APPEX explores case studies

‘Dusters’ Provide Lessons to Learn

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

The successful petroleum exploration stories are the easy ones to tell. Magazines such as the EXPLORER are filled with them.

But what of the other stories – the ones that don’t end in smiles and champagne and platitudes about dreams coming true? Aside from the ones told at happy hour or in bankruptcy court, where do you go to hear them? And what would you hear?

Those are questions that AAPG member Charles R. Speh, managing director of Milestone Exploration in Oakley, England, has been pondering for sometime. For Speh, the lessons learned from the failures (though he wouldn’t call them that) in exploration may be more important than the ones learned from the successes.

It was his idea, then, to hold a symposium at this year’s APPEX London conference called, appropriately enough, “Lessons Learned.” Speh believes APPEX, AAPG’s successful global event for the buying and selling of upstream assets, is an ideal place to hold this one-day symposium on case studies from around the world that were initially unsuccessful or even disastrous.

“The purpose ... is to enable oil and gas companies to learn about how other companies have gained ‘value’ from what may have been an initially less than successful drilling venture,” he said.

According to Speh, by utilizing their specific expertise, technology, techniques, applications, working practices and what he calls “good common sense,” many industry professionals have turned those setbacks into triumph.

They also learned, clearly, from their mistakes.

“What may have initially been a project with no commercial potential has been turned into one which had great commercial success.”

Finding Value

But his symposium, he wants you to know, is not a support group or gathering for the down and depressed and broke. Nor is it simply a pep talk.

“I want to convey a very positive message to all the attendees,” he said.

First, to convey the message that there is value in unsuccessful explorations, Speh wants to dispense with one of the most overly used terms in the industry.

“I have avoided the use of the term ‘dry hole’ anywhere in either the title or proposed content,” he says.

Specifically, by soliciting stories from those in the industry who have experience in these unmentioned “dry holes” (and who hasn’t?), Speh plans to present 12 case studies from basins throughout the world, including well-established plays, but also – and Speh says this is important – the more obscure and less important plays.

“I want to attract a wide range of companies to present case studies,” adding that AAPG members seem intrigued by the idea.

Ideally, he says, the program (still being finalized at press time) will include case studies from the recognized majors along with smaller, aggressive companies – but it won’t be a top-down symposium. Speh believes that all in the industry can learn from the stories of all.

Since the conference is in London, Speh says he wants to include stories, as well, from the “very small” producers in the North Sea. It is they, he says, who have played such a vital role in sustaining the exploration and appraisal drilling programs in the region – even if they had to fail once or twice before becoming such a force.

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