Frontiers at the Forum

The SEG Forum was the main attraction on Day 1 of the SEG Annual Meeting in San Antonio. Several people commented that the turnout was rather poor, however, with no more than 400 people sitting in the Lila Cockrell Theatre, even at the start. Perhaps the event needs more publicity. There was plenty of time for questions from the audience, all of which the panel discussed quite candidly.

David Lawrence, Executive VP of Exploration and Commercial at Shell gave, predictably, a rather dry corporate presentation. We understand how presentations like this get hijacked by lawyers and corporate communications departments, but wish more executives would stand up to their captors, especially for a short presentation to a technical audience. Despite his shackles, he had some eyebrow-raising technology to brag about: futuristic autonomous-vehicle marine nodes, and a million-channel sensor network, a project development they're developing with HP, of all companies.

Tim Dodson, Executive VP of Exploration at Statoil and once Matt's boss there, seemed similarly held captive by his corporation's presentation sanitizers. Saved by his charisma, Tim characterized Statoil's steady approach in exploration: deep pockets, patience, and being comfortable with risk. They seem to have the same approach to technology innovation, as Tim highlighted their Source Rock from Seismic method for characterizing source rocks and the high-resolution spectral decomposition technology we wrote about recently. Both projects took several years to develop, and have paid off in discoveries like Aldous and Skrugard respectively.

Susan Cunningham, Senior VP of Exploration at Noble Energy, spoke about her company's approach to frontier exploration. Despite her chronic use of buzz-phrases (innovative thinking, integrated objective assessment, partner of choice), Susan gave a spirited outlook on the human angles of Noble's frontier thinking. She discussed Noble's perseverance in the Eastern Mediterranean 8.5 Tcf Tamar discovery in the Levant Basin, and went on to describe Noble as a large company in a small company framework, but we're not sure what that means. Is it good?

Carl Trowell, president of WesternGeco and the youngest panelist, was the most engaging (and convincing) speaker. Shell's corporate communications people need to see presentations like this one: more powerful and trustable for its candid, personal, style. As you'd expect, he had deep insight into where seismic technolology is going. He lamented that seismic is not used enough in risk mitigation for frontier wells; for example, borehole seismic-while-drilling, imaged in the time it takes to trip out of the hole, can help predict pore pressure and other hazards in near-real-time. His forward-looking, energetic style was refreshing and inspiring.

It was a slightly dry, but basically up-beat, kick-off to the meeting. Some high-altitude perspective before we helicopter down to the nitty-gritty of the talks this afternoon.

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