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Exploration Assurance Team Best Practices

Abstract

For the last 25 years the authors and close colleagues have been involved in assessing the prospect and play characterizations of our heritage company teams and now consult on establishing and supporting such work processes for our clients. The common term now used to describe such effort is Assurance. The primary role of Assurance is to provide independent and consistent guidance to exploration teams about their interpretations, assessments and conclusions. The goal of Assurance is to bring about a calibration from that consistency that results in a more predictive exploration portfolio, leading to better and more-informed decisions that can increase value. A key objective of Assurance is to ensure best practice of subsurface evaluations. The primary work of Assurance lies in between data collection/analysis and decision/capital allocation. Assurance has long been recognized as a needed process as various studies have documented the underperformance of exploration as a business function, related to the disconnect between pre-drill predictions and actual outcomes. Of the many culprits associated with underperformance, several that we have seen include the lack of technical excellence, the inability to extract effective estimates from technical excellence, and various biases that impact the estimators and their managers. To help build an understanding and effectiveness of the Assurance role in the last decade we have established a network of people from scores of companies involved in various assurance functions. This paper summarizes some of the key attributes from our observations, documented survey data collected, and what we believe is a best practice process. Assurance teams may simply be ad hoc team members that gather as needed or a dedicated core team with an extended network of subject matter experts with very formal scheduling and reporting functions. Assurance teams appear to be most effective when: (1) the Assurance team and associated contributors are experienced across several basins and plays; (2) they have the flexibility to assess an opportunity at various stages of technical maturity, often involving early engagement with the project teams; (3) they provide structured, consistent and timely feedback that is archived for post-well assessment; (4) management and staff are aligned and support the assurance process.