GEOSCIENCES

Veritas DGC Gulf of Mexico programs underway and planned through 1999. [77,968 bytes] This industry is accustomed to thinking of hard assets (petroleum fields) with 20, even 50-year, lifetimes. It has a much more difficult time dealing with living assets (humans) whose professional lives span 50 years. Either the companies consider the professional's useful life to be short or they fail to correctly value the accumulated knowledge, and (more importantly) wisdom that a geologist,

Victor Schmidt
Houston

Human assets - paying the piper

This industry is accustomed to thinking of hard assets (petroleum fields) with 20, even 50-year, lifetimes. It has a much more difficult time dealing with living assets (humans) whose professional lives span 50 years.

Either the companies consider the professional's useful life to be short or they fail to correctly value the accumulated knowledge, and (more importantly) wisdom that a geologist, geophysicist, engineer, or other oilfield specialist possesses.

Several major producers are finally getting the message: there are very few new professionals to expand staffs. The free market in geo-professionals shifted from oversupply to deficiency. Or rather, forced supply reduction 12+ years ago killed the flow of new brainpower into the industry.

Companies must now use the existing, experienced talent pool to meet their hiring targets and more importantly their reserve addition targets. It takes an experienced professional to read and extract meaning from complex log curves and seismic data. It takes an experienced professional to read and use the older tools of the trade that are often the only tools available. It takes an experienced professional to pass on hard-won wisdom and techniques to a new generation of oil finders. Even if they bring on a new-hire at a premium price, it will be years before that person gains sufficient perspective to be of full value to the company.

What are firms doing about this situation? Recent reports from local professionals tell a most interesting tale. Some of the majors are attempting to recruit former staff. These professionals were once considered redundant, surplus, unnecessary, too old (over 50 years of age), or too expensive.

One large major producer is offering full credit for oilfield experience, 3+ weeks of vacation, and an above-market salary. Even secretaries are in demand. One 20-year executive secretary was recruited because "there is no talent out there."

Another larger major is headhunting in the high schools. This company is offering a fully paid college scholarship to certain high school students in exchange for a 3-year work commitment after successful completion of a degree program. My, my, how things change.

The ability to accumulate the knowledge and wisdom that makes a seasoned professional valuable is hampering the activities of some companies. Memories are long and past treatment was indelibly imprinted on many psyches.

Many professionals said good-riddance and will not return. Others found that a consulting practice was possible and that both small and large companies needed their accumulated wisdom. Still others found a home in the service companies and are enjoying their reconstructed lives.

One smaller major producer is having a difficult time attracting talent because of its history of rolling-layoffs, effectively changing staff every two years or so during the boom of the 1970's. Though this company is attempting to alter its image, the professional world has decided that actions speak louder than words.

A corporation is considered a "person" by the law. Just as a living human generates a reputation (and must live with it), so do companies. In this case, past performance is being used as a guide to future treatment. The industry continues to pay the price of its short-term focus.

SeaBeam bathymetry assists Edison Chouest

The Edison Chouest was refitted with the SeaBeam 1050/ER bathymetric system when it entered drydock for routine inspection during late January. The vessel followed the Falcon Explorer, which was rebuilt as a source vessel in December 1997. SeaBeam systems are active on both vessels giving PGS bathymetric capability for both the shelf and deepwater Gulf of Mexico.

Veritas DGC expansion continues

Veritas DGC has upgraded its vessel fleet with 7,200-meter Syntron RDA streamers and will add two state-of-the-art 3D seismic vessels to its fleet over the next 18 months. "We intend to expand our role as a provider of multiple geophysical services to selected markets worldwide," said Dave Rodson, Chief Executive Officer of Veritas DGC.

"In 1997, we spent $96 million to upgrade our asset base, increasing capacity more than 25%. In 1998, we intend to allocate another $93 million to increase capacity, with the lion's share of these proceeds earmarked to address our marine markets worldwide." The company's data library holds over 1.3-million line-km of data from the Gulf of Mexico, North Sea, and Southeast Asia.

Caspian Sea exploration

A new joint operating company, Offshore Kazakhstan International Oil Company (OKIOC), was formed to conduct exploration drilling in the northern Caspian Sea. Agip, British Gas, BP, Kazakhstan-CaspiShelf, Mobil, Shell, Statoil, and Total formed the consortium, which was approved by the Kazakhstan government. Mike Devey, BP Technical Operations Manager, said, "It is going to be a great challenge to get the wells drilled. The water is shallow, between two and eight meters, the area is iced over in winter, it is environmentally sensitive as it is an important breeding ground for migrating birds and caviar-producing sturgeon, and it is a remote location with limited existing infrastructure. In addition, the wells will be deep and high-pressure, with high gas and hydrogen sulfide content." The first well will be drilled this year from a modified swamp barge, currently being refurbished in the US.

Correction: In the June 1997 Geosciences column three stacked images were not properly attributed. Jason Geosystems provided the images.

Copyright 1998 Oil & Gas Journal. All Rights Reserved.

More in Company News