Commodity prices continue to hold fairly steady, and the industry is running on all cylinders, so it comes as no surprise that seismic crews are working diligently worldwide.
In fact, the July 15 issue of World Geophysical News (WGN) notes working crews on the global scale tally 277 compared to 260 one year ago.
Existing crews number 375, so 98 remained available as of the published date.
The breakdown of activity worldwide shows the heaviest concentration in the United States, which hosts 25 percent of the active crews.
Running a close second to the domestic crew count is Africa (21 percent), which is followed by:
- CIS: 15 percent.
- Far East: 14 percent.
- Latin America: 15 percent.
- Europe: 7 percent.
- Middle East: 5 percent.
- Canada: 2 percent.
WGN breaks the global numbers down further into 212 crews working onshore and 65 offshore.
On the domestic scene, Texas boasts the most activity, with 26 crews working and none available.
Full Speed Ahead
A caveat: There are crew counts, and there are crew counts.
Today, it’s more about “channel count” – which has increased dramatically from years.
In fact, it’s imperative to look at both channel count and crew count to fully understand where the industry really is today, according to Jim White, executive vice president of Geokinetics (an amalgam of the former Trace Energy, Quantum, Grant Geophysical and GDC).
“In 1977, there were 944 seismic crews working in North America alone,” White said. “Today, it’s more like 80 – but if you look at the channel count, you have an increase of 2,000 percent in the number of channels, so the amount of channels on a crew far exceeds that of years past.”
The seismic contractors may not be openly popping corks on the bubbly, but they’re plenty happy.
The backlog is strong as ever at onshore and shallow water player Geokinetics, according to White. He noted they ’re seeing a steady flow of bids coming in worldwide.
Enthusiasm is rife most everywhere.
“We’re going full throttle shooting spec data as we did last year,” said Steve Mitchell, vice president and division manager at Fairfield Industries. “Our plans are to maintain the existing levels on our spec data base as well as the increased activity in the nodal market, which has us going strong as ever – in fact, we’re extremely pleased with the interest and activity in the nodal market.
“We see this continuing into the foreseeable future,” Mitchell noted, “but we always keep an eye on commodity prices.”
Leaders of the Pack
Contractors have their work cut out for them when it comes to holding onto experienced crew members during these times of personnel shortages in the industry.
It helps to maintain rigorous in-house training programs, which is becoming a trend among the companies.
“We have a tremendous in-house training program, and we’ve been able to maintain our own crew members,” Mitchell said. “Our competitors are all doing this, too, so people don’t take crews away.”
Global Geophysical Services, which is launching 4-5 new crews a year, has its own special way of attracting and holding onto crew members.
It’s all about owning a piece of the company.
Global has private equity and cash investors, but the employees own a large piece of the firm and control the board of directors.
“There’s a fixed pie out there in terms of the number of seasoned professionals,” said Richard Degner, president of Global. “As an industry, we’re competing for the experienced seasoned ones.
“We’ve been able to muster a disproportionately large amount of interest from those available folks in our industry to join our firm,” Degner said, “because of our ownership structure.”
This breeds loyalty, which can be a powerful tool.
“Every crew has 20 to 30 seismic professionals, and when those folks own a piece of the action, it affects their behavior in a wonderful way in terms of organizational performance,” Degner noted. “They care an extra amount because they have ownership in it – it’s their company.”