Stale Thoughts and Broken Links

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


Marina Ottaway, NYT: Tyranny's Full Tank.

"Oil and democracy do not mix easily in countries that depend highly on oil revenue. ... evidence shows that oil revenue flowing freely into government coffers has a particularly pernicious effect, encouraging corruption and lack of accountability and fostering systems based on patronage rather than popular representation."

Houston Chronicle: Frame's claim backed in court.

"Former Seitel chief Paul Frame Jr. told a company lawyer that the $750,000 he is accused of swindling from his employer was an advance that would be repaid from a personal stock sale, the lawyer testified in federal court Wednesday."

> So what does this prove? That he was lying to everyone?


Motley Fool: A Veritable Value in Oil.

"... sales have been strong at petroleum services companies like Veritas DGC, which offers everything from seismic surveying to reservoir characterization." ...

"Meriting special attention is the company's move from a net debt (debt minus cash) of $131.5 million in 2003 to net cash (cash minus debt) of $50 million in 2005. That's a big balance sheet transformation, and it puts the company in a healthy position for future growth and capital reinvestment."

O&GJ: Middle East production capacity to continue to climb.

"The Middle East's crude oil production capacity will continue to rise by 4.35 million b/d from 2003's estimate of 23.9 million b/d, reaching 28.3 million b/d of oil by 2010."

O&GJ: MMS issues notice for OCS Sale 196.

"Sale 196 offers 3,754 blocks covering 20.3 million acres 5-357 km off Texas and Louisiana in 8-3,100 m of water."


NYT: Japan draws the line on energy.

"Midway between Okinawa and China, the Ramform Victory, a Norwegian seismic ship, is performing routine survey work, trawling with long seismic cables and using sound waves to create three-dimensional images of oil and gas deposits. But nothing is routine when Japan commissions a survey of what is hidden below the contested waters of the East China Sea.

"Chinese coast guard ships treat the surveyors as spies, radioing warnings to leave and shadowing the ship for days on end. On one occasion, the Chinese ships nearly collided with the vessel." ...

"Japan now is tripling its research budget in the East China Sea, to $125 million in 2005. Japan is also spending $100 million to build its own seismic survey ship."

MarketWatch: Veritas posts 19% increase in Q2 profit.

"Revenue of $192.2 million set an all-time high. A year ago, the company reported quarterly revenue was $147.8 million."

PR Newswire: Seitel Announces Fourth Quarter and 2004 Annual Results.

"For the year ended December 31, 2004, the company reported a net loss of $92.1 million, or $1.20 per share.... The 2004 period includes a $59.1 non-cash amortization charge related to the company's decision to revise its estimate of the accounting seismic data life from seven to four years, $12.5 million in reorganization charges, $2.3 million in overlapping interest expense and $0.9 million of severance costs for former executives"

Associated Press: 10 years in labor camp sought for ex-Yukos chief.

"Russian prosecutors requested today that the former chief executive of the Yukos oil company be sentenced to 10 years in a prison labor camp on tax and fraud charges."


Oil & Gas Journal: Mad Dog appraisal well extends field.

"The well and [three] sidetracks tested the field's previously undrilled southwest flank. Each intersected up to 300 ft of net oil pay in the early Miocene section and found hydrocarbons some 700 ft deeper on the west flank of the structure than previously encountered."


Oops, I forgot to follow up on this earlier this month --

MMS: Central Gulf of Mexico Sale 194 Attracts $ 353,961,798 in High Bids. Eastern Gulf of Mexico Sale 197 Attracts $ 6,974,531 in High Bids

And this was last Wednesday, but I shouldn't let it pass either --

LA Times: Where High Risk Is a 'Way of Life'.

"... for more than 40,000 people, the city surrounding the BP plant where 15 people died last week -- a blast that injured not only 70 workers but also 30 people from the surrounding neighborhoods -- is home." ...

"Henry Baumgartner, 51, has lived here most of his life and worked as a pipe fitter at local refineries until 2001, when he struck out on his own as a home contractor.... Baumgartner says people remain in Texas City, which is southeast of Houston at the entrance to Galveston Bay, because the plants provide a steady stream of jobs that pay upward of $20 an hour."

Press Release: Vanco Announces Deepwater 3-D Seismic Acquisition Offshore Morocco.

"Vanco Morocco Ltd. announces the commencement of a 700 square kilometer 3-D seismic acquisition program offshore Morocco over the deepwater Safi Haute Mer Permit."


WSJ (subscription): Both Sides Massage the Data In the Debate Over ANWR.

"How much oil is there in ANWR? A frequently cited number is 10.4 billion barrels. That represents the amount of oil that is technically recoverable; other deposits aren't reachable by current drilling technology." ...

"How much oil is likely to be recovered? ... [Dave Houseknecht, a U.S. Geological Survey research geologist] provided me with a chart, produced in May 1998, that projected how much oil would be economically recoverable at various future oil prices. At that time, a barrel of oil was selling for about $15, and the projections top out at $42 a barrel. Noting the rapid run-up in prices since then, Mr. Houseknecht says with some humor that when he first issued the study, environmentalists argued that he took the price range too high."


Environment News Service: Oil and Gas Thumper Trucks Set to Disturb Wyoming Wilderness.

"Conservation groups are concerned about a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposal to permit 32 ton seismic exploration trucks to enter a 105,000 acre stretch of the southern Red Desert, including parts of Adobe Town proposed wilderness and the Powder Rim.... The project, known as the Cherokee 3D Seismic Survey, appears headed to be the most contentious oil and gas exploration project in the state's history, says the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance."


Georgia Institute of Technology : Sediments In Northern Gulf Not Right for Methane Gas Hydrate Formation.

"‘We found that conditions are not favorable for the formation of methane gas hydrates at these sites because of the geology of the northern Gulf of Mexico, which consists of salt domes that one can think of as mushroom clouds of salt that rise buoyantly through sediments,’ said Carolyn Ruppel, an associate professor of geophysics in the Georgia Institute of Technology¹s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and lead author on the paper. ‘The thermal properties of salt make the sediments hotter there, and the heat, coupled with the presence of the salt in pore spaces, makes it harder to form gas hydrates.’"

From last week --

WSJ (subscription): Oil Companies Reap Cash Windfall From Price Surge.

"The surge in oil prices over the past year is generating an immense cascade of cash that is flooding the coffers of oil companies, raising pressure on their bosses to pursue acquisitions, further boost spending on production or give more of the gains to shareholders." ...

" ... though the cash windfall is large -- Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's biggest oil company, ended 2004 with $23.1 billion in cash on hand, more than double its hoard from a year earlier -- plans at most oil companies assume prices will drop from today's highs."

PR Newswire: 4th Wave Imaging Opens Houston Office.


Here's a slightly longer version of that Napoleon Dynamite T-shirt article from a week ago --

Knight Ridder News Services: Helicopter T-shirts take off.

"Juggies would conduct seismic exploration in remote areas. As a result, they went to and from work in helicopters. The juggies were a proud bunch, and they wanted their own T-shirts.... Over the four summers, only about 1,000 shirts were sold."


National Review: Ugh, Wilderness!

After years of contentious debate, on Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted 51-49 to allow oil drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Jonah Goldberg took a trip to ANWR in 2001; the NR cover story that followed is republished below. --

"Sen. Joseph Lieberman says ANWR exploration ‘would cause irreversible damage to one of God's most awesome creations.’ This is irresponsible absurdity. Not only would the damage, in fact, be reversible; this area simply cannot hold a candle to God's most awesome creations."

Slate: How Do You Find Underground Oil? First, get a vibrating truck.

"Interpreting seismic maps is something of an art. You could look at the 3-D data on a regular computer screen, but some geologists use 3-D projectors and glasses to inspect the graphs, and others wear virtual-reality helmets. The only seismic data available for the wildlife refuge was collected in the 1980s, however, and can only be examined in two dimensions, which makes interpretation more difficult."

This includes a good number of well-placed on-record sources --

BBC: Secret US plans for Iraq's oil.

"The Bush administration made plans for war and for Iraq's oil before the 9/11 attacks, sparking a policy battle between neo-cons and Big Oil, BBC's Newsnight has revealed."


Wall Street Journal (subscription): Black Gold and Blue Chips.

"Oil prices have rattled stocks since last summer; Wednesday's record close for oil helped knock 112 points from the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Still, despite a 30% run-up in crude in 2005, the blue chips have mostly stayed the course to 11000. "

People's Daily Online, China: China willing to cooperate with nations in South China Sea region.

"‘Oil companies from China, the Philippines and Vietnam signed a landmark agreement in Manila on Monday,’ Liu said at a regular press conference in Beijing.... According to the agreement, a 15-million-US dollar joint marine seismic undertaking in the South China Sea will last for three years...."

> Here's an English transcript of the Liu press conference --

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Jianchao's Press Conference on 15 March 2005.

> These guys sure are "consistant" when it comes to staying on message on topics like Taiwanese independence.

This seems awfully desperate. Argentina must be in serious trouble --

AFP: Argentine president calls for boycott of Shell after company hikes [gasoline] prices.


Bloomberg News: Oil boom dwindles in Russia.

"Drilling in Russia fell last year as the government demanded $28 billion in back taxes from Yukos Oil Co., raising concern that other oil companies may face similar claims. The jailing of Yukos's biggest investor, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, contributed to a $7.8 billion outflow of capital from Russia last year. The benchmark RTS stock index had its worst year since 2000."

LA Times: Italian Oil Giant Reportedly Weighing Bid for Unocal. Eni becomes the fourth rumored suitor for the El Segundo-based energy company.

"None of the speculation has yet produced a bona fide offer for Unocal, nor has any of the purported suitors confirmed that they're interested."


Gail Norton, NYT: Call of the Mild.

"In 1980, when Congress created the [National Wildlife Refuge], it set aside the 1002 area for possible future energy development.... The 1002 area is potentially the largest untapped source of oil and gas on American soil. While we cannot promise that there will be no impact on the wildlife and habitat of the 1002 area, we can promise no significant impact."

> In the past I've said that, while I'm in favor of exploration in NWR, I just didn't think it was worth the political capital. Government proponents of drilling almost always quote best possible scenario estimates of reserve potential, which are almost certainly highly exaggerated (what we usually call the P10 estimates). And AWR drilling wouldn't really be a boon to the industry -- just to a couple of companies.

> Most of the oil industry clearly feels the same way. It has made quite a show of staying out of this debate over the past several years; even companies that are heavily vested in Alaskan exploration have avoided making public statements in favor of AWR exploration.

> Still -- I hope someone does get a chance to do AWR, and proves that we can do it without messing up everything.

Business Wire: WesternGeco Conducts Q-Land Surveys for Kuwait Oil Company.

"Following a successful ‘Q-Reservoir’ pilot study in the Minagish field in 2004, KOC has upgraded the 3D seismic acquisition and processing contract. The 6,000-channel conventional recording system has been replaced with a 30,000-channel Q-Land system for the two remaining survey areas, which will take roughly seven months to acquire."

Dow Jones: Seismic-data gatherer Veritas DGC to delay quarterly report.

"Veritas DGC Inc., which gathers seismic data for the petroleum industry, Monday said it will delay its financial report for its latest quarter while it finishes restating some of its earlier results to correct accounting errors."


Houston Chronicle: Oil buyers focus on the long term. The latest price surge ignores today's inventories.

"Market observers say this isn't a case of irrational market behavior but rather one where buyers are choosing to focus on long-term factors -- namely the constraints of the worldwide supply and growing demand -- and choosing to ignore others they believe will change."

Houston Chronicle: 2 deep-water startups set records.

"The Minerals Management Service reported 14 new deepwater startups and 12 new deepwater discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico in 2004."


Press Release: Kelman Announces 2004 Operating Results.

"Kelman Technologies Inc today announced a net loss of $2.1 million ... for the year 2004. An operating loss of $1.0 million was exacerbated by the write down of $1.1 million of goodwill from the balance sheet of the wholly owned subsidiary KTI USA.... Cash flow of $2.0 million was down 40% compared to last year."


Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Napoleon Dynamite's look a windfall for T-shirt hawker.

"Each summer there was a different design, and each summer Sowa sold a couple of hundred shirts to the rough-and-tumble guys who explored -- with dynamite -- for oil and natural gas in remote areas of the West. Two decades later, the geeky, quirky, tetherball-loving Napoleon, title hero of the popular cult movie, showed up on-screen wearing these same shirts."

No Rider Shirts

New Zealand Herald: Gnawing sharks disrupt seismic survey.

"A shark attack on the multimillion-dollar streamer being towed by the Norwegian vessel Pacific Titan has set the Government-financed seismic survey off the East Coast back by several days." ...

"The 12km-long streamer was cut when sharks chewed through the reinforcing, leaving the wiring exposed. A 2.5km section of cable was severed and floated free for about 12 hours until a chase vessel from Napier could reach the area, about 100km east of Gisborne."

More from New Zealand --

BBC: Rings computers ring the changes.

"The computers used to create special effects for the Lord of the Rings films are becoming an on-demand processing centre." ...

"‘A big seismic analysis job might be 20 terabytes of data,’ said Mr Houston, ‘it's not feasible to send that [by the internet] so they'll send tapes or put it on a disk.’"

Houston Business Journal: UH professor, wife endow pair of geosciences professorships.

"Professor Emeritus Robert E. Sheriff, a longtime faculty member in UH's geosciences department, and wife Margaret S. Sheriff recently endowed two college professorships -- one in sequence stratigraphy and one in geophysics."


World Oil: US oil reserves down, gas up.

"On the upside, proved dry natural gas reserves increased for the fifth consecutive year, adding 1%. This is the ninth increase in the last ten years. Moreover, reserve additions replaced all gas produced in 2003 and added another 11% on top of that.

"As always, it takes nearly a year for the US government to gather and analyze reserve data; so, comparative data for 2004 will be ready by year-end 2005."

PR Newswire: CGG Reports Final 2004 Consolidated Results.

"The operating loss of the Geophysical Services derives exclusively from the difficulties encountered by the land acquisition business unit in a fierce competitive market.... Deeply affected by over capacity in the first half of 2004, the offshore market strongly improved across summer 2004 with a significant increase in market prices that will positively impact profitability in 2005. Year 2004 was characterized by a good operating performance of the CGG fleet and a high level of multi-client activity both in the Gulf of Mexico and Brazil."

PR Newswire: PGS Announces Redemption of USD 175 Million of its USD 250 Million 8% Senior Notes, Due 2006.

"This partial debt redemption is in line with PGS previously announced intention of using a portion of the proceeds from the Pertra sale and a portion of its cash position to reduce debt."


Business Wire: TGS Imaging Releases PRIMA 7.0.

"TGS Imaging, the seismic data processing division of TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company, has released a new version of the PRIMA(TM) pre-stack interpretation and analysis software."


Petroleum News: Still a mystery. As $5B Thunder Horse facility nears completion evidence mounts for broader oil, gas play

"Thunder Horse operator BP, along with partner ExxonMobil, had no more than announced the 1999 discovery than industry analysts began speculating as to the field¹s reserve potential.... Unofficial estimates ranged up to 7 billion barrels of recoverable reserves at Thunder Horse, although 3 billion barrels is often cited by analysts as the likely mean."


Houston Chronicle: Energy industry seems ripe for merger wave.

"Industry sources confirmed a report in Thursday's Wall Street Journal that ChevronTexaco has taken a look at Unocal, but they note that so has just about every other energy company." ...

"Unocal's reserves are equivalent to about 1.75 billion barrels of oil. Multiply [Unocal's E&P cost per barrel of] $11 by 1.75 billion, and divide by the number of Unocal shares outstanding -- about 263 million -- and you get a per-share price of about $74.... Unocal's stock closed at $60.10 on Thursday."

The Columbia Spectator: Research Vessel Runs Ashore in Mexico.

"... the animal-rights protests and the subsequent collision with the shoal together mark a tumultuous end to the Ewing's otherwise long and distinguished career. Lamont acquired the ship in 1989, and it has remained the only marine seismic imaging vessel for the U.S. academic community ever since. The ship has covered over half a million miles of ocean track around the world and has been instrumental in forwarding the field of plate tectonics in recent years.

"With the Maurice Ewing set to be replaced by the Marcus G. Langseth research vessel later this year, the Chicxulub research expedition was the Ewing's last trip."


Reuters: Unocal Shares Up on ChevronTexaco Report.

"Shares in U.S. oil company Unocal Corp. jumped nearly 10 percent on Thursday on a newspaper report that ChevronTexaco Corp., the U.S. No. 2 oil company, was considering a bid to buy its smaller rival."

Associated Press: Dawson Making Seismic Waves.

"Revenue in the company's most recent fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, rose to $69.3 million from $51.6 million, and net income improved to $8.6 million, or $1.55 a share, from a loss of $899,000, or 16 cents a share. The company was also helped by the exit of Western Geophysical from the U.S. market two years ago."

NYT: Mexican Oil Chief Seeks Expansion.

"Luis Ramírez Corzo, director general of the Mexican state oil monopoly, sketches three outlooks for his industry's future, each with a different price tag. By investing $5 billion a year, the company, Petróleos Mexicanos, can just about keep pumping oil. Without new discoveries, Mexico, now the world's fifth-largest producer of crude, could be importing oil within a decade. For $10 billion a year, the level of the company's investment now, the industry can make enough discoveries to keep exporting. But for $20 billion a year, Mexico could boast a world-class industry that exports crude, natural gas and petroleum derivatives."


CNN: Controversial ship leaves Mexico.

"In its first public explanation of the February 14 accident in which the ship ran aground on a coral reef, Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which operates the vessel, said the crew had relied on apparently flawed or misleading navigational charts." ...

"On Monday the observatory paid a fine of 2,221,720 pesos ($200,000, euro150,000) for damaging the reef, located about 30 miles (48 kms) off the Yucatan peninsula."

O&GJ: Discovery Geo plans offshore 3D seismic.

"Texas-based Discovery Geo (Australia) Corp. will use the 3D seismic ship Veritas Viking II to shoot a 600 sq km survey starting in early March.... The Veritas Viking is currently undertaking an 1,100 sq km 3D seismic acquisition program for the larger US independent Pogo Producing Co. in its three offshore north Taranaki permits."

> New Zealand.


O&GJ: Notices issued for OCS Sales 194, 197.

"Central Gulf of Mexico Sale 194 offers 4,063 unleased blocks covering 21.4 million acres 3-210 miles off Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama 4-3,400 m or more of water.... Eastern Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 197 offers 124 unleased blocks covering 714,240 acres 100-196 miles offshore in 1,600-3,425 m or more of water."

Business Wire: Fairfield Industries Awarded Deepwater Seismic Acquisition Contract.

"Fairfield Industries announced today that it has signed a contract with BP to acquire 145-160 square kilometers of seismic data across the deepwater Atlantis field in the Gulf of Mexico. Fairfield will acquire this survey late this summer using its new Z 3000 deep water nodal acquisition system."

PR Newswire: PGS Closes Pertra Sale With Talisman.

"Petroleum Geo-Services ASA announced today that it has closed the previously announced sale of its wholly-owned oil subsidiary, Pertra AS, to Talisman Energy.... Petroleum Geo-Services is [now] a technologically focused oilfield service company principally involved in geophysical and floating production services."

Associated Press: Demand drives huge LNG deals. Investments in Qatar signal big-time backing for the fuel

"The Exxon Mobil deal, valued at $12.8 billion, will send 17.2 million tons of supercooled gas annually to Britain over 25 years starting in 2007.... The $6 billion venture with Shell will send 8.6 million tons a year to U.S. and European markets starting as early as 2010."

Walter Kessinger

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