Juan Cottier Juan Cottier
Director & Lead Geologist at MMbbls Limited

I think if we had to choose the discipline that was the most important in oil and gas field development then we would all choose the Petrophysicist.

It is their attention to the finest detail and their deep understanding of the rocks that are the foundation of our understanding of every reservoir.

So there we go ... Petrophysicists ... the most important discipline ... apart from maybe the Reservoir Engineers ... so second most important ... oh ... and Drillers, after all, they do drill the wells ... and Sedimentologists, the grand conceptualisers of reservoirs ... and maybe the Production Geologists who are running the show.

So, to recap, I think we can agree, that the single most important discipline in oil & gas field development ... other than REs, Drillers, Sedimentologists and Production Geologists ... are Petrophysicists ... oh, except for the Ops Geologists, and the Well Sites ... and Doris, behind the bar at the Red Lion ... and Tiddles, my Dad's cleaning-lady's cat.

Is that too harsh?

The thing is that Petrophysicists do themselves no favours. Just ask them "what's the Big Picture?" and they look at you with a mild panic in their eyes that says "Big Picture? Nobody told me there was a Big Picture".

I once introduced a new Petrophysicist to a project; the framework, the goals, the development challenges ... what was the first question they asked? ... "Do you have a core mineralogy report". My mate Bill would describe that as "straight to the periphery" but I was pretty impressed. While everyone else would try to make their first words grand, meaningful and memorable, here was someone that just didn't care how they projected themselves. They just wanted to get on to the joyous task of calculating grain densities. I liked it. But then I also use to like the weird kid on our school bus who had his shirt tucked into his underpants and used to read a dictionary. He didn't care either.

Photo: The Schlumberger brothers from Yates: The French Oil Industry (which is great read) reprinted from Gillingham: Schlumberger: Les Premiers Annees. From the scowls on their faces I'm going to guess that they are waiting in the snow for the final CPI from the Petrophysicist who is just completing a couple of last, additional sensitivity runs that they started the previous spring.

And have you noticed that the petrophysics on a field never ends? Never. I 'm going to randomly pick some mature UK fields ... let's say Heather or Brent or Forties. I will guess that somewhere in Aberdeen those Asset Teams have a Petrophysicist (or two) working on updating the CPIs of 20 year old wells. In fact, I'm going to wager that the Romanian wells that the above-mentioned Marcel and Conrad logged in the 1920s are currently undergoing a petrophysical review.

And another thing ... thin-bed reservoirs!

Photo: Caribou Mountains, Canada. Distal levee? Fan toe? Courtesy of Me, again.

Thin-bedded reservoirs, I really don't like them. Not because it is tricky to get a good field-scale understanding of permeability contrasts (which it is) but because they allow Petrophysicists carte-blanche to start making-up all sorts of clever new methods. Similarly with shale reservoirs and fractured basement. They are an improvisor's nirvana.

My favourite radio station is It reminds me of Petrophysicists, though that's not why it's my favourite. Late at night it has a lot of very experimental, challenging music. I can be listening to some music that sounds like a Laotian plumber on bagpipes accompanied by Ghanaian djemba drummer, and a brick and a dog in a cement mixer, and the radio presenter will say: "well that's the end of this section Modern & Mainstream, next up is Experimental & Abstract". Just like a Petrophysicist there is always something weirder, madder, wackier to try out.

So ... to conclude ... although Petrophysicists (1) make stuff up (like all of us) but to 5 decimal places, (2) never, ever seem to finish a piece of work (3) inhabit the peripheral world of irrelevant detail and (4) indulge in space-shuttlesque flights of fancy ... they do beat me on two enormous points.

Firstly: I shudder to think what the industry would be like if everyone was like me. I like the big picture, the goal, the target, getting projects moving, driving things forward. But, it is absolutely essential that this "action" is tempered by the dull but important act of taking stock, taking care and taking notice. Petrophysicists do that by their detail and their deliberation.

Secondly: in my opinion, the ultimate oil-field act, that which captures the energy and perseverance, the intellect and dirty boots, is this:

... a wireline engineer running a 2 day pipe-conveyed MDT job in tough logging conditions on a semi-sub with an unscheduled cable-splice.

And who, in your office, in their past, has carried out that ultimate act? Certainly not me. It will only be the mild-mannered Petrophysicist.

Finally ... when a field development is going pear-shaped and you need a break, a creative leap, and you only have one roll of the dice left ... it is only the geek in the corner of the canteen reading their SPWLA newsletter with their shirt tucked into their underpants who can, for the Team, roll a 7 on a 6-sided dice.

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