E&P enterprises should take the lead to attract students to geosciences, besides ensuring quality education
THE exploration success of an oil company hinges on the quality of its geoscientific work. A team of brilliant geoscientists and a drive towards ‘More Technology per Barrel’ would be the key to success.
In recent time, significant new hydrocarbon discoveries, like the deep-water reservoirs in Brazil’s Santos basin, Venezuela’s “extra-heavy” oil in the Orinoco Belt, the oil sands in Canada, the Kwanza basin in Angola, and the shale gas/shale oil finds in the USA, have led to substantial accretion to the global hydrocarbon resource base. But the petroleum exploration landscape in India has been singularly devoid of any giant hydrocarbon discovery beyond the offshore Bombay High find in the west coast almost four decades back.
While numerous small-to-medium, including a few fairly large size discoveries, have been made over the years, proven oil & gas reserves in India continues to be abysmally low by global standards. These new discoveries have helped the domestic industry maintain the overall production levels by compensating for natural decline from old matured fields. But the end result was stagnation in domestic oil and gas production levels. It also created a poor perception about India’s hydrocarbon prospectivity.
Despite the various government initiatives to liberalise the exploration & production sector, large parts of the country’s sedimentary basins remain unexplored, or poorly explored at best. In order to accelerate petroleum exploration and enhance oil & gas production, apart from enabling policy initiatives, what is needed is a major thrust in imparting quality education in geosciences, petroleum engineering and related disciplines.
Mitigating exploration risks has to be seen through the prism of improving understanding of the entire petroleum system. To do this, oil companies must have a pool of excellent geoscientists equipped with cutting-edge technology. The issue assumes added significance because of the impending “Great Crew Change”—refers to the fact that a high percentage of the experienced workforce would retire in the next few years.
This mass retirement would imply a sudden and irretrievable loss of a reservoir of skill, knowledge and expertise which will have to be filled up by young talents.
However, geoscience doesn’t seem to be a career option of choice among bright students. The E&P industry needs to counter ill-conceived campaigns about its operations leading to environmental degradation, which creates a negative image about the “dirty” oil industry that young students abhor.
The E&P industry, in union with professional bodies and associations, need to promote geosciences amongst young students as an exciting and rewarding career option. The industry should also step up efforts towards enhancing industry-academia collaboration to improve the quality of education imparted. The earlier it is done, the better it would be.
By NM Borah
The author is technical member (petroleum & natural gas) Appellate Tribunal for Electricity