Surprise! A Giant New Field

The oil industry is full of surprises. One of the biggest this year has been the discovery of a giant field, not in a new frontier, but in that well-worn old area – the Norwegian North Sea.
This article appeared in Vol. 8, No. 5 - 2011


The Transocean Leader drilling the Aldous Major South discovery in the Norwegian North Sea. Source: Harald Pettersen/Statoil  
As we discuss in this issue of GEO ExPro, the Avaldsnes/Aldous Major South discovery, with potentially between 1.2 to 2.6 Bbo recoverable, is possibly the largest find anywhere in the world this year – and this in the middle of a mature petroleum province in a block that has been explored since 1965.  

So what can bring about these surprises? Technology breakthroughs are crucial, with new techniques like gravity gradiometry beginning to come into their own, particularly in hard-to-access frontier areas like East Africa. Good geoscience practice like petroleum system modelling and analysis are also vital. Vast quantities of data are now at hand for the explorationist and the important thing is knowing how to deal with this data and combine the different fragments of knowledge gleaned from it. The basic principles of geology and geophysics are unchanged, but our ability to use the tools at our disposal has improved.  

Technology is important, but the human imagination remains a vital component for successful exploration. Which is why training and mentoring are so important for young people entering the profession, to develop their natural curiosity and expand their skill sets across the range of the industry. It is up to those of us who have been around for a number of years to make sure that our knowledge is spread to these newcomers. They will be the ones to either develop the future generation of tools, or use them to spot the next Avaldsnes.


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Great credit must be given to the many people from both academic and organisational backgrounds who have spent many man-years – and millions of dollars – in continuing to develop these systems. It has often required new and innovative ideas, but also a lot of persistence and basic hard slog.