- Copyright © 2000 Society of Exploration Geophysicists
These are hardly the best of times for the geosciences.
But clouds have a silver lining for those who seek it.
An industry in transition
The energy industry continues to reel under an onslaught of corporate mergers, restructurings, re-engineerings, downsizings, and rightsizings, which appear to be unaffected by oil price fluctuations. By now, these upheavals have likely touched each and every one of us in some way. By whatever name one may choose to describe what is going on, the net result has been a significant reduction in traditional employment opportunities for geoscientists. While the oil and service companies continue hiring (at a decreased level) for operational jobs, the picture is most uncertain for those interested in long-range, basic exploration R&D. Major oil companies and large service companies have significantly reduced their in-house basic R&D, and it is unlikely that they will reverse course in the near future, if ever. This was made expressly clear by the senior technology managers who participated in the Technology Forum “Geosciences R&D in a Low-Price World Marked by Acquisitions and Mergers” at SEG's 1999 Annual Meeting.
Meanwhile, alternative energy sources have not yet become serious competitors for oil and gas. This means that the global economy's dependence on hydrocarbons must continue for some time to come. As exploration moves into increasingly difficult areas (e.g., deepwater and polar environments), new and technically more challenging problems will have to be solved. Interest is growing in the use of geophysical methods to monitor reservoir production over time (time-lapse, or 4-D) and to extract more information from geophysical data (shear waves, electromagnetics, gravity). Where will the necessary basic R&D be done? Most major oil companies no longer appear willing to perform this basic research on their own. The large service companies are trying to retain a critical mass in scientific personnel, yet …