February 2020

What's new in exploration

2020—Had enough yet?
William (Bill) Head / Contributing Editor

Exploration is all about remote sensing, dividing noise in data from meaningful signals. New discoveries are finally on the way up, noted around the Med, Africa and especially offshore Guyana. However, exploration is not pervasive around the planet. Even with oil on your boots, you may not have found an exploitable resource.

Mentioning oil and exploitation together seems to be a political bomb. We observe data showing that noise from outside our industry is killing the useful signal of energy independence. Exploration worldwide has been under attack for some time, and not just from the price of oil and mergers. Enviro alternate energy initiatives have been telling us to move away from hydrocarbon dependence while creating an intense political drumbeat.

On, Jan. 23, 2020, the U.S. EPA announced that it was modernizing the 1972 Clean Water Act, to reflect new technology, today’s issues and the fact that U.S. onshore water has been the cleanest since the 1960s. EPA technical “reform” should help our industry perform more efficiently. No news, yet, on any specific changes to frac water regs.

In the 1970s, chemists could measure water to a ppm; today better than a ppb. EPA panicked about what they saw and tried to regulate all minerals, if not all molecules, from human interaction. Oil practice was, and remains, a target of genuine concern, but amplified exponentially by politics. We keep making failing logical arguments to explain away an emotional condition. I realize that the earth is not flat, depending on your altitude of view, but lemmings one way or the other, the oil industry’s people are not. However, I kept my horse—just saying.

Inside our industry, I see an apologetic environmental plea from a director of the SEG, in the January 2020 LEADING EDGE, Vol. 39, No. 1. That edition features CO2 studies. The President’s Page submitted a 2-page pontification (usually my role) on the evils of CO2, using non-cited stats and a NASA (from NOAA) illustration of estimated and inferred CO2 relationships, back 400,000 years, referred to as data, p. 6–7.

Starting as an argument on the quantity and distribution of CO2, the director recommends that we eco-volunteer and participate with a list of some oil-hater litigants to mitigate personal CO2 use! I admit to disappointment in the political tone, but the director is quoted in the December LE, p. 9–11, “I enjoy the challenge of changing the rules of the game…” Congrats on your work with the SEG, but do all geos share your view? I told you SEG is drifting, in trying to defend declining member roles and relevance. The oil industry is the largest consumer of CO2 (DOE). Like many others, I cannot find enough CO2 to work oil field opportunities.

I was encouraged slightly, when the newish SEG policy noted that authors in the same LE volume on CO2 research can make real data available to researchers and interpreters to test concepts and conclusions independently. That is the essence of the scientific method, not just restating the restatement of others’ opinions.

When material data are collected, we are often not just wrong, but misled. Quote: Carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. energy operations, including petroleum, natural gas and coal, dropped 2.1% in 2019 and are expected to fall by 2% and 1.5%, respectively, this year and next, according to EIA. The drop can be attributed to a decline in coal-fired generation, in favor of gas-fired generation and increased renewable generation.

Alternately, a 2018 study in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggested that Earth’s magnetic field got weaker before the last big magnetic pole flip. Magnetic field calculators from NOAA (https://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/geomag/magfield.shtml) are useful for global warming predictions of protection from solar radiation, the main source of surface planetary heat. The rate of magnetic polar movement has measurably increased along the same timeframe as the appearance of man, and the interpreted industrial impact on earth’s climate. Hmmm…. After all, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever our wishes may be, our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”—John Adams, circa way before technology could measure a ppm of anything.

EDITORIAL: The Obama administration, for which I served about five years within a DOE surrogate, worked hard to disincentivize oil. I used to think that the newly appointed energy leaders were naïve amateurs. After working with them for a while, I no longer thought them naïve. Solyndra, a $500-million failure, was a misdirection. Same as the $1.3 billion in cash-equivalent given to Iran. How did those ideas work out?

Ending $50 million/year in mineral tax severance funding for U.S. government and industry research into safe oil production (U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005), Paul Ryan/Biden/Obama sent $220 million to Ukraine for energy development. (https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/06/15/fact-sheet-us-assistance-ukraine-february-2014)

So, we are supporting Ukrainian efforts to enhance their own energy production, including through technical assistance to help restructure Ukraine’s national oil and gas company, Naftogaz, and through the introduction of new technologies to boost outputs from existing and new conventional gas fields in Ukraine. (https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2014/11/21/fact-sheet-us-assistance-ukraine)

IPAA states that there are 9,000 independent oil and gas producers in the U.S. with $62.6 billion in capital investment. Worldwide, this number is limited, since most other nations do not allow independent producers outside of government or their associated VIP “friends.”

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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