An all too common approach to evaluating the sub-surface is for the geology, geophysics, geochemistry etc... to be looked at in isolation by practitioners only familiar with their particular subject matter; with the final analysis achieved being somewhat disjointed and often lacking in a robust understanding of possible outcomes and risks. In contrast, my somewhat unique education and industry experience is able to evaluate and integrate across the Hydrocarbon Elements required to align in order to facilitate an accumulation. The ability to interact with, and ask the right questions, and synthesis the output from folks specialized in specific disciplines has also been found to be of great benefit over my career.
Experience over the years has often shown that only a fraction of the information contained in seismic data (especially 3D) is extracted and utilized in the sub-surface evaluation and bid / drill decision process. Having the ethos 'that companies pay a lot of money for seismic data so you should interpret every trace' drives to a robust and detailed attempt to extract the maximum level of information out of the data to further the goal of identifying commercial accumulations of hydrocarbons. A guiding principle of my work has always being that you don't know what is there, or what you can see, until you try to map it. Detailed mapping of Environments of Deposition is a key tool in assessing and predicting reservoir units with application to both hydrocarbon volume assessments (available pore space in the trap) and the ranking and prioritization of competing Prospects - it is not always the biggest defined trap that contains the most resource.
Experience has shown me over and over again that in many circumstances some folks and companies consider that all that is required to define a 'prospect' is a trap. To my way of thinking and evaluating the sub-surface a Prospect can only result from a full and exhaustive critical assessment of all of the 5 key Hydrocarbon Elements. In addition to this basic evaluation requirement an inquisitive imaginative nature is also required to ensure that the subtle Prospects (a strat-trap configuration; or an unusual reservoir; or an exotic source rock or atypical heat flow) is not overlooked. The true bounty of nature is often hidden in the very subtle expression of our data. Developing Prospects, often seeing what others fail to see, is a true professional passion of mine.
Assessing Risk, or more commonly Geologic Chance of Success, requires a full dispassionate, unbiased review of what we know about a Petroleum System, and more importantly what we do not know; and to do this objectively across all Hydrocarbon System Elements required to produce a commercial accumulation of oil ans/or gas. My approach to Risk determination is to proceed as outlined above whilst at all times being aware of the possibility (Risk) of Confirmational Bias creeping into any assessment. My aim is not to make opportunities appear to decision makers more probable than they may be; but to simply, and with consistency and integrity, characterize the sub-surface risks as accurately as possible. In so doing decision makers, who have the prerogative to approve high risk ventures, given the right reward profile, can do so with 'Eyes Wide Open'.
To be an effective evaluator of an areas hydrocarbon potential a valuable skill is to be able to both range across different scales of the system under review - from the tectonic scale to the grain size scale. Inherent in this is the understanding that earth systems are Fractal in Nature and thus repeat at many scales.
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