Intern program powers consortia

Caribbean Targeted for Study of Potential

An exciting academia-based research effort targeting the Caribbean region that kicked off in September 2005 is now in the stretch drive of a planned triple-phase program.

Known as the Caribbean Basins Tectonics Hydrocarbon (CBTH) project, it originated via a couple of forward-looking geoscientists who at the time were ensconced at the University of Texas at Austin. Its operations base recently was moved to the University of Houston, ultimately becoming a joint program between that institution and the University of Stavanger in Norway.

Although not a factor in the program sharing, Houston and Stavanger are Sister Cities.

The goal of the CBTH project is to create a GIS-based digital and atlas synthesis of available seismic and well data to define the regional hydrocarbon potential of the unexplored Caribbean region.

Certain specific objectives include:

  • Identifying source and location of main sedimentary depocenters.
  • Continuity of tectonosequences and terranes.
  • Producing the first offshore geologic synthesis of the Caribbean region.
Paul Mann
Paul Mann

The program was the brainchild of AAPG member and former UT senior research scientist Paul Mann, principal investigator of the CBTH and now geology professor at UH, and AAPG member Alejandro Escalona, former doctorate student at UT and now associate professor of geology at the University of Stavanger.

Their passion for the project was obvious early on when they pounded the pavement in Houston on many occasions in their successful quest for corporate sponsors.

“Right now we have 15 sponsor companies,” Mann said. “It’s a mix of the big super majors and smaller companies, but what they all have in common is they’re very active in the region we’re looking at.”

The main areas of research include:

  • Mexican Gulf of Mexico.
  • Bahamas.
  • Nicaraguan Rise (all sectors).
  • Colombia.
  • Venezuela.
  • Trinidad.
  • Guyana.
  • Northern Brazil.

The ongoing Phase III of the effort includes the Mexican sector of the GOM, the Caribbean and northern South America. The southern part of the expanded Phase III study area includes the equatorial basins of northern Brazil and a large area of the northern Andean foreland basins.

Win-Win Situation

Mann noted that the CBTH project was modeled closely after the industry-funded GBDS (Gulf Basin Depositional Synthesis) at UT in Austin in that both are geographically focused consortia.

“A number of consortia focus more on a process like, say, carbonate reservoirs,” he noted. “We have a geographic area, and we work with students generally from those countries.”

The CBTH project currently has 15 employees in Houston and 10 in Norway.

“Most are students, and we help them find data sets for various companies, including many of the sponsors,” Mann said. “Those students work on the data as part of either master’s or Ph.D. theses.

“We have a targeted intern program where a student goes to one of the sponsoring companies and the company allows that student to work on his-her project as part of the summer internship,” Mann said. “This means the student makes progress over the summer.

“A traditional internship is a randomly assigned task that has nothing to do with the student’s thesis,” he noted. “Companies tend to like the targeted program because in most cases it’s an area of interest for them, so they’re making progress in Venezuela, Colombia, wherever they’re interested.

“It helps the students because they graduate faster and are mentored by company people on their thesis project and often come up with a permanent job offer,” Mann added.

He said the program also sponsors student exchanges between Houston and Stavanger.

“We’ve been at this for more than six years, and our database is becoming one of the selling points of the project,” Mann said. “Companies can become a member and get all of the products into their system and get up to speed quickly.”

Something’s Coming

Along with the database, the program has yielded a sizeable inventory of theses and other publications, becoming a virtual fount of academic output.

Yet Mann emphasizes that their biggest products are their students.

“Some have gone on to be very prominent in the industry, after only six years on the project,” he remarked. “Some go back to their country, but most are here in Houston.”

There’s something major coming down the pike.

“We have a student working on the giant oil fields of the world,” Mann said. “There are 27 clusters of giant fields worldwide, and we’re in the process of assembling databases on each cluster, showing how the fields got to where they are, the elements that went into making a giant field.

“It’s good for people to know where these big future areas are, and it’s easy for us to generate maps, plots and such.”

As for the CBTH, after completing Phase III they intend to keep going. Contact John Minch.

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