April 2015

What's new in exploration

Exploration is who you are, not what you do
William (Bill) Head / Contributing Editor

I start this month with the current rig count, as of March 20: 1,069, down from 1,803 a year earlier. I owned part of a rig in 1982, when the rig count was 4,004. That 4,004th was mine. It was delivered a few days before the collapse. Things have been worse. 

English naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin.
Fig. 1. English naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin.

People, especially men, often define themselves as part of what they do, where they live and what they drive. True explorationists are actually defined by who they are, on the inside, and that determines what they do. Often those folks are the oddballs, only later to be revered. It takes a great deal of management skill to recognize and keep a fundamental explorationist.

I offer an incomplete look at four of the great explorationists that changed the world’s view of life, yet all show a commonality. These include Charles Darwin (Fig. 1) and the Apollo 11 astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin (Fig. 2, left to right). These folks were thinkers, who took action in spite of the risks. They were often wrong, and not always the smartest, but they pursued their ideas anyway, trained to better their understanding of how things worked, and told anyone who would listen about their findings. All incorporated extensive technical support teams at the times of their greatness. 

Today’s team is no different, Fig. 3. A new generation of explorationists is accepting lessons from “mature explorationists.” What the new frontier people actually do, or not do, will change how you and I live our lives. 

Kudos go to Ikon Science for addressing flow characteristics of hydrocarbon exploration. Making others aware that flow could be an area of exploration investigation is important.  

Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. Courtesy of NASA.
Fig. 2. Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. Courtesy of NASA.

One in particular is Michigan Tech. Publications show some of their students are using 4D seismic to attempt to map oil and gas flow, from and between reservoirs, based on pressure data from production wells. College can be useful. 

SEG SEAM has delayed the start of their proposed “Life of Field’ study. Here, at RPSEA, we are seeing this across-the-board. We are still looking to fund JIP projects in VSP, marine air guns/marine vibrators, post-BOP accumulators, real-time frac studies, frac water, microseismic detection near fracing, and the list goes on. Most of our members are saying, “delay, not stop.” 

Explorationists work in an interpretation room. Courtesy of BP.
Fig. 3. Explorationists work in an interpretation room. Courtesy of BP.

Information and progress. Please start to make your firm plans for OTC in Houston, AAPG in Denver, URTec in San Antonio, and SEG this fall in New Orleans. After all the commiserating at the opening icebreakers, there will be many good papers. The topics to watch at OTC will be pore pressure, subsalt, EOR/IOR, and regulations (which determine when you can go back to work). AAPG will have several good papers on ROZ, CO2, and EUR, along with what many believe are the most valuable items—case histories. SEG will have case histories, but will also focus on workstation technology that can help you do more with less. This will be especially true in processing and interpretation.

Every pioneer explorationist has faced big and unexpected issues. Our oil price issue right now is not unexpected, just because it is unwelcome. I was lucky enough to survive the panic, when oil went from $3/bbl to $8/bbl. I owned a VW bug and thought its 19-mpg fuel economy was awesome. I survived Jimmy Carter’s 55-mph highway mess, Windfall Profits and the AMI tax on the working oil class. I also will survive $50 oil, as we did $15 oil. My bigger concern will be surviving government regulation, when 87% of the world’s oil is owned directly by governments, and all oil is controlled by governments. wo-box_blue.gif 

About the Authors
William (Bill) Head
Contributing Editor
William (Bill) Head is a technologist with over 40 years of experience in U.S. and international exploration.
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