We are heading into another winter operations season, and it appears as if the industry is going to be at least as busy as last year, and perhaps even more so. For those of you who are planning winter programs now is the time to ensure you’re maximizing the benefits that can be obtained from solid front end work and pre-planning.
A number of issues determine how effectively your exploration budget will be utilized - how much “bang for the buck” you’re going to get. One of the foremost of these issues is the planning you put into your program before front end personnel actually get into the field. Over the years, we’ve noticed some problems that seem common, or that crop up from year to year. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of a half-dozen points that you may wish to review, in order to help avoid some of the more easily remedied pitfalls:
1. Scout your program.
This is one of those things we just can’t say too many times. Proper scouting ensures that you utilize appropriate operational techniques, that line and access locations are optimally placed, and that the number of gaps in your data is realistically minimized. For instance, you might find that new surface features have cropped up since your map or air photography data was last updated. Scouting is the only valid way to avoid an unexpected encounter with a new feedlot, pipeline, or subdivision. At some point during the governmental review of your program application, a regulating authority will likely ask you to justify the techniques you’ve proposed. A solid scout, backed up with photographs, will always help present your case. If a significant amount of the program involves freehold land, and the time allows, we would advise permitting the program before making application, and this can double as your scout saving a second trip. Permit problems (which often mean program revision) can be ironed out prior to application, saving the cost of revisions. In summary; good scouting will allow you to intelligently bid the job, help secure the conditions of approval needed, and provide the best product possible for any given circumstance.
2. Verify your mapping.
As a project leader or department head, it is important that you take the time to do a final review of the mapping, prior to submitting it to government for approval. An oversight can result in a program plotted and approved in the wrong location, perhaps miles from where it was intended. Remember too, that when you sign an approval application (as you need do in British Columbia); you are indicating that you’ve reviewed the content, and are making a commitment to the terms and techniques being proposed.
3. Don’t limit your options.
Leave flexibility in the operational techniques available to you. One common situation is to commit to using specialized equipment (such as heli-drills or mulchers), only to find out that they are not available when you need them. This can sometimes be mitigated by negotiating a wider line width in your application. You then have the option of going narrower if you wish, or to use wider cutting equipment if that’s all that is available. It is important to recognize that wider lines while sometimes easier to maneuver and cheaper to cut can add significantly to the timber damage appraisal. These factors should be considered in the decision process.
Do you hope to have recording completed by break-up, but you’re not quite sure if it will actually happen? You can solve the dilemma by applying for, and getting approval for operations in both frozen and non-frozen ground conditions. This takes a bit more planning, but cuts down on those sleepless nights in March.
4. Familiarize yourself with regulatory restrictions
Make sure you’re aware of and plan for regulatory restrictions such as wildlife timing closures, habitat zones, protected areas, or other restricted access areas.
In British Columbia, most programs will have to be reviewed by a professional archaeologist, and a mitigation plan may have to be developed. Many programs in Saskatchewan require an Environmental Impact Assessment be done prior to the granting of your referral, and in Alberta we are now required to do an increasing number of heritage or environmental assessments. Also, you should make allowance for Native consultation, which can significantly stretch timeframes. While we have become accustomed to this in BC, it is still relatively new to many in Alberta, and the process is in some respects still evolving.
5. Make sure you’ve allowed for all costs.
Research is the best defense against unexpected cost. Unless you’re intimately familiar with an area, it pays to put some time and effort into examining issues that may require additional expenditure. Local contractors, project management companies, and government can all give you a heads up, if you take the time to inquire. For instance, if you encounter stakeholders that expect compensation (justifiable or not), it helps to do your negotiating beforehand, rather than when the crew is waiting on standby.
You should also check to ensure you’re aware of any third party contractor costs, such as wildlife monitoring or post-completion archaeology inspections, or statutory holiday increases.
6. Consider the details.
You might have put a generous amount of time into your project planning, trying to identify all foreseeable obstacles, and obtained government approval with no problem. But, has someone remembered to book hotel or camp accommodation? Travel time is non-productive and expensive.
Or, consider that your approval requires known archaeological sites to be flagged prior to program commencement. Have you allowed for the time it will take to do that before you can start cutting? Giving some thought to the small details smoothes out those little wrinkles that could otherwise quickly turn into huge (read costly) problems.
The reality is that the consequence for rushed or poorly planned operations can be dire. From all of us at Complete Exploration Services Ltd., have a well thought out and profitable winter!
This article was a collaborative effort by Brock Hassell, Ken Robinson, Cecelia Gowen and Darrell Daniels all of the newly formed Complete Exploration Services Ltd. (aka CompleteXS).
About the Author(s)
Brock Hassell has worked in the geophysical industry for 30 years and owned managed a consulting firm for the past 22 and has been involved in nearly 7000 seismic programs over his career. He has extensive experience with stakeholder and government negotiations, has been a director of the CAGC and is currently the assistant director of finance with the CSEG. Brock is filling the role of Managing Director at Complete Exploration Services.
Cecelia Gowen has been working in the Oil and Gas Industry for approximately 20 years. She started her career in the Natural Gas Marketing sector, securing the necessary permits for the transportation of gas down the pipelines and across the country. After 8 years, she moved her talents to Seismic Exploration and begun in the capacity of securing Government Approvals for Seismic Activity. For the last 18 years, Cecelia has continued in this role and has built and developed great working relationships with various Government agencies. She is continually educating herself to the ever changing needs, regulations and environmental concerns that the Geophysical Industry is faced with and continues to build and strengthen relationships, with Government, clients and the Industry alike. Cecelia is a director of Complete Exploration Services.
Ken Robinson has been involved in virtually every facet of the seismic business over the last 30 years. He has managed operations on all continents, and has been involved in the design, acquisition and implementation of hundreds of operations. His diverse background includes operations onshore, marine, TZ, jungle, Arctic, urban, and desert. His experience includes supervision, management, contract development and administration, data management, 3D seismic techniques, parameter design, Vibroseis and helicopter portable operations. Ken is a Director of Complete Exploration Services.
Darrell Daniels as well as being a licensed land agent, Darrell has more than 20 years industry experience with project planning, approvals and mapping. He has lived in Fort St. John for the last decade, and manages operations in North East B.C. for Complete Exploration Services.