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Bringing Sanity to Risk and Uncertainty: Charge of the Geoscientist


John Ritter, Occidental Petroleum

It is often said that the Exploration and Production business is rife with Risk and Uncertainty. The capacity to recognize and quantify these components are key to success. In many cases, the geoscientist bears the prime responsibility of casting these in the proper context, and providing the insight required to drive the appropriate project decision.  This talk will examine the various aspects of geoscientific application in progression of a notional E&P project from cradle to grave, and how they relate to both risk and uncertainty.

Early in a potential projects evolution, most notably in the exploratory/scoping phase, the estimation of Risk is commonly the focus of the geoscientist. Most certainly different aspects of geoscientific analysis take on greater focus depending on the nature of the opportunity, but a broad spectrum of skills are generally required to assist in understanding the overall opportunity – from geomodeling to geomechanics to geophysics, the geoscientist is squarely in the fray. Characterization of the different risk components is key to answering the fundamental question: What is the chance I will find something and how big will it be?

Post discovery, the geoscientist’s role is no less pivotal. In the pre-appraisal stage, the geoscientist is a prominent member of an evaluation team, focusing on the Uncertainty associated with the various parameters used to estimate in-place volumes. The development of ranges for these parameters helps communicate the overall potential…and value. During appraisal activities, the geoscientist provides critical input into development of forward plans to help narrow ranges and provide critical information for facilities planning and optimizing development scenarios. As projects move through development and production, the geoscientist focuses, among other things, on reviewing log results and production response to calibrate the overall geologic model. Optimizing well placement and completion intervals based on the interpretation of the evolving geologic model are critical to ensuring project efficiency and value.

As a critical team member, the geoscientist plays an important role in recognizing the natural envelopes which characterize an E&P opportunity. Extrapolating this recognition to successful implementation has rescued the sanity of many a project manager.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90098©2009 AAPG Education Department, Houston, Texas 9-11 September 2009