EXPLORATIONISTS ... Technically Successful?

EXPLORATIONISTS ... Technically Successful?

Juan Cottier Juan Cottier
Director & Lead Geologist at MMbbls Limited

SPOILER: I will be very rude and then very complimentary.

"Oil is found in the minds of men ..."

A catchy phrase supposedly presenting the cerebral and creative nature of the oil industry Explorationist.

Frankly, I think it's tremendously pompous and pathetically sexist (... she should stop thinking about science and start chatting about kittens otherwise she'll never catch a decent husband).

I am a Geologist of a very P and a very D nature and I struggle to see how Explorationists maintain their focus ... maintain their interest ... get out of bed in the morning. I once started a job redeveloping a field in Cote d'Ivoire and in that office I met a UK exploration guy and his comment was "very exciting, very busy, we'll be shooting new 2D next year".

Exciting? Really? A year later the Cote d'Ivoire team had discovered the billion barrel BAOBAB field (I was only a very peripheral member) and on the day of the press release we went to an London oil industry pub event, I tell you, you could not f'in' move for the throngs of explorationists who claimed to have had already "discovered" BAOBAB in their previous years, or jobs, or companies. To continue the oil industry sexist quotes:

"A discovery well has many fathers ... but a dry-well is a bastard"

(For the record: though it is always a team effort, if we really have to pick a single name as to who discovered BAOBAB there is only one, and I am happy to share it)

I know two Explorationists, both approaching retirement and both having had fine and respected careers, who have never discovered a drop of oil. To be fair, one had a MDT bring a sample to surface 20 years ago ... but that's hardly going to keep the SUVs on Westheimer trucking along. I also know a VP of Exploration who has the extremely dubious record of declining the invitation to acquire the then mapped but undrilled prospects, but now the massive fields, of JUBILEE (Ghana) and DAHLIA (Angola) and M'BOUNDI (Congo). That's right, a VP of Exploration.

I also once met an Explorationist in "Under The Hammer" in Aberdeen who was super-excited to have completed their first offshore survival, super-excited for their first offshore trip and, super-excited to be drilling their first well. All good stuff ... except ... they'd been 12 years in the industry. As they say on Westheimer; "do the math". 12 years!?

What do these people do? Regional studies? Geo (yawn) chem? Shooting 2D ... again.

Or to quote one of my favourite LinkedIn contributors ... "Stop the BS. Drill it".

The thing is, after all my criticism and my mockingly snide comments I have the utmost respect for Explorationists. After all, there would be precious little P&D to do without the proceeding exploration. And of course, the more sensitive amongst you would realise that, when I say "I don't understand how ..." what I mean is "I don't understand, I can't understand".

It is genuinely staggering how an industry can, in such a haphazard, dysfunctional way, manage to interrogate, test and understand the generation, migration and pooling of hydrocarbons. It's a triumph of perseverance, of intellectual rigour, of business confidence, and of the scientific method over myths and ignorance.

On that note ... despite the rising influence of Creationists (I won't flatter by saying Creation Geologists) ... it is warming to know that you would still get absolutely nowhere with a exploration licence application that was based on Genesis and postdiluvian stratigraphy, even in theologically robust countries such as the US, Saudia Arabia or Norway.

Explorationist are amazing ... they can see through the earth and focus far into the future. More amazing is the exploration process which we are all part of, that nobody runs and yet everyone contributes to; some good, some bad. The really big companies have played their part in trying to capture, document and understand what has happened and yet the small companies have played their part by ignoring the past and seeing new pathways.

To quote the inspirational Explorationist and industry-defining Geophysicist, Nigel Anstey:

"People are expecting great things from us. So let's go, with care. Plain, simple, painstaking, conscientious care."

Would you like to work with us?

We would love to talk to you about your project.