The Michel T. Halbouty Lecture
series marks its third anniversary at this year's AAPG Annual Meeting
by taking on a whole new twist.
Rather than the usual solitary lecture, the 2003
program hosts a twin bill, featuring noted oilmen W.J. "Bill" Barrett
and Peter Dea.
Barrett, recipient of this year's AAPG Outstanding
Explorer Award, is in his fifth decade as a geologist, having earned
his stripes way back when.
Dea, on the other hand, can be said to represent
the "new breed" of oilman.
Even though admittedly having different management
styles, the two presenters have much in common.
For starters, each can boast a significant track
record for discovering oil and gas fields in the Rocky Mountain
region — discoveries made both separately and together in a team
The scheduled presentation is officially dubbed a
lecture, but look for the two longtime friends and colleagues to
provide a soupcon of entertainment as well, albeit the erudite kind.
Given the duo's at-times-similar, at-times-different
approach to the business of oil and gas, Barrett hinted they just
might engage in a little good-natured verbal sparring on the dais
— along with plenty of info about just how they racked up the string
of successes to their credit.
"I see two paramount themes to the program" said
session moderator Marv Brittenham.
"First off is the collaboration and teamwork, which
has been part of the success of Bill and the people he has mentored,"
Brittenham said. "Another part of that is the mentoring process
itself — how important it is to our industry.
"Also, they'll be talking about a handful of the
giant fields they have been involved in discovering," he added.
"It's noteworthy that a lot of these were more resource-based rather
than cutting edge frontier exploration — that is, the resource
was there and they found how to get to it economically."
Dea elaborated further:
"We'll likely provide a little bit of historical
perspective on the discovery of substantial size gas and oil fields
in the Rocky Mountains that spans both our careers," said Dea who
is currently CEO and president of Western Gas Resources.
"Within the context of the chain of discoveries,
we'll be highlighting some keys to those discoveries," he noted,
"which is good solid basic geology and real determination to swing
for the fences and strive for finding good company-building prospects
and subsequent discoveries."
Particularly intriguing will be the technology aspects
of each of the discoveries, which have evolved through time.
Different types of technology had different types
of relevance and importance in each of the finds, Dea noted.
"I think what we'll see is a common thread that leads
us back to good solid fundamental geological basic principles,"
he said, "and the spirit to continually persevere and try to knock
down barriers to entry or to ignore paradigms that may be out there
that will tell other people 'don't drill here because it won't work'.
"In several of the cases what we can see is there
were several paradigms at play that prevented others from discovering
fields we were involved in over the years."
Heaven and Hell
Dea's collaboration with Barrett dates from the early
1990s when he joined Barrett Resources after departing Exxon. Dea
hit the ground running for his new employer, leading the company
into the Cave Gulch Field discovery and the Powder River and Raton
Basin CBM plays.
Barrett Resources originated in 1981 when Barrett
decided to follow his many earlier discoveries for other companies
by focusing on development of the rediscovered Parachute, Grand
Valley and Rulison gas fields in the Piceance Basin.
The intrepid oilman has pretty much seen it all.
So much, in fact, he has his own perspective of heaven and hell,
which he enjoys divulging.
While drilling a discovery well in North Dakota during
his tenure at Rainbow Resources, Barrett noted that oil shows appeared
structurally higher than they should.
"The log looked terrific, with hundreds of feet of
pay," Barrett said. "We thought at first it was a pinnacle reef,
but it turned out to be a meteorite crater — an event straight
from the heavens."
Indeed, the company went on to sell its interest
there for the heavenly sum of $10 million.
Some years later, hell unleashed a bit of fury in
a borehole in the Wind River Basin.
"We drilled into 60 feet of Muddy sand, and the well
blew out," Barrett said, "and we barely got it under control. It
produced seven BCF while under 24-hour surveillance because of the
precariousness of the situation."
"Then one day the ground began rumbling, and the
well blew out."
"We went through hell for 111 days drilling a relief
well to cap it," he said, "and we lost 10-15 BCF of gas."
Barrett, who came out of retirement to launch yet
another energy firm, Bill Barrett Corp., will touch on a number
of topics during the twin-bill presentation. Much of what he has
to say no doubt will inspire even the most jaded veteran, not to
mention the new-hire.
"I'll tell about what shaped my career, such as the
good mentors I've had," he said. "And I'll talk about some major
discoveries and some proven business principles and different management
styles I have and Peter has, versus others."