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Petroleum Geologist: Climb Out of Your Silo!


So, you’re a new petroleum geologist.

You know what I wish new petroleum geologists knew?


I wish they knew everything.

It’s critical because the oil and gas patch, thanks to unconventional resource plays, REQUIRES folks to climb out of their siloes and get onto a common playing field.

The pace of activity and the enormous volume of data that’s being generated – both real time and in back end analytical workflows – absolutely demands that any company playing in this space captures all the information it can and work it to find the best predictive models.

Apologies to those companies that want to turn their geoscientists into world class subject matter experts, but you don’t have the luxury of pretending that the oil and gas patch is like it used to be. To borrow a saying from on old car ad campaign, “This ain’t your Daddy’s oil patch anymore.”

Who’s Minding the Patch?

To begin with, the Great Crew Change – migration of older, seasoned geoscientists into retirement – means that new hires in oil and gas are going to be tasked to do more, at higher levels of responsibility, at far earlier points in their careers than has been the norm.

G&G Demographics Oil & Gas

And up until recently – as word of six figure starting salaries became the norm – we weren’t seeing a rush of students into the geosciences.

G&G Degrees Granted

As I put it to some petroleum engineering classes that I’ve presented to, “if you don’t burn down a rig or blow stuff up after your first two years, you’re in line for a five year slot. And after two years in that five year slot, if you haven’t lost the company a bunch of money, then you’ll be in line for a ten year slot.”

Can’t I Just Get Another Certification?

The knowledge landscape is daunting — think climbing mountains to 29,000’ without oxygen and then free diving to 300’, trudging across the Sahara and then snowshoeing to the poles.

The goal? Real time knowledge of real time value in the patch. How do drilling results – by both your asset teams and competitors – change the NPV of your acreage holdings? How does the acquisition of a large block of acreage amplify or diminish your real time opportunity in the acreage that you hold or are considering JV’ing? How quickly can you integrate real time drilling petrophysical data into your development models to adroitly pivot to the best opportunities?

These are all insights that must manifest themselves at the earliest possible moments in your strategic planning.

And the only way to effectively do this is to have colleagues at all levels of the organization see the implications of developments outside their fields of expertise and confidently act on that information.

How About an Example

How would a high volume discovery in a previously unknown Florida Eagle Ford/Tuscaloosa delta change YOUR company’s E&P CAPEX spend?


The close co-ordination of specialties—is critical to achieving this vision.

Whoever is doing your geo-steering needs to be updated on changes in the facies and rock fabric model. Your drilling engineers need real time monitoring of water quality, and your completion engineers need real time cross plots of frac job position (from the micro seismic geophysicists) against lithologies. Land professionals need real time updates on significant new completions (as reported/assessed by both asset team geologists and production engineers) so they can tailor their buy program to acquire the best acreage (fracability, total organic carbon, thermal maturity) early in a strategic leasing program.

New hires absolutely need know how to vet and trust data, cross check it against multiple validation points, and help create strategic development plans that acknowledges the uncertainties in the data. Bonus points to anyone who is good at Monte Carlo simulations or Bayesian analysis.

And the ability to efficiently move terrabytes of data around, make it accessible to everyone, and join it with other information, will be a central future of future workflows.

In Conclusion

The ideal new hire is a petrophysically oriented geologist who knows GIS backwards and forwards, is a savvy statistician, and whose best friend in the company is a geophysicist (who also is MS in Petroleum engineering) who has a laptop with 30 zillion petabytes of RAM.

He/she also has to have a Swiss Army knife… for whatever else comes up.

And duct tape.

Like I said… everything.

Your Turn

What do you think? What do you expect from a newly hired petroleum geologist or petroleum engineer? New hires: what do you wish you had learned before you started work? Leave a comment below.

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Mark Nibbelink

Mark Nibbelink is co-founder and director of university outreach at Enverus. Before co-founding Enverus (formerly Drillinginfo) in 1999, Mark had a long career as a prospect geologist at Gulf Oil before beginning work as an independent geologist. Mark is responsible for quality control and data integrity. He received his Bachelor of Arts in geology and his master’s in geology and geophysics from Dartmouth College.