Habit 3: Exploring the 10 Habits

SCA receives many queries about the “The Ten Habits of Highly Successful Oil Finders“. Since applying the best practices that are the foundation of the 10 Habits will help you, or your company, reduce the number of dry holes you drill, SCA has written a column elaborating each of the Habits. Here is the column for Habit 3.

Successful oil finders plan their time and their work in order to ensure accurate interpretations and maps.

You may have heard the quote “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” Unfortunately, in our industry, poor planning does result in dry holes – lots of them! One of the surest ways a company can drill a string of dry holes is to enter a rig commitment before having a portfolio of prospects that have been accurately mapped and approved for drilling. While your manager may be responsible for poor planning, you are responsible for the accuracy and quality of your maps. Rushed interpretations almost always result in poorly mapped prospects. And poorly mapped prospects are poor prospects. Your ability to deliver high quality interpretations and maps will depend on your ability to plan and manage your time.

Generally speaking, projects have deadlines. So when you begin a project you must first decide what work is needed, and when that work is needed. To do that, you, or your manager, must first begin with the end in mind. What decision is needed and what are the costs of that decision? The decision to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to a development project requires a different level of understanding than does a decision to spend tens of millions of dollars to drill a well, or hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy seismic.

As an oil finder, your responsibility is to determine how much work is needed to ensure accurate interpretations and maps.  How many wells do you need to correlate? How much seismic do you need to interpret? How much reservoir engineering data do you need to integrate? How many maps do you need to make? How complicated is the geology of the area you are working in? Are there legacy interpretations you can build on?

Once you have determined how much work is needed to make good quality interpretations you must then determine how much time is needed to make those interpretations. Each of us work at a different pace, so know your pace and set realistic time frames and goals. Once this is done, go back to management and see if the time frame you need fits with the time frame that matches the business needs.

If your business time frame doesn’t meet your workflow time frame, then the workflow must be adjusted. Here the “Law of Diminishing Returns” can serve as a guideline in adjusting the decision point and the workflow.  The Law of Diminishing returns states that the continued application of effort or skill toward a particular project or goal tends to decline in effectiveness after a certain level of result has been achieved. In other words, at a certain point, more effort does not yield proportionately better results.

In our industry an optimal decision is made when all of the available data has been integrated into a series of final maps that are the basis for reserve estimation. Decisions made after this point are usually decisions that managers are agonizing over, or are avoiding, and time spent after the optimal decision point is usually not justified (see chart below).


So begin with the end in mind and tailor your activities to meet deadlines without compromising quality.  So, looking at the graphic again, work with your manager to determine what work is needed to reach a “good” decision point?  Or, alternatively what do you need to do to get past the point of making a bad decision.

One thing that can improve your efficiency as well as the quality of your interpretations is training. SCA has an exciting training line-up featuring short courses tailored to the requirements of upstream professionals.  Review our training calendar and take the next step towards ensuring your oil finding career is a successful one for many years to come.