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1st Subsurface – developing subsurface databases

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

1st Subsurface Oilfield Management, a consultancy in Aberdeen, is developing subsurface databases covering producing and abandoned fields, unsanctioned discoveries, prospects and leads in all the UKCS oil and gas basins and now internationally.

The databases can be used to assess drilling prospects, and find analogues for unsanctioned discoveries and producing oil and gas fields.

A particular application is within the outer Moray Firth, where these databases are being used by the Outer Moray Firth Special Interest Group (OMF SIG). Here, a range of licensees have come together to generate the first sub-basin level Maximising Economic Recovery (MER) Area Plan for the UK, using the databases to assess potential, generate new opportunities and drive collaborative strategic plans.

The oil and gas industry is well known for generating data, which is then forgotten, says Paul Lindop, infrastructure and commercial lead with 1st Subsurface. The databases start by bringing together all publicly available data for the basin into a single source, to make it easier to work with and look for opportunities to improve economic recovery.

Where available multiple historical interpretations of the same prospect are recorded and made accessible, the user to make their own judgement, rather than have to work with the judgement of the database creator, as is often the case, Mr Lindop says. 'This objectivity is highly valued by system users as is the fact that all the data gathered has an audit trail, so the user is able to validate the data point themselves.'

The approach could be considered knowledge as a service, Mr Lindop says. It is similar to a Wikipedia page, where subject matter experts curate and present the most useful information about a subject in a way which is easy to work with, using multiple information sources, and continually updating everything, with 1st Subsurface acting as the curator/moderator.

Whilst the work to date has used data already publically available, 1st Subsurface are working with subscribers and other parties to release further non-commercial data to be accessed through the service.

There are software tools to assess the fields, discoveries and prospects. For example you can plot them on a range of predesigned or custom cross plots to view assumptions in context of all related data, allowing rapid comparisons to be made between opportunities being considered and all other fields and discoveries in a geologic basin.

Functionality will be developed to allow inclusion of restricted data in the analytical tools. In this case, the system will allow data points to be included in the analytics, but without being able to trace back to the confidential source. Moderated by 1st Subsurface, these additional data sets are intended to enrich analysis and support better decision making, without compromising a client company's commercial position.

Subsurface data is currently available for almost 600 Producing or Decommissioned Fields, over 400 Discoveries and over 1000 Prospects and Leads in the UKCS and growing daily!

The technical director of the company is Mike Cooper, former subsurface manager for Centrica and VP exploration and subsurface with DEO Petroleum. Infrastructure and commercial lead, Paul Lindop has worked with a range of companies in managing director, asset and commercial management roles. Maurice Bamford is former exploration and geoscience manager at Talisman (now Repsol-Sinopec) and EnQuest.

The company also works with subject matter experts in geoscience, reservoir and petroleum engineering, production technology and commercial oil and gas issues.

Outer Moray Firth project

The Outer Moray Firth (OMF) is a prolific oil and gas producing area North and East of Inverness. Around 25 oil and gas companies are active in the basin, with 79 producing fields. Recent licence round awards now make up more than 50% of the licenced acreage so it remains an area of interest across the life cycle.

In recognition of this, the OMF SIG has been formed with the specific aim of generating a Strategic Area Plan - aiming to assess how big the 'MER pie' could be. It then formulates strategic plans to maximise the chance of achieving that pie.

Before the oil price crash, it was common for companies to put together 'joint industry projects' to deliver projects such as the OMF SIG, with staff from different companies contributing time. However, with the current market conditions, companies do not have spare staff capacity. So solution has been for 1st Subsurface to take on the bulk of the work and only drawing on the licensees for governance and subject matter expertise in workshops.

The SIG members span the life cycle from Promote Licensee to Mature Asset Operator, providing a unique full spectrum set of perspectives on opportunities and barriers for MER.

As with any strategic planning activity, you need two things - a clarity on the goal and an assessment of where you are. The databases the company has put together provides an assessment of where you are. For the OMF they include a wide range of subsurface data parameters on 79 producing fields, 80 unsanctioned discoveries and over 400 different prospects and lead evaluations, all available with references to their source documentation, including the interpretations behind them where available.

The service should be ideal for a company considering setting up operations in the region, wanting all the information available on their computer desktops in a user-friendly format and at a competitive price, Mr Lindop says.

It will help companies do more with their subsurface teams by avoiding the repeated process of finding open and context data 'yet again', and allowing them to build on this base layer of data to add genuine value and get maximum benefit from the industry's years of cumulative experience in a basin.

Further information about the Outer Moray Firth project is online at

External Links
» Outer Moray Firth project

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