Patterns emerge

April 9, 2018
As in the games of chess, billiards, and cards, predictive reasoning and an observation of patterns are factors that contribute to successful outcomes.

Tayvis Dunnahoe

Exploration Editor

As in the games of chess, billiards, and cards, predictive reasoning and an observation of patterns are factors that contribute to successful outcomes.

In the earliest days of oil exploration, guesswork was just about the only intelligent tool a wildcatter could use to reckon where the next strike would hit. Dry holes were common, and if a prospector landed one well out of 10 that could be considered a windfall.

With geoscience having evolved into the discipline it is today, the acceptability of dry holes has diminished to almost none. The ability to know where and how best to drill a prospect is at the reach of most exploration geologists, and the risk aversion in today’s oil and gas industry requires going into a prospect with a full knowledge of what to expect.

This is not to say there are not still dry holes or that every discovery will be commercial. The industry has gone far in discovering direct hydrocarbon indicators, but the science is not without gaps. It is also true that producibility can vary in rocks and some wells thought to have major potential turn out to have not much at all.

As an editor for OGJ, the task of prediction is left to our sources whenever possible. Going out on a limb is never a comfortable process and making short-term predictions on how or when a subject will turn out can leave you with some discomfort should the alternative prove true.

Longer terms

The safe bet: only predict trends that resemble a previous pattern and even then, only along a wide enough span of time as not to induce naysayers who will mark their calendars to lead the charge on the first day your prediction turns out wrong.

The process suggested is less scientific than planning a frontier exploration well, but it is more strategic than a random bet at the roulette table.

To successfully gauge a trend that will evolve successfully over the next 5 years, an editor can look at the news, take cues from people “in the know,” and look for patterns in what preceded the last trend that caught the industry by surprise.

Predictive effort

For an exploration editor, geography provides fecund prospects for predicting future drilling. Analysts make their living off betting where things will be in the next year, while marketing specialists try to predict trends out to 3 years. An editor, by nature is not required to predict anything, but adding a bit of risk to the overall news adds to the anticipation.

From this editor’s perspective over the last year, the Eastern Mediterranean is proving to be the most likely region to heat up through the next 5 years.

It is a safe prediction to say the least, with all the news that has come out of the region recently. Nonetheless, for exploration this will be an important region to watch. Greece is actively pushing companies to develop its frontier offshore acreage South of Crete, a prospect thought to resemble Egypt’s offshore area where the Zohr discovery is rewriting that region’s history (OGJ Online, Feb. 5, 2018; Dec. 20, 2017).

In addition, Cyprus recently announced a Zohr-like discovery in its offshore area (OGJ Online, Feb. 9, 2018). Meanwhile Israel is setting up shop in Houston to foster cooperation between its offshore exploration and the companies that will most likely fund this development. And Lebanon, one of the late comers, is rapidly advancing its offshore exploration (OGJ Online, Dec. 19, 2017). Despite the conflict along its southern maritime border with Israel, Lebanon will most likely produce its first discovery in 2019.

Geopolitics aside, all the markers point to a productive and exciting decade of development in the East Mediterranean. This may be viewed as good news while the industry reawakens following several years of stagnation. As discoveries that seemed to appear on a distant horizon come into closer view, more analysis, with a focus on enhancing predictability, will be required.