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As major new hydrocarbon projects begin to decline, a fresh approach to subsurface thinking could unlock quick win profits from assets already sitting in company databases, argues Senior Business Manager Andrew Mulder.

There’s no doubt that, even with the push to sustainable energy, the petroleum industry is going to be with us for a number of years to come. There is still much the oil and gas sectors can contribute.

But the high-cost ventures that have typified past exploration and drilling are slowing down. Increasingly, both existing large national companies and incoming smaller players are looking at marginal fields – exploring around existing infrastructure, or where there might be deposits that have not been fully investigated.

Turning profits before time runs out

The importance of these marginal programs is that they can be relatively cheap to get up and running, and can recover their production costs within a tight window, before the timeline for hydrocarbon-based energy draws to a close. This is a deadline the more ‘epic’ projects, with their massive expenditure and lengthy time-to-profit, would struggle to meet.

However, this more agile, rapid-moving exploration requires a different way of thinking. Decisions need to be made in weeks not months to take advantage of new opportunities, and bring them online with minimum delay.

Competition for the most profitable plays can be fierce, and the prize will often go to the organisation with the fastest reaction time. To do that you need to be confident in your assessment by being able to run a variety of models quickly, testing multiple options, and feeling certain of which is the most appropriate choice – and that it works for your business – before going ahead with your bid.

While a lot of the dedicated exploration software used by the petroleum industry has been highly effective for past schemes, it is not always nimble enough to cope with this new order. Models may be detailed, but slow to build or update as fresh data comes in. The workflow and processes can be narrowly defined, and room to manoeuvre or ‘think outside the box’ is limited. There is a requirement for costly seismic data and licences can also be expensive, presenting a challenge to lower budget programs.

Faster reconnaissance, and not so data hungry

It’s in these areas that we believe Leapfrog Energy has a great deal to offer. The rapid data processing and visualisation tools it applies to subsurface analysis have been built from 30 years of experience working with the energy industry. It accelerates reconnaissance and QA workflows. Even the sparsest of well, geophysical and legacy data can be turned into robust 3D conceptual models for prospects or plays. (Making the most of legacy data can be particularly important in marginal exploration where the answers you want – and perhaps the only answers you need – may already be sitting in a database from years back.)

In short, Leapfrog Energy enables hydrocarbon companies to move quickly, intuitively and flexibly.

It’s comfortable with a huge range of industry data types; unites geology, flow and numerical models in one place; and allows multidisciplinary teams to work easily together, breaking down the silos that frequently slow up decision making and action taking.

It’s also as applicable to wind and geothermal as it is to oil and gas, so energy businesses looking to diversify will have a solution that can sit across all disciplines on the same licence.

This new world of squeezing more from the margins and having a tighter turning circle for ideas and action is where Leapfrog Energy has been designed to make a difference. We’ll discuss how it can do that in more detail, in future blogs.