Monday, May 20, 2013

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

More thoughts on the "Ten Habits"

Our popular April 2012 blog entry, "The Ten Habits of Highly Successful Oil Finders" has received some positive press lately.  As the basis of a talk, the habits were presented at the AAPG Playmaker Forum in Houston this past January, and were also covered in the Houston Chronicle. Now, we are honored to report that the habits, as conceived by Dan Tearpock and colleague Bob Shoup, are featured in the March 2013 edition of the AAPG Explorer.

In the article, SCA Founder and Chairman Emeritus Dan Tearpock delves further into the value and importance of what is also referred to as a "philosophical doctrine" guiding his and his company's professional activities.  We invite you to review some excerpts (please see the full article here):
"Developing a successful product, i.e. good prospect, is only part of the value of the 10 habits; they can be used in both directions. 
'If you drill a dry hole, the company asks what went wrong and they may hire an expert to come in and reverse engineer the prospect, tear it apart to find where the mistakes were to cause a dry hole,' Tearpock noted.'We call this step forensic geology. 
'They may find you didn’t use the 10 habits correctly, so you made a mistake in interpretation and drilled a dry hole. 
'That’s the marvelous aspect of this philosophical doctrine and the habits in it,” he said. “It can be used both ways. 
'What some people do is when they drill successful wells, they tear them apart and see what the team did to drill this successful well,” Tearpock said. 'They use the habits again to go in and see what they did and then find they pretty much followed a philosophy similar to these habits – and that’s why they had success.'
Tearpock is quick to note that this philosophical doctrine is not exclusive to SCA. 
'Some people have come up with these habits on their own,” he said, “and I don’t know how many.'

He also cites a real-world example from his own experience leading SCA:
"SCA sent out three teams for four months and evaluated a hundred proposed prospects, along with some of the dry holes from earlier. They determined what the explorationists were doing wrong. 
'For the most part they weren’t using the habits at all, except for the European division working the North Sea, which was running at an 85 percent success rate on exploration prospects,” Tearpock said. 
'This group had a 150-page manual that was literally like taking our 10 habits and expanding on them to a great degree. 
'We found that the VP of exploration and several other explorationists there had come from the company that originally conducted the study of why certain people and teams are more successful than others,' he said. 
'They brought that knowledge with them to their new company, put it into practice and showed the success it can provide' Tearpock noted."
We are pleased that the Ten Habits continue to inspire discussion. Are there examples you can share of when the application of the habits or philosophical doctrine has contributed to exploration success in your professional life? Or alternatively, when neglecting the habits has resulted in dry holes or less successful results?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Reducing Dry Holes

The following article is taken from SCA's 4th Quarter GeoLOGIC newsletter.  Click here for the full publication. 

Reducing Dry Holes
by Daniel J. Tearpock and Robert C. Shoup

Every year, our industry loses hundreds of millions of dollars on dry holes. Many of those dry holes are the result of interpretations and maps that are incorrect. As such, many of those dry holes could have been avoided by critically reviewing the final prospect maps and data used, using the “Quick Look Techniques” developed by Subsurface Consultants & Associates, LLC, before the wells were drilled.

One of the more common mistakes we see when reviewing maps is two or more faults connected incorrectly as one. When this is done, any traps associated with the fault pattern are incorrectly interpreted and mapped; dry holes or uneconomic wells waiting to happen. There are several Quick Look Techniques you can use to ensure that faults have been interpreted and mapped correctly. In this article, we will discuss one of the more powerful QLTs: implied fault strike.

Before discussing implied fault strike, we first need to review fault traces. 
Figure 1 (above) shows the fault surface map for Fault A. Note that the strike of Fault A is north to south with a slight westward curvature.

Figure 2 (above) shows a structure map of a producing reservoir. The map surface and the fault surface have been integrated so that the trace of Fault A on the final map has been positioned correctly and the width of the fault gap has been properly defined. Note that the orientation of the fault trace of Fault A is north to south with a slight eastward curvature. Since the fault trace on the completed map is the intersection of the fault surface with the horizon surface, the fault trace will not have the same orientation as the fault surface. With steeply dipping beds, the orientation of the fault trace can be almost ninety degrees to the strike of the fault surface.
Figure 3 shows a 3D perspective of the mapped horizon shown in Figure 2. If you examine the figure you will see for example, that the 8600’ contour for the upthrown (footwall) block of the horizon and the 8600’ contour of the downthrown (hanging wall) block of the horizon are connected by the 8600’ contour on the fault surface. This should occur for all contours mapped and if we connect all horizon contours of equal value, we should be able to generate what the fault surface looks like based on the interpretation (Figure 4, below).

You see, unfortunately today many interpreters do not interpret or map faults. This is a major flaw in their training or education. In most interpretation work, the major and potential trapping faults should be interpreted and mapped first before ever attempting to tackle the horizons. This is a fundamental principle of basic geoscience interpretation.

In the review of many prospects, the presenters will often not have a fault surface map to review or have not even interpreted the fault to such a degree that a map can be made. So they have not followed the fundamental principles of good geoscience interpretation. Therefore it is left up to the reviewer to retrogeoscience the completed map to see if the fault picture being presented is reasonable or even possible in our three dimensional world. And thus is the prospect geologically valid in three dimensional space.

Looking at Figure 5a, we see a structure map of a faulted horizon. 
Note that the fault trace exhibits a strong bend. Is the fault trace properly mapped, or have two faults been incorrectly mapped as one? Applying the concept of implied strike, we can see when contours of equal value are connected (red lines, Figure 5a). The implied strike of the fault surface is east-west. So what we have done is to generate an implied fault surface from the completed map. This is often very surprising to geoscientists that one’s work can be checked or verified in this way. So without seeing the supposed fault that was used for this map, we can generate an implied fault surface. In this case, when we overlay the fault surface map with the horizon map (Figure 5b, below) we can see that the fault trace on the map fits fairly well with the integration of the fault surface with the horizon surface and therefore we can conclude that the map is reasonable in three dimensional space.

This is a quick method to evaluate one aspect of an interpretation and map. If the fault interpretation is unreasonable or impossible based on this “Quick Look Technique”, then there is significant question as to the reliability of the interpreted structure map. Often there is limited time to review a prospect, or a developed field map for that matter. Therefore such “Quick Look Techniques” are very applicable in doing one’s forensic geoscience to evaluate the validity of interpretations and maps.

Now take a moment to look at Figure 6a. 
A well has been proposed to test the downthrown trap which is downdip of a producing field. The trapping fault has a pronounced bend. When major bends are seen on fault traces on structure maps a red flag should go up. The question that needs to be resolved is, ‘Has the interpreter implied that the fault surface is making this major bend, or is the fault trace making this bend due to the integration of the fault and the horizon?” There is a significant difference in which of these is correct.

So our question is, “Is the trapping fault properly mapped and it is the trace that is bending on this horizon or could two faults have been interpreted incorrectly to connect as one and then mapped as one fault due to the misinterpretation?” Let us apply the Implied Strike Technique to this fault. Looking at Figure 6b (below), the two red lines are the implied strike of the 14,900’ contour that intersects the fault footwall and hanging wall traces.

The sharp bend in the implied strike suggests that the trapping fault is interpreted incorrectly as the 14,900’ contours cross at the * location. Most likely the interpreter connected two faults incorrectly as one. This significantly increases the risk of this prospect. In fact there may not be a prospect here at all and instead it is a dry hole waiting to happen.

The application of the implied strike technique, along with other QLTs applied prior to drilling, may save your company millions of dollars of dry hole costs.

Article references:

Tearpock, D.J., Bischke, R.E., and Brewton, J.L., 1994, Quick Look Techniques for Prospect Evaluation, SOG Press La., 286 p.                
Tearpock, D.J., and Bischke, R.E., 2003, Applied Subsurface Geological Mapping With Structural Methods, 2nd Edition, Prentice-Hall, N.J., 822 p.
Course materials for “Applied Subsurface Geological Mapping”, instructor D.J. Tearpock, presenting organization Subsurface Consultants & Associates, LLC
Course materials for “QAQC Skills in Subsurface Mapping”, instructor D.J. Tearpock, presenting organization Subsurface Consultants & Associates, LLC

Monday, December 3, 2012

Resume Content for Oil and Gas Professionals - What Makes the Cut?

This is the second of a series on effective resume preparation by SCA's upstream oil and gas recruiter, Mark Connor. This and other timely articles pertinent to upstream professionals may be found in the latest issue of SCA's 4th Qtr GeoLOGIC newsletter. 

Mark Connor
Resumes have evolved significantly over the past 20 years, due in large part to the arrival of the Computer Age and, more recently, the social media revolution. Gone are the days when a resume would be printed on parchment quality paper and “snail mailed” to a prospective employer. In today’s job market, a resume is a digital document, formatted as a Word or .pdf file and attached to a “cover letter” email. In all probability, the resume itself will soon be a thing of the past as companies begin to explore the potential of “Profile Pages” offered by websites such as Linkedin, and even video resumes, giving applicants a chance to sell themselves and their backgrounds in a short video clip.

But, for the time being, the resume still has its place in the hiring process and the information it contains needs to be more concise and accessible than ever before. As discussed in our previous article, it is important to keep in mind that your resume is likely to be screened by several people before any interview is arranged, so information should a resume include?

Traditionally, a resume can contain information that is unnecessary and even detrimental to your chances of being selected for interview. Information such as marital status, names and ages of your children, religious or political groups, your hobbies or even the current status of your health are facts that you may feel proud to disclose, but are of little interest to a Recruiter trying to determine your technical abilities. Personal statements can also be a minefield – your own opinion regarding your work ethic, mentioning the fact you always give 110% and that you are “equally capable of working alone or as part of a team” does little to separate you from other applicants making the same claims. For consulting positions in the Geology, Geophysics and Reservoir Engineering community, there are only three key pieces of information that Recruiters are looking for:
  •  What are your areas of specialization with your technical discipline?
  • What areas of the world have you worked?
  • What software are you capable of operating

When companies request a consultant, they typically have a specific problem that needs to be resolved. It is likely to be project specific and have defined technical deliverables with the tasks performed on whichever software the company uses. No learning curves, no training - Hiring Managers need a fully qualified and uniquely experienced expert to “hit the ground running." Managers approach specialist consulting companies to identify the right person because they know that the Consultant will be screened, vetted, interviewed, and referenced before a resume even reaches the hiring managers desk.

A good resume containing the right information will allow a Recruiter (and, later, a Hiring Manager) to identify your suitability for a specific assignment almost immediately, so focus as much of your resume as you can on the three key areas above. Keep it factual, objective and detailed enough to supply sufficient evidence that you can provide the solution to the company's problem.  Recruiters want to place consultants just as much as consultants want to be placed, so make sure the information is easy to access and Recruiters and Hiring Managers will be able to match you to your next consulting assignment time and time again. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Exploring the Ten Habits - Habit Three: Managing Your Time

by Bob Shoup

In SCA’s ongoing blog series highlighting, "The Ten Habits of Highly Successful Oil Finders" we are now featuring Habit Three:

Successful oil finders plan their time and their work in order to ensure accurate interpretations and maps.

You may have heard the quote “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” Unfortunately, in our industry, poor planning does result in dry holes - lots of them! One of the surest ways a company can drill a string of dry holes is to enter a rig commitment before having a portfolio of prospects that have been accurately mapped and approved for drilling. While your manager may be responsible for poor planning, you are responsible for the accuracy and quality of your maps. Rushed interpretations almost always result in poorly mapped prospects. And poorly mapped prospects are poor prospects. Your ability to deliver high quality interpretations and maps will depend on your ability to plan and manage your time.

Generally speaking, projects have deadlines. So when you begin a project you must first decide what work is needed, and when that work is needed. To do that, you, or your manager, must first begin with the end in mind. What decision is needed and what are the costs of that decision? The decision to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to a development project requires a different level of understanding than does a decision to spend tens of millions of dollars to drill a well, or hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy seismic.

As an oil finder, your responsibility is to determine how much work is needed to ensure accurate interpretations and maps.  How many wells do you need to correlate? How much seismic do you need to interpret? How much reservoir engineering data do you need to integrate? How many maps do you need to make? How complicated is the geology of the area you are working in? Are there legacy interpretations you can build on?  

Once you have determined how much work is needed to make good quality interpretations you must then determine how much time is needed to make those interpretations. Each of us work at a different pace, so know your pace and set realistic time frames and goals. Once this is done, go back to management and see if the time frame you need fits with the time frame that matches the business needs.

If your business time frame doesn’t meet your workflow time frame, then the workflow must be adjusted. Here the “Law of Diminishing Returns” can serve as a guideline in adjusting the decision point and the workflow.  The Law of Diminishing returns states that the continued application of effort or skill toward a particular project or goal tends to decline in effectiveness after a certain level of result has been achieved. In other words, at a certain point, more effort does not yield proportionately better results.

In our industry an optimal decision is made when all of the available data has been integrated into a series of final maps that are the basis for reserve estimation. Decisions made after this point are usually decisions that managers are agonizing over, or are avoiding, and time spent after the optimal decision point is usually not justified (see chart below).
Click image to enlarge

So begin with the end in mind and tailor your activities to meet deadlines without compromising quality.  So, looking at the graphic again, work with your manager to determine what work is needed to reach a “good” decision point?  Or, alternatively what do you need to do to get past the point of making a bad decision.  

One thing that can improve your efficiency as well as the quality of your interpretations is training. SCA has an exciting training line-up featuring short courses tailored to the requirements of upstream professionals.  Review our training calendar and take the next step towards ensuring your oil finding career is a successful one for many years to come. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

SCA Announces Changes in Leadership

Subsurface Consultants & Associates, LLC, (SCA) announced changes in leadership earlier this week:

Daniel J. Tearpock
Chairman Emeritus
Effective September 1, 2012, Daniel J. Tearpock, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Subsurface Consultants & Associates, LLC (SCA), assumes a new role as Chairman Emeritus.

Over the past two years, Mr. Tearpock has been working with the SCA management team to hand off operational responsibilities, paving the way for a seamless transition that will result in few outward changes from the perspective of SCA’s valued clients, consultants, training experts, and employees. Hal Miller, SCA’s Vice President of Operations since joining the company in 2004, will now serve as President.

Mr. Tearpock will continue to represent SCA in various official capacities, including participation in company and industry events, meetings with clients of the company, and providing expertise and guidance supporting the continued growth and enhancement of SCA’s services.

From founding the company in 1988, Mr. Tearpock has built a strong foundation of successful operations, a highly-regarded geoscience education and mentoring program, quality consulting services, and an experienced leadership team. The employees of SCA congratulate him and look forward to continuing to work with Mr. Tearpock in his new role.

See the full release on SCA's website here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Exploring the Ten Habits - Habit Two: Knowing the Tectonic and Depositional Environment

by Bob Shoup

In SCA’s ongoing blog series highlighting, "The Ten Habits of Highly Successful Oil Finders" we are now featuring Habit Two:

Successful oil finders have a strong background in geology, and have a thorough knowledge of the tectonic and depositional environments for the area in which they are working.

Just as a strong foundation is essential to a good house, a strong background in geology is essential to being a successful oil finder. For most geoscientists, that foundation is set in school and augmented in the early stages of their career with corporate training. Unfortunately, for all too many in the industry, this is the extent of their geologic training.  

Just as a well built house requires periodic maintenance to stay structurally sound, a long-term successful career as an oil finder requires continuing education. Our industry is rapidly evolving, and it is essential to stay in the know on new trends and technology. After all, how much did the majority of us know about the potential for developing hydrocarbons from shale when first starting out? Additionally, continuing education is critical when moving from one geologic setting to another.

Take for example the case of an experienced geophysicist, who shall remain unnamed. He had almost 20 years experience exploring in and mapping growth fault-related plays and prospects in the Gulf of Mexico. He was known to be a successful oil finder. But then he was transferred to a position in the North American fold and thrust belt. His first assignment was to explore in a complex thrust belt known to have fault propagation folds as the main structural style. This geophysicist had little if any training in fold and thrust belts, but being known as an oil finder, he was expected to succeed in his new assignment. 

In this assignment, the geophysicist analyzed the geology not from a fold and thrust perspective, but from the extensional perspective he was familiar with. He mapped the key faults with listric geometry with hanging wall rollovers that have insufficient normal displacement from the structure (Figure 1A). The vertical separation is too small to make a rollover with that much structural relief.  In addition, the downthrown side is higher than the upthrown side.

Also note that the faults associated with this fold belt are fault propagation folds. Kinematically, they propagate upward from a decollement, causing the beds at the front of the fault tip to bend or kink forward. The fault has more of a planar shape ramping upwards, often from the flat of another major fault surface (Figure 1B).

Due to using an inappropriate structural model, the interpretation was incorrect and the prospective structures were in the wrong position: dry holes waiting to happen. His colleagues challenged the resulting interpretation and maps. An audit found over 100 mistakes and mis-ties.

These career-jeopardizing mistakes could have been avoided if the geophysicist had obtained additional training. Who should have been responsible: management or the geophysicist? One could argue that the company should have seen to it that their employees had the appropriate structural training for the area in which they were assigned. However, successful oil finders should take it upon themselves to ensure that they have the appropriate knowledge of the tectonic and depositional environments for the area in which they are working. This may require several additional training courses, as well as some applied mentoring before the geoscientist goes off on his or her own.

Are you seeking to learn more about specific geographic regions or deepwater reservoirs? Do you need to refine your knowledge of seismic sequence stratigraphy or structural styles? SCA has an exciting training line-up featuring short courses tailored to the requirements of upstream professionals.  Review our training calendar and take the next step towards ensuring your oil finding career is a successful one for many years to come.