ExxonMobil (Exxon) continues to bang the technology drum. Steve Cassiani, head of upstream research claimed in a recent webcast, that its R&D spend is 70% above a peer group of ChevronTexaco, Shell and BP. R&D is ‘stewarded with the same discipline as the rest of the business’ and has resulted in significant increase in return on capital employed (ROCE). ROCE was 16% in 2003 vs. 12% for the peer group.
Cassiani lifted the veil on a new, patented electromagnetic prospecting technology. Exxon’s Remote Reservoir Resistivity Mapping (R3M) is described as a breakthrough 3D EM modeling and imaging technique. Proprietary hardware and interpretation techniques give ‘better characterization of risk and increased exploration success.’
Cassiani also cited Exxon’s multidisciplinary reservoir characterization which leverages patented image enhancement technology. But Exxon’s most heavily used engineering application is the industry’s only ‘next generation’ reservoir simulator, ExxonMobil Power. Over 150 Power models have been built since 2001, with over 500 million barrels of ‘resource impact’ attributed to the simulator.
Proprietary wellbore design techniques have brought ‘trouble free wells.’ Technologically challenging drilling of two extended reach wells on Sakhalin island was virtually trouble-free and saved ExxonMobil the $200 million cost of an additional platform.
Remote hydrocarbon mapping is the holy grail of the exploration business. Has Exxon found a technology to replace seismic? Or will R3M follow Elf’s ‘sniffer’ planes of the 1980s or BP’s aerial seep detection of the 1990s into the ‘historical curiosity’ category?
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