we determine the age of the rock using the minerals. To do this, we isolate certain minerals, which takes months of work, and analyze them in the laboratory, which takes a few days. The next step is to determine the age of the rock and provide time constraint on when the rock was originally deposited in a flat lying orientation. Another age that we use is called the cooling age. This determines at what time these flat lying rocks were squeezed and pushed up into the air as mountains. This also takes months of work to obtain a cooling age for each sample. When we combine these age data with the models, the result will be a step-by-step reconstruction of how the Kohat, Potwar and Bannu Basins evolved through time. As we just received the age data, this is yet to be done. Once completed, a hydrocarbon model will allow us to determine where hydrocarbons could be stored.
This project has directly trained 5 Pakistani graduate students, several of whom are working in the oil and gas industry. Through workshops and conference presentations, this project has provided training for more Pakistani graduate and undergraduate students. We utilized new techniques and acquired new data to assess and identify hydrocarbon reserves. This improves the capacity of the University of Peshawar to compete for industry awards. When finished, we will address the severe energy crisis in Pakistan and improve the quality of life for the public.

Drs. Robinson and Faisal, along with Pakistani graduate students, conducted field work in the Kohat Plateau in November 2018. The objective of the research is to determine which rocks are capable of storing and holding hydrocarbons in northern Pakistan, and if it is possible that these rocks have hydrocarbons stored in them today. In order to do this, we need to understand how old the rocks are and the properties of the rocks. We also need to know how the rocks have been deformed through time since they were formed in their original flat lying position. Field work is how we gather this information and thus, it is the most valuable part of the research project because all models and resulting analyses are built from the field data. The objective is to determine the surface and subsurface geometry of the rocks in northern Pakistan to determine of these rocks may store hydrocarbons. Field work was also conducted by Dr. Faisal and his students throughout the 2018-2019 year. During the field work, teams collected data about how the rocks are orientated, porosity and permeability, and strength as well as collected samples for further analyses in the lab. These data will yield information about whether the rocks have the potential to store hydrocarbons and shed insights on whether the rocks in northern Pakistan are viable hydrocarbon targets.

Drs. Robinson and Faisal have spent the past year in preparation for the field work that will occur in October of 2018 and 2019. Field work is the heart of the project as these are the data needed to determine the geometry of the rocks in northern Pakistan and whether or not these rocks may store hydrocarbons. Preparation for the field work has included collection of preliminary field data by Pakistani graduate students, working with these data to build maps, conducting laboratory analyses, and acquiring data from local oil and gas companies to aid the project.

In the coming year, Dr. Robinson and a graduate student will visit Pakistan and join Dr. Faisal and his team for field work. During field work, data and samples will be gathered for interpretation and analysis when the teams return to their respective universities. Dr. Faisal will come to the University of Alabama to learn the laboratory techniques of Dr. Robinson. Subsequently, they will combine their research to produce an integrated view of the hydrocarbon potential of rocks in northern Pakistan.