Research by EAS Master’s Student Featured in GEO ExPro

Gulf of Mexico Petroleum-Related Research of the Norphlet Formation

GEO ExPro magazine is a leading interdisciplinary and worldwide magazine and online publication. It has over 28,000 readers per issue and is accessed in over 150 countries. The magazine, published in London, is designed to explain and clarify petroleum geoscience methods, developing exploration trends, and recent hydrocarbon discoveries in layman’s terms.

Andrew Steier

The January 2019 edition included a feature article summarizing the results of the master's thesis research on Gulf of Mexico geology and hydrocarbon exploration by Andrew Steier in the University of Houston’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. This is the first time the research results by a student or faculty member from UH have been featured in GEO ExPro.

Steier’s research used a grid of 31,000 line kms of seismic data to map a high quality, oil reservoir sandstone of late Jurassic age called the Norphlet Formation. Spectrum Geo, a seismic acquisition and processing company based in Houston, provided the data.

The Norphlet Formation was deposited as an extensive expanse of migrating sand dunes within a desiccated, and likely sub-sea level, eastern margin of the Gulf of Mexico during its early rift period in the Jurassic. Influx of marine waters into this low-lying desert environment deposited organic-rich source rocks that worked in tandem with the subjacent Norphlet reservoirs to produce a productive petroleum system. The Norphlet trend has been very productive oil reservoir in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, where large oil discoveries by Shell, Hess, and other large exploration companies were made over the last decade.

Steier used his grid of seismic data and mapping that covered the southern margin of the Gulf of Mexico along the margin of the Yucatan Peninsula to propose that the Norphlet Formation also exists in this area and displays many of the same characteristics on seismic data that have been previously described in the more intensively explored, northeastern U.S. Gulf of Mexico. He produced computer-based plate reconstructions to support his hypothesis that the U.S. and Mexican areas of the Norphlet once formed a single, large dune field that separated into U.S. and Mexican parts when the Gulf of Mexico opened. His insight provides an important and novel exploration “play concept” along the Yucatan margin of Mexico.

Steier completed his B.A. degree in classics and honors anthropology at the University of Notre Dame in 2012. He began his geology major and career at Houston Community College in 2014 and transferred as a post-baccalaureate geology major at UH in 2015. At UH, he worked as an undergraduate research assistant with Dr. Paul Mann.

In 2016, he started the M.S. program with Mann and his CBTH group where he completed his two-year M.S. thesis and degree in May 2018. He and Mann submitted an article based on his M.S. research that is now in press in the international journal Marine and Petroleum Geology.

In 2017 and 2018, Steier worked as a summer and part-time intern for the Mexican International New Ventures team at the downtown Houston office of the French exploration company, Total. He was hired as a full-time explorationist with the U.S. Gulf of Mexico team at Total and works on the Norphlet and other promising exploration trends in that region.

GEO Expro December 2018 (article on pages 56–59)