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Building a World-Class Exploration Team: Emphasis on Training and Mentoring

Since 2004, TNK-BP exploration success and the volumes discovered have steadily increased. To a great extent this is due to the skill and dedication of our staff in Moscow and Tyumen and to adaption of a philosophy of 'exploration by choice,' whereby the best prospects are drilled first. However, our future exploration success can be dramatically enhanced by systematically training and developing our staff in the latest tools and concepts in reservoir prediction and quantification, seismic imaging and petroleum systems.

In 2005, TNK-BP Exploration management initiated training critical to developing a common language and process. Communication is perhaps the most difficult aspect of working in a multi-cultural organization like TNK-BP.

This is particularly true regarding technical tools and exploration methods and philosophies. Soviet exploration methods developed differently from those used in many parts of the Western world. The collapse of the Soviet economy in the early to mid-1990s also created a drain at the university level on young professors. Without youthful professors and new ideas, many universities failed to develop courses that kept pace with technical changes.

In addition, much formal education has been in highly focused specialty areas. Geologists have seldom learned seismic interpretation, for example, and geophysicists have received little training on cores, outcrops or depositional systems. Even worse, TNK-BP is an amalgamation of over 600 subdivisions with a workforce of 70,000, whose employees exhibit a wide variety of managerial and work styles. The result has been some significant gaps in understanding of technical and business processes in at least four core areas:
  1. Sequence stratigraphy and reservoir characterization from seismic and well logs;
  2. Seismic reservoir quantification from rock property modeling;
  3. Petroleum systems modeling of source to reservoir migration at a basin and reservoir scale;
  4. Ability of geologists, geophysicists and engineers to fully understand the basics of their team-members' discipline.

Following the merger of BP, Amoco and Arco in the late 1990s, BP faced a similar problem. Standards in place in the pre-merger companies were replaced overnight with a BP governance and technical philosophy foreign to over 50 percent of the staff. As a result, BP has developed '21st Century' courses which every geologist, engineer and geophysicist is required to take. The result has been development of a common language and philosophy which has greatly enhanced technical teamwork and success rates.

TNK-BP exploration in 2004 challenged our staff to become 'the best exploration company in the world by 2009.' It is a lofty goal, but with hard work and good training and processes, we have a chance. Combined formal courses and subsurface workshops Starting in 2005, TNK-BP embarked on a similar journey, bringing BP's petroleum systems, geophysics, stratigraphy and structural geology courses to Russia. Russian geologists from BP have assisted with most of the courses, which are taught in both English and Russian, with all materials translated. The popularity of these courses has caused the exploration group to increase the number from four classes in 2005 to a dozen in 2007 (Fig. 1). The budget for workshops and training has increased to nearly $2 mln in 2007 and we will have executed nearly 22 years' worth of training in three years as a result. Advanced courses in reservoir modeling, core description, field courses and seismic rock property modeling enhance the fundamental courses introduced three years ago.

In addition, we also realized that course-work without practical experience had only limited value. As a result, we started holding subsurface workshops, reinforcing the concepts with work on real data and prospects. All teams have now had practical experience with GDE (paleogeographic map) construction, petroleum systems modeling and exploration risk methods which continue to shed light on the prospective potential of each of our areas.

These workshops are essential for us to develop true world-class specialists embedded in every team. Equally important is having the rest of the team understand fully the technology used by their counterparts and to be able to ask the right questions of the right people in the team. Increasingly, the roles of engineers, geologists and geophysicists will blur as knowledge of these disciplines increases among all staff members.

Mentoring is a big part of this process. We have contracted with a number of 'world-class' experts in sedimentology, petroleum systems and seismic facies mapping who routinely visit Tyumen to work in one- or two-week blocks with individuals and teams. They serve in a coaching and consulting role, but each visit and each workshop produces more confident and capable TNNC geoscientists.

TNNC's core warehouse provides an outstanding facility for examining rocks, seismic, maps and having group discussions about subsurface geology. Specialists like George Pemberton, a world-renowned stratigraphy expert, spend two weeks in Tyumen every two months working with the same teams and individuals. Specialists from consulting companies like VNIGRI (All Russia Petroleum Research Exploration Institute, St. Petersburg) are also involved and receive hands-on coaching as they work on the detailed facies, surfaces and sequences in the wells being examined.

Seismic specialists, geologists, log analysts and engineers are involved during different phases of these visits and each subsequent workshop builds in difficulty on the prior work. During the intervening two-month gap, the team can continue to advance its understanding via routine work required to meet business objectives.

Thus the Uvat core data has shed significant insight on reservoir variability and paleogeographic maps and seismic attributes. The core examinations eliminate guess-work as to the log and seismic facies. Coupled with biostratigraphic and petroleum systems data, a wealth of highly accurate data, in the hands of highly skilled teams, greatly reduces uncertainty in both exploration and production.

In some zones believed to be non-marine channels two years ago are now clearly understood to be estuarine valley fills and tidal channels. At least six new facies have been identified and, when the facies are posted on a 3D seismic attribute map, the geometry, producing characteristics and connectivity become clear. The new models are substantially different from the earlier geological ones. External BP reviewers and consultants have often commented about the 'explosive and rapid changes taking place in TNK-BP.' Each visit brings more admiration for our staff's ability to learn, work hard and develop better teamwork.

As we learn from one another, and challenge and learn from our highly talented consultants, we move closer and closer to that dream of being the best exploration company in the world. To quote Dr. Chris Cornford after a petroleum systems review in February, "I've seldom seen anywhere in the world this many individuals in so many teams who have a fundamental grasp of this subject and learn so quickly when introduced to new concepts."

TNK-BP management is excited about the future as our talented, hard-working staff continues to acquire new skills in this innovative program of formal training followed by extensive hands-on workshops with real data.

Ключевые слова: geology, company, Russia, petroleum
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