Exploration: How to find more oil
Friday, June 08, 2012
About 20 years ago, when I first started to have a small role in BP’s global exploration program, we were driven by the concept of what we called “New Geography”. It was a simple but far reaching idea:
Whole new areas were being ‘opened up’, either because:
Regimes had fallen, governments had changed their mind – so Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, Brasil, eventually Russia, opened up…
Technology had progressed; we could drop in huge ‘exploration 3Ds’ almost anywhere that was wet; and drillers knew they could drill in ever deeper water depths – this opened up the Deep Waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Angola, Nigeria, Egypt, Norway, West of Shetlands etc etc.
Nowadays is different!
By David Bamford, OilEdge
Nowadays is different because.....
Explorers are by and large are engaged in the search for new plays in known basins, plays of increasing subtlety and complexity in basins that have been ‘open’ for a long time, where somebody has gone before them.
Here are just four of the questions that explorers might be trying to answer today:
- Massive amounts of gas have been found offshore East Africa. Is there anywhere to go to find oil?
- Where are the analogues for the much-talked-about Brazilian sub-salt successes?
- Where might big fields be hiding in the Deep Waters of South East Asia?
- Is the North Atlantic really a poor relation compared with the South Atlantic?
And where, to tackle these questions, plenty of - sometimes huge amounts of - data are now available to explorers.
Satellites have delivered global bathymetry and topography; satellite gravity data shows us crustal thickness globally; some 200,000 exploration wells – that’s 200,000 ‘wildcats’, never mind appraisal, development production wells – have been drilled in the last 50 years or so; there are sea-bed cores; any government that is serious about its resources has a national data repository; there’s data from Geological Surveys; there’s a huge published literature….and so on.
The ability of explorers to deliver the increasingly difficult job of spotting the next big play depends on their ability to sift, organise and understand the Niagara Falls of available data, to solve what some have referred to as the “Big Data” problem – or opportunity, perhaps?
Deploying a deep understanding of plate tectonics and chrono-stratigraphy – understanding what
gets deposited where
– is the key process by which this is achieved, the “Know How”
whereby opportunity is accessed. Unless you work in a company with enough people (and, maybe, the hubris) to think you have cracked this problem, I commend the work of Neftex
to you as an aid to building this understanding.
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