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Re-evaluating the Relationship between Consultant Companies, Clients, Academia and Contractors: One Consultant Company's Experience

Daniel L. Orange1, Arnold S. Orange2, and Steven Constable3
1 AOA Geophysics Inc, Moss Landing, CA
2 AOA Geomarine Operations, Austin, TX
3 Scripps Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA

Historically, the relationship between a consultant company, the client, and the acquisition contractors over which the consultant company has oversight has ranged from collegial to confrontational, with the latter more typical. Each leg of the triangle is usually out to maximize its own return, which often leads to inherent conflicts between data quality and quantity, the timeliness and thoroughness of interpretation, not to mention the cost.

AOA Geophysics recently sold a portion of its operation to a major oil field service company. The part of AOA that was sold was developed and grown through an unusual relationship between clients, contractors, and academia. In the mid-1990's, AOA Geophysics worked with academics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to determine whether magnetotelluric (MT) data could be acquired on the continental shelf at frequencies appropriate to exploration. AOA, at that time, established a licensing relationship for the commercial applications of marine EM technology. Exploiting Scripps' development of a commercially viable MT/EM receiver, and a source from University of Southampton, the Controlled-Source Electro-Magnetic method was applied to hydrocarbon exploration by several major oil companies (because, unlike MT, the geometry of the CSEM field is favorable for the detection of resistive layers such as hydrocarbon reservoirs). The initial tests were a success, and led to three contractors, world-wide, pursuing commercial applications.

In contrast to the other contractors, AOA formed a relationship with a very large international oil company, whereby that company first tested the technology over known discoveries and seismic lookalikes that were not commercially successful. In this presentation, we will discuss ”lessons learned”, whereby changing the relationships between the client, consultant, academia, and contractor allowed all to maximize their value in an unprecedented fashion through cooperative and aggressive application of a new technology.