By Gilbert Boyefio

High graded satellite seep on NW-SE seismic line in the Deep Offshore Mumbai area (seep input courtesy of Fugro NPA) PSDM section displayed in depth with timing lines every 1,000 m. Section width is 38 km. Image: Spectrum/ Fugro
High graded satellite seep on NW-SE seismic line in the Deep Offshore Mumbai area (seep input courtesy of Fugro NPA) PSDM section displayed in depth with timing lines every 1,000 m. Section width is 38 km. Image: Spectrum/ Fugro

High graded satellite seep on NW-SE seismic line in the Deep Offshore Mumbai area (seep input courtesy of Fugro NPA) PSDM section displayed in depth with timing lines every 1,000 m. Section width is 38 km. Image: Spectrum/ Fugro

The continued decline of crude oil prices on the international market has led to many players in the industry adopting prudent spending measures including the reduction in headcounts and capital expenditure.

Though the boom and bust cycle is very common in this industry, the current decline has taken longer than anticipated partly due to the bullish stand of OPEC.

The decline in crude oil prices have started taking a major toll on oil producing countries in Africa where the effect has begun to bite hard, especially when it comes local players in the industry.

It therefore comes as no surprise that in Ghana, the Petroleum Commission, the regulator of the upstream sector of the country’s oil and gas industry, has adopted the posture of introducing to local players a more cost effective ways of doing business through training workshops.

This, the Commission seeks to achieve through collaborating with companies with new technology and research that can drastically reduce the cost of doing business in the country.

One of such training workshop organized by the Commission in February was with Fugro on marine seeps detection technology.

Marine seeps are hydrocarbon – enriched fluids that have travelled from a reservoir deep in the subsurface to the seabed or seawater column. Sampling and studying these seeps provide information and enhance the understanding of the oil reservoir thus lowering exploration risks.

The training was to equip participants with skills on how to utilize the technology as a tool to minimize risks and costs during exploration.

“The Petroleum Commission is collaborating with these experts to highlight the importance of seeps. For the new entrants, people with new petroleum agreement, they have mapped their prospects but they don’t know whether it contains anything.

Exploration is just mapping prospects and until you drill you will not know whether it contains anything. But when you have this kind of technology and you run it over your prospect, it is then that you see evidence of the success or otherwise of your prospect,” Mr. Chris Fordjor, an Advisor to the Petroleum Commission indicated.

He maintained that marine seeps detection technology gives you a high confidence of making it a success and minimizes your risk of drilling that prospect. “It reduces the risk of drilling a dry well. If you drill a dry well, about 50 to 60million dollars is gone,” he observed.

He emphasized that as the regulator of the upstream sector of the industry, the commission will encourage as many who want to demonstrate new technologies that have been developed to reduce cost.

He however quickly pointed out that the “Commission is not championing the organization of such things, but if any research institution approaches us that they have this type of research and we find it to be good for players in the industry, we will endorsed it and help in organizing it.”

According to Daniel Doolittle, Senior Geoscientist Exploration Project Manager, Fugro, “The market has responded to the need to find an efficient way to gather data for offshore exploration, and traditionally that has been done with very expensive 3D seismic vessels and that is a wonderful tool. Seismic data tells you what type of structure that you have, it tells you the potential volumes of what may be in those structures but it does not tell you what. And to get to the what, you have to do geochemical analysis on the materials that have been collected in that area. Traditionally, you have to drill, which is very expensive, to the targeted area, gather the materials and analyze it geochemically and then you will know whether you have a successful reservoir or an economic reservoir.

These geochemical seeps hunting surveys allow much more efficient approach to not just determining the volumes of materials that may be in offshore reservoir, but finding these leaking hydrocarbons typically coming out of these reservoirs. And if we sample them precisely and accurately we can get very good geochemical results of what is in that reservoir. It is much more economical, it is much more efficient than drilling for it.”

He noted that using the marine seeps detection technology is probably on the order of less than $100,000.00 a day, adding that, “But for using a drilling rig or a seismic vessel add a few more zeroes to that.”

Mr. Doolittle pointed out that the main challenge for any exploration manager in oil and Gas Company is reducing risk.

“You have to find an amount of resources and you have to choose among a global portfolio what to deploy those resources towards, usually money.

If you choose one that is not successful as another, that is a real risk to your business. What we call exploration risk is very real, and so is exploration cost; the risk of a project going over the budget.

What a seep hunting campaign can do is to go in and start answering some of those risk questions very early on at much less expense than the other methods available.

Another scenario which is very common is to have a small company that does not have a lot of resources but have won a bid round; they were able to gain the right from a national oil company or from a foreign country to explore optical section of the offshore environment. They have a plan; they see something that maybe the big oil and gas companies do not see. So they are taking the risk by being the small player. If they can find a good geochemical result in their block that proves that there is an active petroleum system occurring, they can take that data point and walk into the board room of a major oil company and ask them to invest with them or even farm in.

So it also serves as a risk reduction tool for smaller companies,” he explained.

Fugro has a very strong presence in West Africa. The company said it is committed to a long term presence in Ghana despite the declining crude oil prices on the market.

For Vincent van Santen, Business Development Manager, Fugro, “We are we putting so much effort on this type of knowledge and technology because at the end of the line people want to spend money more efficiently, especially at this time when oil prices are very low. It is a cost saver for our client. It is a very high cost seismic survey data system. If you do this type of survey it is relatively cheap survey to get a lot more information and much more efficiency. And that is the context why we are here.”

He said everywhere Fugro starts an office, the company always build a strong local presence and train local people through our Fugro Academy. This he pointed out fall in line with the localization and knowledge transfer requirement of the Petroleum Commission.

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