The Serpentine Plug and the South Texas Oil Boom

Insider insights on the South Texas Oil Boom

Not all oil investments are equal. Opportunities for oil wells may be hiding deep beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered. Geological formations can be a tell-tale sign of liquid gold. Large tuff mounds on a seafloor around submarine volcanic vents, formed by the accumulation of volcanic ash, can be a sign of rich deposits of oil. Due to the mineral serpentine that commonly occurs within the mounds, they are often referred to as “serpentine plugs.” Such serpentine plugs have a role to play in Texas in particular, as a company has leases on a magnetic anomaly located in central Texas.

It is believed that within central Texas exists Travis volcanic mounds, which are ancient volcanoes that erupted millions of years ago to form mounds on the sea floor. There is a strong possibility that these mounds represent an undiscovered oil field, hidden by partial erosion and covered with younger sediments. Some of the minerals that occur in these mounds are magnetic as well, creating the mysterious magnetic anomaly referred to as Serpentine Plugs. But more than magnets rest within these mounds; the mounds form structurally high areas in the subsurface that also trap oil and gas.

As of now, thirty-eight of the oil fields in central Texas are connected to the Travis volcanic mounds. There is an extensive range in size, from 3000 barrels to 11,500,00 barrels of recovered oil, with some mound fields producing up to 5000 barrels of oil each day. The most successful wells are those located nearest the fractures surrounding the mounds, many of which have been in use since as early as 1913. Despite the age of some of these oil fields, many are still active.

Within the mounds, oil can be found in at least four different geological settings. A large portion of the oil is found in porous areas inside the volcanic igneous rock among the mounds, while some oil is found in sedimentary rocks. Sedimentary rocks with oil are either found within the mounds as sandstones and limestones, overlying the mounds, or sometimes oil is actually trapped in sedimentary rocks that flank the mounds.

Although without exploration it cannot be guaranteed that the magnetic anomaly holds oil in its grasp, but this finding is comparable to those associated with millions of other barrel fields.

However, the size and intensity of magnetic anomalies can be misleading. Nonetheless, a geochemical survey suggests that there are significant concentrations of petroleum hydrocarbons in the soil of this region, which leads to the assumption of oil and gas underneath. Even satellite data suggests the presence of soil that has altered mineral properties, pointing to a strong probability that oil exists.

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