A friend of mine once exclaimed in an exploration meeting “if we can’t learn from our dry holes, why drill them?”
Aside from the humor and absurdity of the statement, there is some wisdom in this comment. We can often learn just as much from our “educational successes” as our economic successes. The dry holes are indeed valuable. They tell us about the rocks and the geological processes where hydrocarbons accumulate and trap, and where they don’t.
In today’s shale plays where it’s difficult to drill a true dry hole, we may be missing the value that our “educational successes” have brought us in the past. Asking not just where oil and gas accumulates, but why it accumulates there can often be a better question when trying to discover as much as you can about your next play.
Learning our Lesson
We can take a lesson from history. Cities Service Oil was the first company to hire geologists to try to find oil. Armed with only the basic tools of the day, geologist mapped out anticlines, synclines and faults. They were successful not just because they understood where the oil was, but because they now understood the geological processes and variables that predicted where hydrocarbons could be found. With this new knowledge they were able to limit their “educational successes”.
The job of a geoscientist today is much more difficult today than it was in the early days of our industry. We need to understand what geological factors caused hydrocarbons to be present in shales in varying concentrations. We also need to know the natural and artificial fracturing patterns of these formations. We have a mind boggling array of information and tools at our disposal. Logs and seismic are the main tools we use today and each of these can come in a dozen if not a hundred varieties. It is the one of the things that makes our industry so exciting. We are constantly growing and learning new things.
However, while these tools provide much in the way of helping us understand the subsurface, there is also much to be learned from the well on the next lease. Dry hole or productive well, it contains a treasure of information about the rocks it encountered, the drilling parameters used to make the hole, cores, cuttings, shows and host of other information. After all, “if you can’t learn from your dry holes, why drill them”?
Now it’s your turn. Do you have an oil field axiom like the one above that contains a bit of painful or humorous truth? Please post it in the comments below for all to enjoy.
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