Today is my 30th anniversary in the upstream oil & gas business. The market conditions on January 6, 1986 were very similar to what they are today. An oversupply of oil was causing low oil prices, massive industry layoffs, and rapidly declining rig counts. Just like today, very few opportunities were available for recent petroleum engineering graduates, but luckily I had secured employment with NL McCullough as a Cased Hole Wireline Engineer.
In 1986, the oil patch was a much different place than it is today. Exploration focus was on conventional reservoirs and 3D seismic interpretation was in its infancy. While wells were drilled directionally, especially offshore, no one had drilled a horizontal well, and no company had even considered completing a well in shale. Computers at E&P’s were mainframe behemoths accessed via a dumb terminal and PC’s were absent on office desks. There was no internet, email, or cell phones!
A few years later, I started on a journey to introduce new services and technology to E&P companies via the role of a sales professional with Weatherly Laboratories (PENCOR). My goal was simple; show E&P’s a better way. Through suggesting solutions to problems that add tremendous value, and provide better service than competitors, I could truly be a partner in their success. The result was and still is a high ROI for the E&P, profitability for my employer and a good living for my family. Eventually I started managing other salespeople, coaching them on how to utilize my methods to be successful in the oil patch.
Many technical changes have taken place in the upstream oil business since 1986. The majority of these changes are in exploration, drilling, and production. New seismic interpretation techniques allow us to further reduce exploration drilling risk. Horizontal wells have allowed a single well to access large areas of a reservoir. Oil and gas production from shale formations has shifted the world hydrocarbon supply dynamics, creating a true global market for oil and natural gas. Reservoir simulation and economic analysis can be run from a PC. EOR methods such as CO2 injection, thermal injection, microbes, chemical injection and pulse-plasma technology are allowing us to recover more oil from conventional reservoirs than ever thought possible.
During my hundreds of visits to E&P companies, I’ve noticed that many advances in technology have not reached their back office. It’s frustrating to see that the legacy systems created decades ago by E&P’s and outdated vendors are still in use, and require large teams of people to run them. New technology, such as shared resources via the cloud and cloud based software (multi-tenant deployment), has the potential to allow E&P’s to drastically reduce their software, hardware, and IT personnel costs.
Much to my surprise, landmen, unlike geophysicists, geologists and engineers, have not had access to commercially available software tools. Therefore, landmen have resorted to using spreadsheets and paper in attempt to manage the tremendous amount of data associated with their job responsibilities. The result has been inefficient processes and misguided decision making, costing E&P’s millions of dollars.
Five and one-half years ago, I was introduced to a company whose goal was to show E&P’s a better way to acquire, manage and divest land and leases. Realizing that bringing the land departments of E&P companies into the computer age was the last “digital frontier” of the oil and gas business, I joined iLandMan. During this time, it has been rewarding to witness the landmen utilizing a software tool to do a better job. The results for E&P’s is a saving up 30% of their land budget.
A heartfelt “Thank You” to everyone along the way who allowed me into their offices to share with them “a better way”. Together, we have added tremendous value to our companies and continued to improve the upstream oil and gas business as a whole. I consider myself lucky to have been a part of this technical revolution and look forward to adding value to customers for many more years to come.
T.J. Westerhaus III – Vice President of Sales – iLandMan