Dry holes! Who needs them? What do you do if you’ve drilled one? How are you going to deal with one and your prospect doesn’t turn out the way you expected? These are all questions that face every geologist in our industry who is doing any kind of exploration, and they even happen in development scenarios!
First of all, we all need those dry holes (preferably those drilled by someone else)! They are the data points we all use in our exploration efforts. Just think of the vast area between producing fields that comprise the area in which we conduct most of our exploration. About the only source of data in those areas (other than geophysical data) is the dry hole.
After you deal with that sick feeling in your stomach that you get when you find out your well is dry, there are a couple of choices you have to make. The worst one you can make is try to sweep the thing under the rug. The best idea, I think, is to spend the time to try and figure out what went wrong. Nothing beats the learning curve you will climb when you “post-mortem” that dry hole. You had a hypothesis when you came up with the prospect and if it doesn’t work out, the Scientific Process requires you to refine or alter the hypothesis. This is a great opportunity to expand your knowledge of what doesn’t work, so you don’t make that mistake again, and if you make it a part of the body of science (that is – talk about it or publish it), you are helping to advance the science. Once you have figured out what went wrong, that may lead you to a refined prospect area or target, or it may force you to abandon the concept. Either way, you will be better off to spend the time to figure out what went wrong.
Nothing beats the feeling of having a successful exploration well (and good development wells aren’t bad either)! They are even better if they are successful for the reasons you based them on. I know a lot of people who say “I’d rather be lucky than good”, but luck runs out! The only way that exploration strategy works is if you make your own luck by being good at our science. Remember, luck is serendipitous but good is repeatable.
So why all the philosophizing about dry holes? When I was discussing speaking topics with our December speaker, Bill Ambrose of the Bureau of Economic Geology, he gave me a couple of choices of talks. He had written a couple of articles, one about the East Texas area and the other about Louisiana. I was inclined toward the East Texas talk, but he was not sure he wanted to present something that didn’t work out too well economically. I told Bill that part of what we deal with in the oil and gas business doesn’t work out too well, and that people need to see the failures (or under performers) as well as the successes. Please don’t let this dampen you enthusiasm for attending the luncheon, because this may help you refine, alter or reject some idea about one of your prospects. Bill’s talk will be on The Shelf-to-Slope Transition in the Upper Cretaceous Woodbine Group in Northern Tyler and Southeastern Polk Counties, Texas: Facies Variability and Controls on Reservoir Quality. His talk will be at The Cascades Country Club, at 11:30 (+/-) on Wednesday, Dec. 16th. Please make your reservations at our website, and I look forward to seeing you there. If I don’t have a chance at the meeting, or if you aren’t able to attend, I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
President, East Texas Geological Society