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An Oil Major's Guide to Discovery Drilling

Interesting observations in Offshore magazine online this week. From one of the world's largest oil companies--on what it takes to make giant petroleum discoveries today.

The comments came from French major Total, and its Vice President of New Business, Dominique Janodet. Who recently presented at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. With a talk enticingly titled "New Horizons in Frontier Exploration".

The most interesting thing here was Janodet's assertion that oil exploration is far from declining or dead. But rather that a number of recent developments in the sector have produced "outstanding" results. And ushered in an unparalleled period of discovered that has "unveiled giant fields in petroleum provinces".

This of course flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Which says that massive oil discoveries are getting fewer and harder to find. But Janodet offered a number of solid examples on recent, major discoveries. Including potential billion-barrel equivalent finds in Ghana, Mozambique, East Africa and even the island of Cyprus.

Key to this "discovery renaissance" in Total's eyes has been new technologies. Ranging from steadily-improving seismic methods like wide azimuth acquisition, to out-of-the-box ideas like using remote sensing to find massive pools in frontier areas.

But Janodet stressed that promising technology needs to be combined with great professionals. The kind who can think about discovery in the right way.

Specifically, finding ways in which new technology can unlock new plays. Especially in older "mature" areas. Using deeper and better seismic imaging, for example, to unlock huge plays in subsalt and presalt domains globally. An application recognized by enterprising geologists and engineers, who used it to make worldclass discoveries in places like Brazil.

Janodet noted that these kind of new plays--driven by better tech--are only becoming more numerous. Including three-way-dip blocks in rift systems like Uganda, presalt reefs in Angola, and complex thrust structures in foothills settings like the Cordillera of the Americas.

All of which suggests that big prizes are still waiting for the oil and gas industry. Perhaps more so than ever before. It just takes people who understand emerging technology--and have the foresight to go out and get projects where it will have an impact.

Here's to a new age of discovery,

Dave Forest

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