Romania is one of the oldest hydrocarbon-producing countries in the world, with initial production recorded in 1858. At one time it was the largest petroleum producer in Eastern Europe but the reality now is that domestic oil and gas production are both in long-term decline. That said, the country appears to be positioning itself for a renaissance in exploration as the offshore, particularly the deepwater, is generating widespread industry interest while the onshore is thought to hold significant tight oil and shale gas reserves. With the government committed to boosting domestic production to reduce a reliance on imports, both opportunities are attracting strong interest from a host of international players. The latest initiative involves a new round of bidding due to take place in April 2013, in which the government is offering 15 blocks onshore, mainly on the Moesian Platform in the south of the country, and 15 offshore.
Since the 1950s, geophysical surveys for hydrocarbons in Romania were carried out by ‘The Enterprise for Geological and Geophysical Survey of Hydrocarbons’ (IPGGH), a function within the Ministry of Mines, Oil and Geology. By the mid- 1970s this enterprise had established a strong reputation for using the most up-to-date technology and for keeping abreast of progress in all aspects of geophysical acquisition and processing.
Romania began its privatization process in 1991 when the economic transformation committee implemented expansive general economic reform measures and called for a thorough and speedy privatization of most state-run enterprises, large and small. These ambitious proposals were, however, quickly bogged down by the new democratic process. IPGGH was one of the jewels to emerge from the 1991 privatization program as it became Prospectiuni and in 2000, Prospectiuni became a privately owned company, retaining its base in Bucharest.
Reform to Perform
In 2008 Prospectiuni formed a top management team of international and Romanian experts and specialists, to implement a new strategy of investing in people and in cutting-edge technology and equipment. The main goals were to target new territories and clients and stay ahead of competitors through cost-effective services, complying with the highest international HSEQ standards. Just two years later the company’s aggressive growth strategy had seen a marked expansion of its global market, undertaking projects not just in Romania but also in Bulgaria, Georgia, Morocco, Portugal, Senegal and Tajikistan.
At the end of 2008, the employees in Prospectiuni comprised just two nationalities, Romanian and American, while the company now has specialists from 33 countries. Since 2008, 700 international employees have joined the company, which now boasts 2,500 employees. “Most of our employees are Romanian, but we have been recruiting extensively in countries such as Senegal and Morocco. We try to employ local people from countries where we operate. Every year, we have operations in 8 to 10 countries,” states Gehrig Schultz, CEO of Prospectiuni in an interview for Ziarul Financiar (the most prestigious business publication in Romania).
Today, Prospectiuni is the largest geological and geophysical services company in Romania, maintaining a portfolio of works in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It also provides services for important Romanian entities, such as Petrom, Romgaz and Rompetrol. “Even though the contracts with these strategic clients are bigger than in the past, their contribution to our overall turnover has diminished in the last couple of years. We consider this a great accomplishment because it proves that we have achieved a sustainable growth through new lines of businesses and a wider offer of services, gaining new clients and at the same time keeping our traditional major clients, who remain as important as ever”, declared Gehrig Schultz.
Prospectiuni was the first company to deploy Sercel’s eUnite cableless recording units in Europe, and recently acquired a further 600 channels, increasing the company’s inventory to 4,500 channels and a total channel count of over 30,000. It now has the largest cableless recording capability in Europe, ideal for urban or other areas of difficult data acquisition. The company also established a professional development center in 2012 to train future managers and specialists as it plans to double its size within the next four years.
At the beginning of November 2012 Prospectiuni appointed Andrew Clark to the newly created position of President to manage the day to day business activity of the company. In taking on the new responsibilities Clark commented that the company had a “wealth of growth opportunities in our core petroleum geophysical services business and in emerging areas such as environmental monitoring, mining exploration services and other services to the petroleum industry”. The company’s competitive advantage will be particularly apparent to the industry in the current bidding round, as a number of geological and geophysical studies are available for some of the open blocks. The process will also offer Prospectiuni new business development opportunities with regard to seismic data acquisition, processing and interpretation.
Important Core Strengths
Seismic services are a core strength of Prospectiuni, with the company able to provide field seismic crews fully equipped for 2D, 3D and 4D seismic data acquisition, seismic surveys planning, data quality assurance, in-field processing for data quality, and recording and surveying equipment and maintenance. These crews have a vast experience in operating through various terrain types and deploying a variety of energy sources. The company offers a full range of 2D and 3D seismic data processing and interpretation services using the most advanced equipment and software, along with highly qualified and trained personnel, who have experience in processing both new and old 2D/3D seismic data, applying standard processing in time, as well as in special processing such as AVO Analysis and Attribute Stacks, Horizon Velocity Analysis and 3C Data Processing and Depth Migration.
As Andrew says, “A client from anywhere in the world can be set up with remote access to the company’s processing system with the possibility not only for data visualization but also for running different jobs or performing specific tests.
“Due to our proven track record and vast expertise in the region we often act as an advisory service to companies interested in moving into the country,” Andrew explains. “Based in Bucharest, we can offer them presentations on Romanian geology and information about regional data, as well as very useful general information on costs and timelines for acquiring data in Romania.”
Geology to Environmental Studies
“Another core strength is the provision of geological services, both domestically and internationally, including geological mapping and various prospecting and exploration projects in different lithological and structural contexts,” Andrew adds. “We can provide preliminary assessments of resources and reserves and offer expertise in the field of mineral resources potential in areas less geologically investigated.”
Promediu is the environmental division of Prospectiuni, and carries out environmental laboratory analysis, impact assessments, waste management studies, risk evaluations for contaminants and monitoring programs.
In the geophysical arena, the company is fully equipped to conduct a range of geophysical surveys using non-seismic techniques for hydrocarbon and mineral exploration, as well as environmental and geotechnical studies such as magnetotelluric surveys, DC electrical surveys, gravity surveys and magnetic surveys. These datasets can either be used to map a specific geophysical characteristic to determine a prospective area of interest or can be integrated with seismic, geochemical and other data to provide a complete subsurface model.
From a geochemical perspective the company has established parameters to enable prospecting for hydrocarbons and geothermal water and can provide processing and interpretation of raw geochemical data.
Looking to the Future
“Currently, we are fully engaged in terms of operational capacity, and major investments are underway aiming to increase our working capacity. We plan to double the turnover of the company in the next three years and for this we have to make significant investments and hire more people. We have just signed contracts with Sercel to invest 20 million euros in 2013 alone,” declared Gehrig Schultz. “Our range of services is expanding and at the same time, companies demand better images of the subsurface. We realised that it is more cost-effective to buy equipment rather than rent it,” he added. Based on the investments planned for the next two years, the number of employees is estimated to rise to between 3,000 and 3,500.
One of the biggest achievements for Prospectiuni in 2012 was the growth of the Professional Development Center, as Andrew Clark explained. “Developing people is a prime concern for the company and a prime objective for the management team. Prospectiuni has huge potential, and a solid foundation to build on; this facility is helping us to develop new capabilities and specialists for the future.” Gehrig Schultz, commenting on the significant role of Prospectiuni in building future specialists in the G&G worldwide industry, added, “We have invested in both Prospectiuni’s future and in the geophysical industry’s strength by creating opportunities for geoscientists to develop their skills and knowledge. We actively support student professional societies in Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria and Croatia. Our international teams are working to provide the same opportunities across Africa and Asia.”
Another big challenge is to maintain and continue developing the HSEQ system. Andrew Clark notes: “All Prospectiuni’s management systems are ISO certified, a huge achievement unequaled in the geophysical industry. The next step in developing our HSEQ culture will be the implementation of the Behavior Based Safety Process.”
The company intends to have ten crews in 2013 (up from eight at present), four of which will operate abroad, building to 12 by 2014. “The market for G&G services has been shrinking, especially in Poland, and this means that some of our competitors are targeting the southern Europe countries where we operate. Globally, the market continues to be pretty fragmented, but the niche market we operate on still looks good. We remain focused on South Europe and the Middle East,” says Gehrig Schultz.
Andrew Clark sees prioritization as one significant challenge for the future: “There are so many opportunities for our company to pursue. Selecting the best business opportunities represents a key factor in our future success.”