Each year, the U.S. Department of the Interior conducts leasing auctions for various undeveloped areas in the Gulf of Mexico. These offshore areas, known as "lease blocks," are put up for bid to encourage development by oil and gas operators and to maximize revenue for the government. In an effort to obtain the right to explore these undeveloped areas, exploration and production (E&P) companies tender lease bids in written format. At a designated time and in a public forum, the bids are opened, and the lease blocks are awarded to the highest bidders.
By turning to the expertise of outside consultants at a time when internal resources are limited, exploration decision-makers can meet even the most stringent lease sale and bid deadlines without compromising accuracy or profitability.
One of the reasons frequently cited by E&P companies for electing to use consulting firms for assistance with their lease sales and bids is that the companies' internal experts are busy working on other projects that they cannot afford to interrupt. In some cases, data volumes are so unwieldy that the company cannot handle them without additional computing capacity or more effective information management. In other cases, staff geoscientists and engineers may have deep regional and local knowledge but lack highly specialized domain expertise or the technological skills necessary to optimally use new E&P systems that may be critical to success.
An experienced consulting team, composed of members from multiple disciplines and empowered with the latest technology, can bring considerably greater value to the bid process than is possible with in-house personnel alone. This is particularly true when the consulting group is part of a global oilfield service company that can provide additional internal expertise, as needed, from both surface and subsurface professionals. Furthermore, international organizations bring a breadth of experience rarely matched by small, local consulting firms; these global firms generally have highly accessible service centers in the major producing regions, with their own in-depth, local expertise. If a particular specialty is lacking, a global firm can deploy specialists from other regions on relatively short notice.
Landmark consultants begin each project by obtaining a thorough understanding of the client's business objectives, constraints and exploration profiles. The team then constructs a framework model to help understand the leases under consideration and the potential risks involved. The risks or critical elements of a project are best understood by integrating and evaluating cross-disciplinary data, understanding both dry hole and successful well analogies, and applying geological models of an area's source, trap, seal and potential reservoir quality and size.
Technologies that make a difference
Certain advanced technologies can often be the difference between meeting and missing urgent exploration deadlines. Landmark consultants have expertise in software systems and data services that help evaluate large geographic areas quickly without compromising quality.
These systems can store hundreds of gigabytes of data. Integrated pre-stack/ Amplitude Variation with Offset (AVO) technologies and automated framework construction tools manage large volumes of data quickly and efficiently. In some areas of the Gulf of Mexico, where direct hydrocarbon indicators are not present, the ability to depth-migrate the data and interpret it using prestack data can make the difference between success and failure.
GIS systems help aggregate data by location and store it in one database, which is the same database used for interpretation. For example, exploration teams can work with large amounts of well and seismic data integrated with gravity magnetic information, bathymetric maps, tables, diagrams, and images for a better understanding of the overall situation. Mapping of this information provides a strong regional framework, or play fairway analysis, that helps identify, analyze and visualize an area's potential risk.
Web-based, collaborative team environments
Landmark's Consulting and Services group uses a proprietary thin-client compute environment to enable clients, team members, partners and third-party specialists to access data in a secure environment. This environment also allows Landmark personnel to consult industry experts while working from almost anywhere in the world. As many experts leave the industry for retirement or other opportunities, Landmark is able to stay in touch with them and their expertise only further contributes to a project's likelihood of commercial success.
Every phase of the typical oil or gas field life cycle requires the integration of numerous computing, geotechnical, operational, commercial and strategic decision-making processes and best-practice methodologies. Before undertaking an exploration project with a short deadline, it is vital to clarify business objectives, determine the multidisciplinary capabilities that would be the most effective, recruit or contract with internal and/or external specialists, and outline the precise technical and business workflows to be implemented. The more comprehensive and well-documented the methodology, the more likely the team will achieve its objectives on time to meet bid rounds and other strategic deadlines.
When it comes to meeting short bid deadlines, Landmark's Consulting and Services group employs best practices in project management methodologies and application workflows, including:
To maximize the chance for success, oil and gas companies must conduct timely and reliable evaluations of regional data sets and specific prospective areas under conditions of both urgency and considerable uncertainty. At a time when internal resources are limited, E&P organizations can meet even the most stringent lease sale and bid round deadlines, without compromising accuracy or profitability, by drawing on the expertise of outside consultants, along with using advanced analysis and modeling technologies and more tightly integrated, multidiscipline work methodologies.
Recently, Landmark helped a large independent oil and gas operator interpret more than 500 Continental Shelf (OCS) blocks in less than 90 days, allowing it to bid on several prospective blocks. Landmark also helped a large U.S. company integrate data in a way that enabled the evaluation of multiple opportunities within a narrow three-month time frame, thereby reducing risk and improving Net Present Value (NPV) by millions of dollars. Landmark consultants also assisted a national oil company in identifying prospective areas with an estimated worth of tens of millions of dollars, while at the same time exposing a previously unidentified play.
United States – Mark Brocklehurst
Middle East – Sanjeev Varma
Latin America – John Smyth