1969, Shell Oil began looking for places where its new "bright
spot" technology could be useful in the onshore of the United
States. Armed with a list of rock and fluid criteria, I began
making a search for places where this novel technique could be as
useful to Shell in the onshore USA as it was in the Gulf of Mexico.
Division seemed to have some areas that fit our technical criteria.
In addition, California economics allowed us to search for gas,
which is much easier to find with "bright spots" than
I spent several
days in California describing the principles of "bright spot"
hydrocarbon exploration, as developed by Mike Forrest and others
in the Gulf of Mexico.
was very cool to the idea of redirecting exploration efforts toward
"bright spot" searches, and had little confidence in my
reports of Gulf of Mexico successes. I returned to headquarters
dismayed that my data and arguments had not convinced our local
management to join the direct detection bandwagon.
my failure with my boss, Gerry Pirsig. He offered little sympathy,
to California, emphasized that budget approval for drilling and
geophysical work would be dependent on technical work being refocused
toward "bright spot" anomalies, and we established a new
team of geophysicists and geologists to investigate and validate
the Gulf of Mexico work.
Hardeman became the leader of the new group, which included Roger
Baker, Tom Baird and Dennis Sparks. In a matter of weeks, Woody's
team had given a "California validation" to the Gulf of
Mexico work, and were in hot pursuit of "bright spot"
had an interesting geologic concept of multiple stratigraphic traps
from Tertiary sandstones infilling the 2,000-foot thick Markley
Gorge. Todhunters Lake gas field appeared to be an analog. Baird
and Sparks modeled Todhunters Lake Field and compared their model
to available reprocessed 1941 single fold coverage.
convinced the team that they had a tool for direct detection of
hydrocarbons by seismic techniques, and an expanded seismic acquisition
program was approved and started.
devised an algorithm to provide a calibrated gray scale output on
the seismic sections for the hydrocarbon-bearing horizon. Tom Hanrahan
was able to select numerous bright spot anomalies, and the "bright
spot" team joked that they could validate Shell's land purchases
in the Sacramento Basin on an acre-by-acre basis.
The team was
expanded to include Bob Weiner as party chief, and it discovered
Rio Jesus, Sacramento Airport, Conway Ranch and Putah Sink. The
only dry hole in the play was a deliberate test of an unusual reflector
that turned out to be a conglomerate lens.
And what did
I learn from watching this Sacramento Basin exploration play?
- I learned that it may
be difficult to emplace new technology that is ... "not invented
- I learned that "carrots
and sticks" are more powerful for changing attitudes than
reason or arguments.
- I learned that great
staff and great technology make exploration easy.
that the way it really happened?
Maybe not, but that's the way I remember it.