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International Oil and Gas Editors vs. Dracula – A Battle to the Death


If you read the fine print, it seems Bram Stoker never visited Bran, or Romania for that matter.

And it turns out Vlad the Impaler, aka Count Dracula, had very little connection to this corner of Transylvania. So the castle that looms over the village has virtually no connection to the legend.

But in the end, who cares.

Its imposing presence, the stunning Carpathian Mountain scenery and nearly constant rain and fog added to an other-worldly atmosphere for the fourth annual meeting of Drillinginfo’s international oil and gas editors.

It is a three-hour journey from Bucharest. I shared a ride with the Singapore team – Mark Harris (Vice President, Asia Pacific), Shankar Krishnan (Regional Manager, South East Asia) and Chester Chua (Regional Manager, Australasia). Our driver took the last 30 kilometers at breakneck speed, making me glad I was securely sandwiched between Shankar and Chester. I chose to believe that offered better protection than a seat belt.

Historical Production in Romania

Before entering the Carpathians, the journey took us past OMV Petrom’s oil refinery at Ploiesti, which served as a reminder of Romania’s history as a significant European oil producer. It was here the world’s first large oil refinery was opened in 1856.

The country’s oil production peaked at 313,000 barrels per day in 1976 and has since declined to around 100,000 barrels per day. However, Romania’s energy future is looking brighter as the western Black Sea has potential to become a significant source of gas.

In 2008, ExxonMobil brought its deepwater expertise into Romanian waters, partnering with OMV Petrom. Four years later, the companies made the Domino-1 gas discovery. Initial estimates are up to 3 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas. In 2009, the maritime boundary between Ukraine and Romania was finalized, which lifted one of the barriers to deepwater exploration. Lukoil was subsequently awarded two deepwater blocks in the 10th Bid Round of 2010. The 11th Bid Round is planned for later in 2013 or 2014. It should bring further offshore awards on the shelf where exploration has continued and result in smaller discoveries.

Once safely deposited at the Wolf Hotel in Bran, we determined Pablo Goldberg (Regional Manager, Argentina) had traveled the greatest distance: from Buenos Aires by way of London. He spent a total of more than 16 hours in the air. However, he only beat those of us from Houston, Rosemary Mathalone (Regional Manager, Central Latin America and Caribbean), Scott Stewart (Regional Manager, Southern Latin America) and me by a few hours. The Houston crew also had the honor of being the most hours (eight) from home.

But, this trip was no boondoggle.

International Oil and Gas Editors at Work

For two days we congregated from 8:30 a.m. until nearly 6 p.m., nearly missing lunch the first day. However, speaking of food, it was no great loss. That was the day we were served, in Pablo’s words, “The sour soup with anodyne meatballs, my favorite by far!” Another memorable quote, courtesy of Corey Rhoden (Senior Vice President and General Manager, International Division), “No wonder Dracula took to a diet of blood.”

All editors were required to make a 20-minute presentation on their areas of expertise. Ian Blakeley (Vice President, South Asia & Eastern Mediterranean) took first place for “Are there any elephants left in India?” (Short answer, probably.) However, the Houston editors nailed PowerPoint animation. Also, rumor has it Rosemary was in close competition with Ian for top prize, but I don’t believe any side-bets changed hands.

Enter Transform

TransformWe were promised in advance a mystery guest, who turned out to be Murray Roth, co-founder and president of Transform. The timing made perfect sense, as our meeting followed closely on the heels of Drillinginfo’s acquisition of the company. Murray speaks some Romanian. While this helped when dining out, it was not enough to avoid the dreaded brown wine (vinegary, with an undertone of sherry).

In addition to Murray’s skills as a semi-translator, Drillinginfo acquired some awesome software. Transform takes all the types of data and information that Drillinginfo provides – plus any customer data – and applies analytic techniques to identify better drilling locations and better ways to engineer wells.

Our Vice President of Product Management, John Fierstien, was also in attendance. He has already been working with the new members of the Drillinginfo family to create a multi-year “roadmap” that, in his words, “will completely change our industry”. Wow.

Of course, no editor’s meeting would be complete without a field trip. Dr. Serban Veliciu, past president of the Romanian Geological Survey, showed us a plethora of geologic features. One highlight was the Rasnov Gorges, with its limestone outcrops in the core of the Bucgi Syncline.

Perhaps the region’s geology is related to its vampire lore. Transylvania is said to have one of the planet’s strongest magnetic fields. This allegedly gives its residents extra sensory perception.

Save the Date

As we left the foggy Carpathians for the flat plains surrounding Bucharest, we were promised a sunny, seaside editors meeting next year. But then that was the original plan this year and I’ve already heard rumors about Turkmenistan.

In the meantime, Drilllinginfo’s team of international oil and gas editors will be hard at work gathering intelligence across the globe. Even if it means we must do combat with blood-sucking vampires!

Your Turn

What do you think? Given ExxonMobil’s 2008 discovery and Chevron’s impending entry into the country, can shale gas help Romania relive its glory days? Please leave a comment below.

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Anne Leonard

In January 2015, Anne Leonard headed the team that launched the latest addition to DrillingInfo’s international publications, International Scout Frontier North America which covers the US Gulf of Mexico as well as Maritime and Arctic Canada. She has been reporting on exploration and production for more than 30 years. She began her career in Denver covering the Rocky Mountain Region, and has spent the last 10 years covering the international arena, with a particular focus on Latin America, Africa, Western Europe and the Far East. Anne received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Nebraska.