Anadarko is among the largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies in the world, totalling 2.4 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BBOE) of proven reserves in 2007. Its notable presence in the Gulf of Mexico, where it holds the mantle of the largest independent deepwater producer, offers the company a mature platform to fine-tune various technology practices for use in the offshore exploration process.
Embracing that opportunity, Texas-based Anadarko has developed a focus on seismic imaging with a distinct aim of obtaining clearer data in a shorter time frame and more cost effectively.
In particular, the company is applying a processing technology to seismic data that produces images of the subsurface area in regions where standard techniques have previously failed.
Likewise, Anadarko has significantly increased the contribution of seismic images to exploration by using Sparse 3D surveying techniques. The company claims the technology fundamentally reduces the risks associated with drilling exploration and delineation wells by providing a complete structural picture of the subsurface – a result not possible with 2D technology. Sparse 3D technology also reportedly reduces the amount of time needed to reach production by up to a year by compressing the time needed for seismic projects.
Now, as the company begins to diversify its exploration intentions to sites around the globe such technology practises will also be adapted for use in a variety of locations. Alex Hawkes talks to Anadarko's vice president of exploration, Philip Loader, who is responsible for the company's overseas exploration activities, which encompass North Africa, Middle East, China and South East Asia.
Alex Hawkes: How vital has deep sea exploration been to Anadarko in the last decade?
Philip Loader: We have been involved in the deepwater exploration of the Gulf of Mexico since the turn of this decade. The Gulf of Mexico is where we have pioneered a number of our activities and practises, which has ultimately allowed us to develop skills and expertise in areas such as seismic imaging.
We are now currently in a phase of transferring those skills and practises in order to apply them elsewhere around the world.
AH: Roughly how long can a deep-sea exploration project last and what are some of the processes involved?
PL: It all depends on what part of the world the deep-sea exploration takes place. Deep-sea projects do not take two or three years – the process normally takes anywhere from between three to five years. However, in the Gulf of Mexico this turn-around time tends to be quicker for Anadarko than elsewhere.
Normally a decision is made to commence exploration work and then a period of appraisal follows to understand whether the project is commercially viable.
AH: And what role does seismic technology play in the whole process?
PL: It is especially important to our operations in the Gulf of Mexico and is becoming increasingly more so in the international arena as well. Subsurface imaging is a core skill at Anadarko and it has continued to evolve over recent years. It is a great method for not only de-risking a prospect, but also identifying it in the first place.
Of course, this form of technology is widespread throughout the industry. But at Anadarko we have our own geophysical technology group which specialises in geo physics and has added incredible value to some of our imagery.
There is a great deal of research going on within the industry to develop new technology and Anadarko is a first mover when it comes to this, especially with seismic technology where we have a number of industrial partners.
AH: How has the technology influenced your exploration work outside of the Gulf of Mexico, such as the two discoveries in Ghana during 2007?
PL: Ghana is fundamentally a stratigraphic track programme. The 3D technology and 3D seismic technology is therefore vital in identifying the stratigraphic tracks – i.e. locating the vertical positioning of the rocks and understanding where to position the well.
Excellent quality seismic imaging and appropriate risking methodology is core competence in order to make stratigraphic traps work not only in Ghana but in our future work elsewhere.
AH: So in what way is seismic technology transferable across the world?
PL: In the Gulf of Mexico we have developments that operate in a wide range of water depths – the most recent one being in more than 8,000ft of water. We therefore possess core competencies in deepwater drilling that we can confidently use to explore Brazil, West Africa, Mozambique, China and Indonesia. We also have the skills in-house to develop that asset and maximise its value.
AH: Finally, how will such a fierce focus on technology be hindered by global economic conditions?
With the rise of global oil prices there has been a simultaneous increase in service costs both for rigs and other oil-related services. Anadarko is trying to mitigate that risk through the appropriate application of relevant technologies. In order to do this it is essential we collaborate with governments and other international oil companies.
We will continue to be at the forefront of technology by investing wherever we see possible.