For students in geoscience, the oil and gas industry is probably the most likely industry they will end up in. During our studies we often learn a given curriculum, have fun on fieldtrips, specialise in a certain topic, write a thesis and enroll in the next higher education level. Repeat.
The result is that fresh-out-of-college-graduates of geology and geophysics (I am one of them) often don’t know how an energy company actually operates on a day to day basis. I struggled in the beginning and I’ll try to give some insight in a series of short posts called oil and gas industry 101.
As a student you may have examined cores or logged an outcrop. These are two vastly different scales that we can observe. In an (ideal) outcrop you can walk around laterally and vertically and examine every little last detail, every little rock. You have all the data in the world. In exploration or in development you will have to judge a potential (or an existing) reservoir on the basis of surprisingly little data.
Often you only have a couple of wells, not always core data and it is usually many miles away (sometimes hundreds). So every little bit of data you can extract from it is valuable and may influence the way it is being interpreted in the end.
What are you looking at?
Your boss is not going to ask you to write a report on how beautiful the sand-ripples are in a core and give you a pat on the back at the end of the day. The problems that need to be solved are of a much less academic nature and are always connected to one thing: economic drivers.
• How homogenous is the reservoir? Does it change if we go to bigger scales? What is the chance that it does behave differently than we think right now?
• What is the clay fraction?
• What is the extend of natural fractures? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
• Is it’s permeability better in one direction than the other?
How does this matter in the O&G industry?
All these questions seem to be of an academic nature and without any connection but directly influence how a field will be developed and how much money will be needed. And connecting the dots is often not easy.
• How many wells do we need? How do we need to space them? Do we need horizontal, deviated or vertical wells?
• How much sand production will there be? Do we need to install sand screens? Will this make completing the wells more expensive?
• Where do we need to perforate the well? Should we not perforate a certain interval?
• What will developing this field cost and what production profile can we expect in the future.
• Ultimately: Is this going to make money or not?
Seeing the deeper meaning of the work we do in O&G is difficult in the beginning. I certainly struggled to see why certain things where worth looking into at all. Many of my colleagues studied geology because they love rocks, they love nature and they love hiking. Their heart rate increases when they see a cool outcrop, a fossil or a rare odd granite that’s only found in that one special place. And on the job you don’t get to see these things every day. Reality sets in: work-life is not a never-ending field-trip.
If you can look past that, then the oil and gas industry offers a surprisingly vivid community of people who love their jobs. Right now the industry is in a world of pain and it will take some time to adjust and to pick up again. But in general the life of geoscientists in O&G companies is actually quite rewarding. And I don’t mean that financially. You will get lots of training opportunities and field trip throughout your carreer.
“Whoever sees the most rock wins” 🙂