Stale Thoughts and Broken Links

Old entries from my weblog on geophysics and the energy industry.


The Leading Edge: SEG's 2002 salary survey.

"Surprisingly, the survey indicates that increased level of education does not translate into higher salary. Those with a bachelor's or master's degree have higher mean salaries and bonuses than those with a PhD."


Reuters: S&P cuts Petroleum Geo-Services rating to 'B'.

"The ratings downgrade reflects Standard & Poor's concerns about the effects of seismic market conditions, the difficulties of PGO operating as a distressed firm, and [oh, one more thing:] the company's need to repay about $1 billion of maturing debt in 2003...."

"PGO competes in two industries: seismic services (70% of expected 2002 EBITDA) and the operation of floating production, storage, and offloading vessels (FPSO; 30%)."

> "Texas-based" is an error, or at least misleading.

Oil Online: Unocal continues with major production projects.

"Unocal officials said the company has a `string' of major production projects that are slated to come on line over the next five years."

> Rumors of Unocal's demise have been exaggerated?

Associated Press: EPA Mileage Best and Worst.


Returning to the brouhaha over the Maurice Ewing, I found the following passage on the Lamont-Doherty website about airguns:

Air Guns: it all starts with a Bang.

"As the operators of the primary seismic vessel in the US academic fleet, we are very concerned about the possible impact of our research on marine life.... With the guidance of NMFS whale expert, Dr. Sally Mizroch, a whale-protection procedure was developed, under which the acoustic output of the air gun array is tapered down when approaching pods of feeding whales."


Someone at work asked me for a definition of tomography. Most of the definitions out there only pertain to medical imaging and are useless -- "taking pictures of the inside of the body."

I thought this was pretty good, though --

A definition of OPT and tomography.

"Geometric tomography is the area of mathematics dealing with the retrieval of information about a geometric object from data about its sections, or projections, or both."


I kind of saw this coming, but I thought it would involve Exxon and Greenpeace. I never guessed it would involve the Maurice Ewing --

Los Angeles Times: Environmental Group Sues U.S. Over Whale Deaths. Action seeks to shut down a seismic research project in Baja California funded by National Science Foundation.

"A group of marine scientists revealed this week that they recently discovered two dead beaked whales on the shore of Isla San Jose, an island north of La Paz off the southeast tip of Baja California. The whales were discovered by scientists vacationing nearby..... The scientists used their radio to call a nearby vessel for help. That vessel was the 239-foot research boat Maurice Ewing, operated by Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The vessel was attempting to map a long-developing shift in the Earth's crust through a $1.6-million National Science Foundation grant.

"The research calls for the vessel to fire powerful air guns into the seabed. The scientists who found the whales blame the operation for the death of the whales."

Someone else taking potshots at BP --

Slate: Oil Slicks. BP's new eco-friendly ad campaign makes no sense.

"It's a little like McDonald's running ads in which Eric Schlosser, author of the exposé Fast Food Nation, discusses the horrors of ground beef."

> After the article, there are a couple of excellent reader responses --

"... true: BP is still a carbon-belching behemoth trying to garner some mostly undeserved cachet with a mostly superficial eco-marketing campaign and some small forays into alt fuels. But still . . . it's a start."


Houston Chronicle: Layoffs at Schlumberger. 1,200 will lose jobs as seismic unit hit.

"`This is a reflection of a current business model in the geophysical industry that is flawed,' said Jim Wicklund, oil-field services analyst with Banc of America Securities. `Veritas has announced it is cutting expenditures to be in line with generated cash; Seitel and Petroleum Geo-Services are on the brink of bankruptcy; and now Western lays off 1,200.'"


Oil and Gas International: WesternGeco closing US & Canada land seismic operations.

"WesternGeco said today that it is closing its land seismic operations in the lower 48 states of the United States and in Canada due to sustained unprofitable market conditions. Downsizing is also expected in other areas of the company, with about 1,200 employees to be affected worldwide by the end of the year."

Rhonda Duey, Hart's E&P: VGS: Torpedoed!

"`The industry still suffers from overcapacity in land, data processing and marine in conventional service delivery,' said Ken Williamson, vice president of marketing for WesternGeco. `We had anticipated that VGS would have made some reductions in capacity, particularly in marine. We believe that the forces that prompted the failed merger still exist and will eventually lead to a reduction in capacity through attrition, company failure and shareholder/lender impatience with poor results.'"

> *Gulp!*

Press Release: Seitel Noteholders Extend Standstill Agreement. Company Continues Discussions Toward Long-Term Debt Restructuring.

"Under the terms of the extension, the Senior Noteholders have agreed to forebear from exercising any rights and remedies they have against the Company related to the previously reported events of technical default under the Senior Note Agreements, until December 2, 2002." ...

"The Company stated that it is encouraged by the ongoing discussions with its Noteholders."

Rhonda Duey, Hart's E&P: Call to Arms.

"Recently the US Minerals Management Service (MMS) announced that, starting with Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lease Sale 184, scheduled for August, seismic contractors will be subject to `mandatory mitigation efforts' to ensure that marine mammals are not adversely affected by their activities. The stipulation is based on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) Fisheries Biological Opinion...."

"The characterization of the frequency content of acoustic emissions from airguns is incorrect. While the NOAA document states that seismic signals had the same frequency as sperm whale communication, about 2.5 kHz, [the International Association of Geophysical Contractors] argues that the predominant energy generated by airgun arrays is concentrated below 300 Hz. There is little overlap in the airgun frequencies and the hearing sensitivity of sperm whales."

Oil Online: Fugro GeoServices rescues an offshore worker.

"FGSI employees ... were instrumental in going to the aid of the worker by actually entering the water and assisting with lifting him to safety."


Oil and Gas International: PGS Completes 3D shoot of Nigeria/Sao Tome JDZ.


Oil and Gas International: CGG & Baker Atlas [joint venture] for borehole seismic processing & interpretation.

"This transaction would bring together the businesses of two leading providers of borehole seismic services."

Oil and Gas International: PGS to shoot 3D over US Gulf Genesis Field.

"The program will mark the return of a PGS Ramform class vessel to the Gulf of Mexico for the first time since 1996."

Oil Online: PGS announces move to Oslo.

Over the past two weeks, my refer logs have had a lot of hits from people searching for news about "WesternGeco layoffs." This article from two weeks ago is the only info I've seen --

Reuters: Research Alert -- Goldman cuts Schlumberger, Nabors.

"WesternGeco, which is [70 percent owned by Schlumberger, and] 30 percent owned by rival oilfield service Baker Hughes Inc., does seismic surveys for oil and gas companies and is struggling with losses on contracts in Mexico and India.

"SchlumbergerSema, its information technology unit, faces higher expenses from layoffs...."

Oil & Gas Journal: France relinquishes state share in TotalFinaElf.

"France has given up its `golden share' in TotalFinaElf SA, which it has held since the privatization of Elf Aquitaine SA in1993, giving the state a form of control over the capital of Elf and its African interests."


I neglected to point to the results of that tumultuous PGS board meeting last month --

Press Release: Petroleum Geo-Services Announces New Board of Directors.

"The proposal for the new Board of Directors, put forward by Jens Ulltveit-Moe on behalf of Umoe Invest AS, was approved with 98.71% of the votes present at the meeting. At the meeting, 34.48% of the company's share capital was represented."

Dow Jones Newswire (subscription): Petroleum Geo-Services Announces New Board.

"Petroleum Geo's search for a new chief executive is ongoing."

Press Release: CGG Announces a New Wave in Pre-Stack Depth Imaging.

"... a shot-record migration based on an explicit extrapolation scheme...."

"... the extension of the Kirchhoff imaging toolkit to ... high-density automatic residual moveout picking coupled with 3D finite-offset traveltime tomography applied in both layered and smooth models."

Oil and Gas International: Federal court blocks Veritas survey in Utah's Unita Basin.

"According to the [US Bureau of Land Management], the 380 acres where the bulk of the shoot is to occur is already open to oil and gas leasing."


Oil & Gas Journal: Forecast: Industry will spend $100 billion on deepwater E&D in 5 years.

"In 2000 alone, world E&P spending was nearly $77 billion. Through 2006, [Business Communications Co. Inc. forecast that] $100 billion will be spent in deepwater alone with the most activity expected in Brazil, West Africa, and the US Gulf of Mexico."

The Guardian: The US must follow Europe's lead and turn its back on oil. The rise of hydrogen power makes energy regime change inevitable.

"The Cassandras say that peak production is likely to occur as early as the end of this decade, but probably no later than 2020, while the optimists say that global peak production won't occur until around 2040. What is most striking, however, is how little time difference separates the two camps -- only 20 to 30 years. What they both agree on is that once global oil production does peak, two-thirds of the remaining oil reserves will be in the Middle East, the most politically unstable and volatile region of the world."


On the plane home yesterday, I read the Continental in-flight magazine, which had a cover story on ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond. I've been slightly critical of Dr. Raymond in the past; my point at the time was that he doesn't seem to understand the importance of good public relations and in fact invites bad publicity.

The Continental article was a nice puff piece -- the kind of publicity that CEO's are supposed to do. I planned to point to it, to show that Lee isn't really such a bad guy. But, alas, I couldn't find the Continental mag anywhere on the web. I did a google search on +anti-celebrity +"Lee Raymond", and all I got was this --

The Ecologist: Profile of the head of Exxon.

"Lee Raymond is the infamous head of Oil multinational Exxon, known in the UK as Esso. Changing the World's climate, bringing storms, floods and drought, is a role normally reserved for James Bond villains."

This guy has got to get a new PR consultant.


I'm back, and I'm totally burnt out.

By my count, I sat through 31 talks.

The overall quality of the talks was really excellent. Two reasons for this:

  • I only went to talks I had a real interest in -- lots of depth imaging.
  • I was familiar with most of the speakers whose talks I attended, and I knew that they were people who would give good talks.


I'm blogging from the exhibition floor of the SEG convention. As expected, the convention is smaller than last year (when it was in Texas).

So far I've mostly run into the usual suspects here -- diehard SEG convention goers. But the mood is good.

Nothing very interesting, though. It looks like the contractors are mostly doing a brisk business thanks to the commercialization of past innovations.

Technical talks start this afternoon; I'm sure that that will be interesting.

Oil and Gas International: Hurricane Lili sinks Rowan Houston, capsizes Nabors Dolphin 105.

"Hurricane Lili seems to have done its worst damage in the US Gulf of Mexico's Ship Shoal region offshore Louisiana, where scores of rigs were working."


Blatant self-promotion:

I wrote the cover feature for the October 7 issue of Oil & Gas Journal, an eight-page article on curved-ray prestack time migration. It's more marketing than science, but it was fun to write, and I think my figures are pretty cool.

Unfortunately, the "features" section of their web site is subscription only. But if you come across a copy of OGJ, be sure to check it out.

"Curved-ray prestack Kirchhoff time migration is rapidly replacing other seismic time migration methods for focusing seismic images of subsurface structures.... This trend has a broad significance for members of the seismic industry and their customers because time migration technology is applied to nearly all industry seismic reflection data."

I'll be at the annual SEG meeting next week. I'm looking forward spending the week hearing excellent talks, seeing cool stuff and talking to smart people.

Oil & Gas Journal: New SEG president takes business view of technology.

"The same trend -- falling costs of data storage and transfer -- has returned some data-processing steps to operators [(exploration companies)]. Many of them in the early 1990s began to rely as much as possible on contractors for processing. They often didn't see data until after a step called stack, in which processors arithmetically combine traces, partly to reduce data loads.

"`I think taking the data prior to stack is what's required in this day and age,' Bahorich says. Operators, he explains, can improve seismic interpretation by creating several data volumes suited to different purposes."


Oil & Gas Journal: SPE: Technology transfer, workforce globalization seen meeting looming staff shortfalls.

"From retirements and attrition, the petroleum industry will loose 50% of the petroleum engineers in today's workforce during the remainder of the decade. Too few engineering graduates will emerge to fill the ranks, according to Raul Ortiz, president of Raul Ortiz & Associates, Houston.... To alleviate the shortage, he said, the petroleum industry must increasingly incorporate developing-country nationals in strategic-growth project teams."

> I'm sure that the situation for geoscientists is the same as for petroleum engineers.

Oil Online: Petroleum Geo-Services completes library sales in West Africa.

"Petroleum Geo-Services ASA announced the closing of seismic multi-client transactions in West Africa with a total sales value of approximately $28 million."

Houston Chronicle: Deep discovery adds to Gulf basin's bounty.

"The 2 billion barrels confirmed thus far in the Mars Basin include the Mars, Ursa, Crosby, Europa, King, Princess and now the Deimos discoveries and developments."

Oil and Gas International: CGG to shoot 2,620 sq km 3D survey offshore Brazil.

"The survey location is in a new area of interest for Petrobras, covering Blocks BM-CE-1 and BM-CE-2 in the Bacia de Ceara et Potiguar and Block BM BAR-1 over the Bacia de Barreirinhas, in one of the world's last remaining unexplored basins."

Word from the European office --

Oil and Gas International: Geotrace Ensign completes Norne 4D survey processing.

"The 3D/4D time-lapse acquisition over that part of Block 6608/10 where the Norne Field is located was carried out by WesternGeco this summer utilizing the Geco Topaz to shoot the data employing WesternGeco's Q-Marine single-sensor technology and six streamers with a 50-meter streamer separation."

Oil and Gas International: Paradigm scores two contracts in China.


Some really lengthy quotes from Fortune and Business Week:

Fortune: Is BP Beyond Petroleum? Hardly. BP's ads are all over Manhattan, but green energy makes up a tiny portion of its revenues.

"In the past six years BP has invested more than $200 million in solar power, building an 18% market share. That sounds impressive. By comparison, though, it invested $8.5 billion in exploration and production of fossil fuels in 2001 alone. If BP put its advertising mouth where its money was, its ads would be featuring oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, where it will invest $15 billion over the next ten years." ...

"In short, renewables make up a trivial portion of what BP does. Does that make BP evil? No. It makes it -- gasp! -- an oil company. And a good one: BP is widely respected as an employer, investor, and corporate citizen."

> I give BP high points for advertising their green credentials.

Business Week: Can Oil Giants and Green Energy Mix? BP, with Royal Dutch right behind, is betting that investing now in alternatives will pay off big later.

"... a closer look reveals that BP's new campaign goes beyond trying to score `green' points with consumers. BP has invested millions in green energy technology.... No other giant oil company comes close to BP's alternative-energy efforts -- except perhaps Royal Dutch Petroleum, based in the Netherlands, which includes various companies under the Shell name."

"In sharp contrast, Texas-based ExxonMobil invested some $500 million on research and commercial activity in solar and other renewable energy technology before abandoning the push 20 years ago, citing high cost and reliability disadvantages.... ChevronTexaco has its own renewable-energy division, focused on hydrogen, fuel cells, wind, and solar." ...

"These divergent strategies illustrate the ongoing debate in the energy industry about exactly when fossil fuels will play a lesser role in the world's energy consumption. One view is that there's enough oil supply at competitive rates for some 15 to 20 years, with a 50-year time horizon for natural gas."

Associated Press: China Oil Company Employee Indicted.

"A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted Yan Ming Shan, 32, an employee of DaQing Oil Field, a division of PetroChina, on a charge of unauthorized access to a computer on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Attorney's office for the Northern District of California."

Oil and Gas International: TGS-Nopec completes US Gulf Mississippi Canyon pre-stack depth migration.

"This final delivery of data includes full volume pre-stack depth migration and associated products over a 4,600 sq km area."

Oil and Gas International: VoxelVision gets use of Core Labs' depth conversion technology.

"It is the intention to provide end-users with an easy and versatile depth conversion software covering the average needs for on-the-fly-depth conversion."

Oil Online: MMS seeks comments on geophysical exploration.

"The assessment is needed in light of advances in geological and geophysical technology, expansion of activities into deep water and improved knowledge of acoustic impacts on marine life."


PR Newswire (OGJ): CGG owns 7.51% in PGS.

"As a leading seismic company, it is CGG's long term objective to work towards a consolidation in the seismic industry."

Houston Chronicle: Anadarko deal gives it oil fields.

"Anadarko Petroleum has agreed to buy Houston-based Howell Corp. for about $200 million to gain access to two aging but large oil fields in Wyoming."

Walter Kessinger

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