Gulf Lease Sale Should Spur Activity

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

The Obama administration has announced that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold the consolidated Central Gulf of Mexico lease sale 216/222 June 20 in New Orleans.

That is a very, very big deal.

To prepare, oil companies need high quality seismic data, e.g. wide azimuth, to evaluate open blocks that will be available for the license rounds. This is good news for companies like TGS, which have data libraries.

“The moratorium not only affected drilling but indirectly seismic activity as well, because it was hard to get pre-funding for new seismic surveys in the deepwater Gulf,” said AAPG member Robert Hobbs, CEO at TGS in Houston. “It’s more cumbersome even now to get a permit out there.

“But I think we’ll see activity ramp up in the deep water.

“Our customer base hasn’t changed,” he emphasized. “They believe in the potential of the deepwater Gulf and believe whatever new regulations may come out of the government will be manageable.

“In December, we announced our first new wide azimuth program in the Gulf since Macondo,” Hobbs said. “We call it an orthogonal wide azimuth program where we’re shooting 90 degrees to a previous wide azimuth we acquired.

“We’re processing both of those wide azimuth data sets as one survey, going from wide azimuth to more full azimuth – not totally but getting close,” he noted.

“In the marine business, a lot of the technology is directed to how we can capture more azimuths in the subsurface to image around more and more complex geology,” he continued. “As you acquire more and more azimuths, your challenge is how do you process all that data because you’re increasing by orders of magnitude the amount of data you’re acquiring.

“We put our R&D dollars into developing processing algorithms and in investing in compute power that enables us to do that.”

Bob Peebler, executive chairman at ION Geophysical Corp., said he sees a trend toward the more high-end seismic, such as wide azimuth surveys, being acquired as spec from the get-go.

“I also believe exploration budgets are going up,” Peebler said. “When they go up, that means the companies will spend more for geophysics and so the capacity could tighten up this year.”

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