Stale Thoughts and Broken Links

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


Oil & Gas Journal: World's top 10 energy companies' strategies revealed in new study.

"Largely through mergers and acquisitions, these 10 companies are `making concerted drives to get bigger and thus more capital and cost-efficient,' PIRA noted, which has led to internal restructuring and massive cost reductions."

New York Times: BP Pulls Out of Campaign to Open Up Alaskan Area.

"BP, the world's third-largest oil company, has pulled out of a major lobbying group that is spearheading the campaign to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling, a company spokesman said yesterday.

"Oil development in the refuge is a touchstone of the Bush administration's energy policy. BP's decision to drop out of the drilling debate underscores the growing concern among many oil companies that the matter has become a public relations liability, both critics and supporters of oil production in the refuge said."

Reuters: BP Solar will cut work force in U.S.

"BP Solar, a unit of BP Group, said it will no longer make thin film solar cells, one of two main solar technologies in the world.

"It will now concentrate entirely on crystalline silicon cells, which already accounts for 85 percent of its solar cell production."

Oil and Gas International: TGS-Nopec clarifies its role in Western Sahara.

"The Board of TGS-Nopec believes that the company has operated responsibly and ethically on this matter, within the realm of international law and according to United Nations guidance."


Reuters: Fitch cuts Veritas DGC senior unsecured debt.

"Following three and a half years of stronger than average prices for oil and natural gas, Fitch anticipated meaningful improvement in Veritas' credit profile that never materialized. Evidently, seismic demand was slow to grow in recent years as geophysicists at E&P companies evaluated seismic data obtained through numerous acquisitions. Secondly, an excess supply of marine seismic vessels has hampered margins and Fitch expects will continue to do so until capacity is reduced. Finally, seismic data processing companies have had huge capital requirements for R&D, technology development and maintaining an attractive multi client library.

"This has resulted in several years of negative free cash flow for Veritas."

Reuters: PGS warns of big charge.

"Petroleum Geo-Services ASA on Wednesday said it expects a third-quarter charge of $1 billion to $1.2 billion from goodwill impairment and a write-down of a variety assets as weak global demand cuts into oil drilling activity and the need for its services.

Oslo-based PGS ... said it would write down the value of its Banff vessel, one of four PGS vessels that pumps, stores and delivers oil; its seismic data library; and its Atlantis subsidiary, whose sale to Sinochem was announced in June."

PR Newswire: Dawson Releases 2002 Results.

"Dawson Geophysical Company today reported revenues of $36,078,000 in its fiscal year ending September 30, 2002, compared to $37,878,000 in fiscal 2001 and $18,469,000 in fiscal 2000. Net losses for fiscal years 2002, 2001 and 2000 were $2,292,000, $4,978,000 and $11,135,000 respectively."

Oil & Gas Journal: BHP Billiton's Shenzi well hits pay dirt in deepwater Gulf of Mexico.

"The discovery well, which was drilled 125 miles off the Louisiana coast on Green Canyon Block 654, is in the Western Atwater Foldbelt area where BHP Billiton [and its partners] previously discovered oil and natural gas at Mad Dog, Atlantis, and Neptune."


Oil & Gas Journal: Oil and gas companies' 2003 spending plans flat or lower than 2002.

"`We are in a very strange period right now. Commodity prices are high, very good.... Companies should be booming, and mergers and acquisitions should be at a high. Well, equities aren't booming, so companies are cautious,' Rick Roberge, leader of the PricewaterhouseCoopers's oil and gas transaction services group in Houston told OGJ Oct. 25."

WSJ (subscription): Exxon Valdez Spill Offers Surprising Cleanup Lessons.

"The fundamental question is: How clean is clean? `The first 90% of any cleanup comes easy. But the tradeoffs for the remaining bits are brutal and can sometimes do more harm than good,' says Gary Shigenaka, head of the National Oceonographic and Atmospheric Agency unit that scoured the coves of Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez spilled more than 250,000 barrels of oil in 1989. The last 1% of oil removed can cost seven times as much as the first 99%.

The lessons in Alaska were sobering. Mr. Shigenaka found that in a crude oil spill, doing almost nothing -- helping nature break up and disperse the oil by itself -- may be more effective and possibly less harmful. For instance, using sand blasting and abrasives to clean the coast also disrupted critical soil biology, he found. Today, both the `stand alone' areas and the aggressively scrubbed areas are on the same path to recovery, he says."

Bloomberg Business News: Ever-growing electricity supply means Texas prices heading south.

"The average wholesale electric price in Texas in the first nine months of this year fell 40 percent from a year ago to $27.28 a megawatt-hour, according to Bloomberg data, as a mild summer exacerbated excess supply."


Ars Technica: A new, super-human level of computing power?

"... these computers, when they are finished, will take over the top 2 spots on the `Top 500 Supercomputers' list at, to be sure. Indeed, ... the two machines will have more processing power than the other 498 computers on the list combined."


The Christian Science Monitor: Why aging oil tankers still ply the seas.

"The wreck of the Prestige, the tanker that sank Tuesday with more than twice as much oil aboard as leaked from the Exxon Valdez, has raised an outcry in Europe about the use of aging rust buckets to carry toxic cargo."

Los Angeles Times: Retire Aging Oil Tankers.

"... the sinking of a tanker filled with 20 million gallons of oil off the coast of Spain this week and the potential environmental catastrophe that is unfolding as a result could have and should have been prevented.

"The Prestige was a type of single-hull tanker mass-produced by Japan more than a quarter-century ago.... Hundreds of pre-1980 Japanese-built oil tankers remain in operation. Single-hull tankers are said to make up about half of the world's 10,000-ship fleet of oil carriers."

New York Times: Exxon-Led Group Is Giving a Climate Grant to Stanford.

"Four big international companies, including the oil giant Exxon Mobil, said yesterday that they would give Stanford University $225 million over 10 years for research on ways to meet growing energy needs without worsening global warming."


Oil and Gas International: WesternGeco shooting Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients.

"After two years of delays due to lawsuits and environmental impact studies, WesternGeco has a crew of 52 and a convoy of vibroseis vehicles at work in Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients National Monument."

Oil and Gas International: Input/Output sells VectorSeis System 4 to China's BGP.

"China's Bureau of Geophysical Prospecting (BGP) has bought an Input/Output 12,000 channel (4,000 station) VectorSeis System Four for land seismic acquisition. The sale to the subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is the first of a TrueDigital acquisition system anywhere in the world."


Los Angeles Times: Output of Crude Oil Gushes.

"Discerning the motives behind OPEC's increasing output involves considerable sleuthing and a fair amount of guesswork." ...

"The economic implications of OPEC's recent actions depend in part on the cartel's internal cohesiveness, which is subject to considerable dispute.... [I]f OPEC's aggressive quota busting leads to a production free-for-all, oil prices could fall further, experts say. `I think there's a reasonable possibility we could repeat the 1985-86 price crash,' said [Newport Beach energy economist Philip K. Verleger.]"

WSJ (subscription): ChevronTexaco Copes With Halt of Oil Project. Amid Latest in String of Disputes, Firm Suspends Activity in Kazakhstan.

"The company declined to provide details about the nature of the dispute. But the suspension comes amid a months-long contract battle between ChevronTexaco and Kazakhstan. ChevronTexaco has said the government is attempting to revise its 1993 contract for the field, while Kazakhstan says it is seeking fairer terms than those negotiated soon after it gained independence in the breakup of the Soviet Union."

Reuters: Shell sees technology breathing new life into oil.

"[Royal Dutch/Shell Chairman Phil] Watts said it was too early to say how quickly hydrogen might make a dent in fossil fuels' current dominance, as a whole new energy infrastructure will be needed to support it.

"`The short, honest answer is I don't know. One projection shows 25 percent penetration of hydrogen into the primary energy mix by 2050. That's the high side, the successful case,' he said.

"`In the meantime fossil fuels -- oil, and probably more gas because gas is the bridge for the future -- are still there alive and well fifty years from now.'"


Houston Chronicle: Seitel rumbles back into black. Seismic company turns year-ago loss into $3.2 million profit.

"In the past year, the company changed its top management. Before that it restated its financial results, which sent its shares tumbling, followed by investor lawsuits. The suits claimed that revenue was booked to artificially inflate Seitel's stock price and boost commissions and bonuses for executives.

"The company is also negotiating with senior lenders to restructure its long-term debt. It has a `standstill' agreement which extends to Dec. 2, to give them time to cut a deal."


Associated Press: Design holds up, Trans-Alaska oil pipeline withstands first significant quake.

"On Nov. 3, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Alaska's interior, producing a 145-mile-long crack across the landscape and sending boats bobbing on lakes more than 3,000 miles away in Louisiana. Alaska officials estimated road repairs would reach $20 million.

"But the 48-inch Alaska pipeline that snakes across 800 miles of mostly wilderness survived just as designed -- damaged but not ruptured, said Doug Nyman, the pipeline's seismic design coordinator from 1973 to 1977."

> My sister in Fairbanks sent some pictures of the road damage: 1, 2, 3.


Science News: Wildfire Below: Smoldering peat disgorges huge volumes of carbon.

"According to new research, emissions of globe-warming gases from smoldering peat eclipse those from burning surface vegetation and can rival carbon gases produced globally each year by the combustion of fossil fuels."

Nature: Blackouts inherent in power grid.

"Power grids are inherently prone to big blackouts, say US scientists. Trying to make them more robust can make the problem worse.

"There is a power cut every 13 days in the United States.... Countries that are less developed than the United States, [Benjamin Carreras of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee] points out, typically suffer many small blackouts, but rarely incur big ones. In effect, the tension in the network gets released in many small jolts rather than a big paroxysm."


O.K., one last batch of industry news, and then we'll call it a week --

Oil and Gas International: VoxelVision & Ødegaard link for visualization & interpretation.

> A couple of people have recently told me that VoxelVision is worth serious consideration if you are a geophysicist interested in having a volume visualization capacity. (And *every* geophysicist should have volume visualization capacity.) Apparently VoxelVision doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of Paradigm's VoxelGeo or Magic Earth's GeoProbe, but it's a lot cheaper.

> Still $20,000 to $30,000 though.

SEG Press Releases: Caspian Geophysical completes multicomponent seismic survey over Azeri sector Of Caspian Sea.

"Caspian Geophysical, the joint venture between WesternGeco and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic, has successfully completed a multicomponent (4C) 3D seismic survey over Azerbaijan International Operating Company's (AIOC) Azeri field operated by BP."

SEG Press Releases: Geotrace Ensign awarded a major 3D prestack imaging contract by Norsk Hydro and license partners on the Norwegian continental shelf.

"During the processing, which will include Kirchhoff curved-ray pre-stack time migration, amplitude preservation will be a key issue."

Oil and Gas International: CGG surpasses 15 Teraflops in computer processing capacity.

> Check out the graduate school era picture of Guillaume! Somebody needs to take a more recent picture of that guy.

Oil and Gas International: WesternGeco South Australia shoot delayed.

"WesternGeco's seismic survey vessel Geco Beta has been put out of commission for about a week due to foul weather and fuel contamination."

> I don't really care, but the story includes a nice picture of the ship.


WSJ (subscription): Halliburton's Net Falls 47% On Charges, Slower Drilling.

"Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dave Lesar said he was concerned about the `disconnect' between historically high oil and natural gas prices and the low level of spending on drilling by energy producers."


Wall Street Journal (subscription): Veritas DGC Inc. Cuts Earnings Estimates.

"The company, a provider of geophysical services to the petroleum industry, said multiclient revenue might improve in the second quarter as new customer budgets are approved. Nevertheless, Veritas plans to make additional reductions in overhead and capital spending to combat `general sluggishness in the seismic sector.'"

Oil Online: Petroleum Geo-Services ASA appointes new CEO.


Associated Press: Quake Rattles Remote Area of Alaska.

"A violent earthquake slammed a remote area of Alaska's interior, shutting down the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, opening 6-foot-wide cracks in highways and making lakes slosh in Louisiana. The magnitude 7.9 quake was one of the strongest ever recorded in the United States.

"Only one minor injury was reported; a woman suffered a broken arm.

"The quake, centered on the Denali Fault 90 miles south of Fairbanks, struck Sunday at 1:13 p.m. Alaska Standard Time (5:13 p.m. EST) -- its effects strongly felt in Anchorage about 270 miles to the south. It lasted at least 30 seconds."

> My sister lives in Fairbanks. She reports that the quake knocked some things off shelves and knocked a couple of drawers out of a dresser. Even though she was 90 miles away, I would have thought a 7.9 magnitude earthquake would do more.


Washington Post: Judge Halts Utah Oil Project. Environmentalists to Argue Against Exploring Region.

"The ruling Wednesday in Washington by U.S. District Judge James Robertson halted plans by WesternGeco, a major seismic exploration company, to search for oil and gas in the Dome Plateau region." ...

"Since Bush took office, at least nine seismic oil and gas exploration projects have been started or completed in southern Utah, a marked increase in activity from previous years, environmentalists say." ...

"In a related dispute, environmentalists are suing to try to halt another large oil and gas exploration project south of Utah's Dinosaur National Monument. Veritas DGC Inc. of Houston has been retained by oil companies to explore more than 3,000 square miles of public land by setting off 5,000 explosions along 457 miles of seismic lines over two years."

> Don't these people realize that domestic land seismic exploration is dead?

Oil and Gas International: Paradigm offering pre-installed Linux visualization & interpretation system.

Walter Kessinger

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