New Discoveries Step Into Spotlight

Elephant Tales to be Told

AAPG is trying something new about something new.

A technical session at the annual meeting in Salt Lake City will focus on “New Discoveries.” That title alone is a ringing alarm clock for geologists who seek a peek at the industry’s cutting edge.

But this session is going to be “new” in at least one other way.

Unlike most technical sessions, “New Discoveries” will have only two presentations — and organizers hope that by providing detailed blueprints of how the elephants were found, others will find applications in their own projects.

Why just two presentations?

It’s a deliberate effort to give sufficient time to describe and discuss every facet of the discoveries, according to Brenda Cunningham, AAPG’s global development director who co-chairs the session with Jack Thomas, AAPG geoscience director.

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AAPG is trying something new about something new.

A technical session at the annual meeting in Salt Lake City will focus on “New Discoveries.” That title alone is a ringing alarm clock for geologists who seek a peek at the industry’s cutting edge.

But this session is going to be “new” in at least one other way.

Unlike most technical sessions, “New Discoveries” will have only two presentations — and organizers hope that by providing detailed blueprints of how the elephants were found, others will find applications in their own projects.

Why just two presentations?

It’s a deliberate effort to give sufficient time to describe and discuss every facet of the discoveries, according to Brenda Cunningham, AAPG’s global development director who co-chairs the session with Jack Thomas, AAPG geoscience director.

“Each year (at the annual meeting) we focus on technical contributions in the science and the industry with the hope that the information presented can be applied by others at their own projects,” Thomas said.

“We felt that initiating a discovery session at the annual meeting that focuses on just the discovery itself — the geology, geophysics, engineering and legislative issues that impacted the success — would serve as a model for others,” he added.

The co-chairs envisioned discoveries so significant in quantity or technology that they themselves might trigger changes in the way people explore for oil and gas.

“This brings a differential level of offering to our annual meeting,” Cunningham said. “We want these to be presentations that people can hear for the first time the data surrounding a new hydrocarbon discovery. So it was important that this be the first time the data has been disseminated in detail.”

The sessions, in addition to dealing with science and technology, also will discuss the circumstances and serendipity surrounding the discoveries.

“Each presentation tells a more complete story,” Cunningham said, “who had the first idea, how long did it sit on the shelf, did it take a change in management or the team concept to get it off the ground, what are some of the softer issues.”

Stories to Tell

Both of the discoveries slated to be discussed have good stories to tell.

  • Jim Emme, vice president of exploration for Anadarko Petroleum, will present “An Exploration Journey Through the Berkine Basin, Algeria — Past, Present and Bright Future!”
  • John R. Denis, BP’s shelf exploration delivery manager, Trinidad, will present “Discovering 1.2 Trillion Cubic Feet and Recognizing a 15 Trillion Cubic Feet Mega-Field Complex, Columbus Basin, Trinidad.”

“In both Algeria and Trinidad there were barriers to exploration,” Thomas said. “For Anadarko those obstacles were technical and legislative. The Berkine Basin in Algeria was begging to be worked. Explorers knew there were an active hydrocarbon system and two world-class source beds. The problem was surface conditions that made it difficult to image the subsurface — how do you shoot through sand dunes?

“Anadarko successfully overcame that obstacle using long cable arrays to acquire deeper images that showed subtle variations in structure and dimension that was never imaged before,” Thomas said. “This technological advancement, combined with a change in Algeria’s hydrocarbon laws, made it possible to explore the opportunities.”

In Trinidad, BP stepped back and took a bigger picture of a successful gas basin and with that new perspective made a huge discovery.

“I remember when I was looking at opportunities in Trinidad when I was with Amoco several years ago,” Thomas said. “By integrating the geology and geophysics to gain a more regional view of the Columbus Basin, BP was able to identify how this high amplitude prospect fit into the regional picture. That prospect is the Iron Horse discovery.”

Location of these discoveries was not a factor in organizing the session, according to Cunningham.

“The important criteria was size, because size does matter,” she said, “and what other explorers can take away from the success and apply to their own work.

“That’s not the point here,” she continued. “This session is about the model of success and how it can be translated to any location on any scale. It’s not about West Texas or the Canadian Rockies or Algeria or Trinidad. It’s about bringing a successful approach to a successful conclusion.”

“I hope people will view this session as an opportunity to do that,” she said. “Too often people will look in the program and see a paper on Algeria or Trinidad and think, ‘I’m never going to have a chance to work in Algeria, so I’m not going to that session.’

Cunningham said the inspirational germ for this session was planted at last year’s annual meeting, when BP officials presented several papers on the Thunder Horse discovery in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We all feel this session will broaden the scope of geological information disseminated at the meeting,” Thomas said, “and that is the purpose of the annual convention.”

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