Deep Roots

In June 2001 Tropical Storm Allison stalled over Houston creating widespread flooding and wind damage. With sustained winds of 95 km/hr and 50 cm of rain Allison did extensive damage and the I10 became a riverway. I was living on Eldridge just south of the I10, and on my street there were some Water Oaks and Short Leaf pines. A Water Oak tree near my place blew over. The Short Leaf pine trees near this Water Oak had deep roots and were not affected.

If we look at a Water Oak tree, it can be a massive tree and its root system can go far beyond the tree, but the roots are shallow. When it rains extensively and the ground becomes saturated, the White Oak tree can blow over under strong winds. They say that trees with deep roots become even stronger with the movement created by strong winds.

By living with deep roots our happiness does not come from our circumstances but from inside. If we don’t have peace on the inside, we will not have peace on the outside. People are affected by how others treat them, not completing something because of another person’s negativity towards what they are doing or doing it poorly just to get it done. Finding that inner peace means what others think doesn’t necessarily matter. Which means we can be open to new things like volunteering at a Drop-in centre, ringing the bell for Salvation Army at Christmas time, or playing a guitar on Stephen Avenue with the proceeds going to United Way. People with deep roots will continue doing what they know is best and will not be swayed by others. Sometimes we say that person has conviction.

With all that has happened in our industry we need to have deep roots and worry less about such things as the Trans-Mountain pipeline that we can’t directly control but instead, focus on what we can achieve, on the successes we can have by doing the best job we can do. There are times we struggle to change the things we cannot change and other times we give up, saying “how can I possibly change that?” because it is easier to be negative than to be positive. We need to remember the Serenity Prayer: in life we need to accept those things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Christmas Season

In life we can go through difficult times that tests us – things like being laid off, losing a loved one, divorce, financial burdens, disease, accident, etc. At this time of year – Christmas – it can be difficult, because we might see all that we don’t have, or we begin to do a year-end reflection and focus on our losses, which magnify sorrow and depression. We can begin to feel sorry for ourselves, become full of self-pity, and there can be added pressure from those around us to be happy though we are not. We need to be real to ourselves, respect how we feel, but sometimes if we have negative feelings they can prevent us from seeing the positive around us. In my life I have noticed when things have been the worst, people around me have been the best. It can be small things like a baby smiling at you, someone offering you a seat on the C-Train, someone holding a door open for you, etc..

A good friend of mine (Pardner) from the Bayou (Morgan City, Louisiana), used to tell me that until I release the bad things in my life there really isn’t any room for the good. It is like a cup, we can only add more liquid if we drain some of the liquid that is in it. This follows the observation that as humans we tend to remember the bad more than the good. We can deliver an awesome speech and fret that we forgot one line.

Maybe this Christmas, if you are having difficulties, try to release the bad. Go visit the Christmas lights; get lost in a mall; stop by a church to hear Christmas carols; watch a kids’ Christmas pageant that maybe slightly cringe-worthy; try new foods or a new restaurant; call an old friend or family member; try to attend a Christmas party in your place of worship or through the group that you volunteer with; try to be with people if you are feeling lonely; and please realize that to survive these difficulties surrounding us we need to have deep roots and that all these difficulties will pass somehow. We never know what tomorrow holds for us and what opportunities are waiting for us by opening a new door.

We each have our difficulties we must deal with. At times we may never know what another person is going through, but eventually we will look back and realize these challenges, these difficulties, add color to our lives. After we have gone through a difficult time we can laugh at it. We can make jokes about: putting bread in Kraft Mac and Cheese to make it more filling; finding 101 ways to serve Ramen noodles, such as adding in vegetables and making it a stir fry; adding Chez Whiz to Chef Boyardee making it cheesier and adding toast as filler; beans on toast with eggs on top. All of these are less than $5 dinners and can be good.

University of Calgary’s Innovation, and Internship Program

Recently I received an email from Rick Warters asking me to help him. I thought to myself, 'let’s go along with this and see where this is going to lead'. Sometimes when we begin a journey, we are not to sure where it will end.

Rick and I met with Dr. David Eaton at the University of Calgary and talked about an innovation program which will begin in the Winter 2019. While we were discussing the innovation program Rick asked me “Can you help me with getting an internship going for the Science Faculty?” It seems sometimes when you help someone they tend to ask you to help with something else.

Rick forwarded me the email he received from Nancy Chibry (Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs and Student Affairs at the University of Calgary's Faculty of Science). She was asking for a letter of support, so I was like, I can do this. Then Rick asked me if we could put together some names of people we know and ask them to send in a letter of support to Nancy.

I went through my LinkedIn contacts and put together a list we could send this email too. Rick also found some and we ended up sending an email out to 34 people about the University of Calgary Internship program. The response was overwhelming, but it took two tries.

In doing this we applied the marketing 20% rule where if we meet with 100 people we will get 20 companies that will ask for a bid and out of that 20% only 5 may say yes. It is tough sometimes but again, having deep roots we know that we will weather the bad and become even stronger by asking why we did not get the bid.

Rick and I are still devoted to getting this internship program for the Faculty of Science, not only the Geosciences but for the other departments (Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Computer Science, Math and Statistics and Physics and Astronomy), and are currently working on this.

Some of you may have seen my attempt to use social media to reach out to folks. If you haven’t noticed we have been doing the same with the RECORDER with the Digital Media Committee (DMC) and RECORDER working together.


We all talk about innovation. To me, innovation is finding a problem, analyzing the problem, finding a solution to the problem and then if possible, marketing the solution to this problem or benefitting from this solution. Sometimes that solution can be very simple. At times the solution is looking at what we have been doing and asking questions, putting forth ideas that some may not initially understand or agree with, but that slight small change may really have a big impact.

Having visited a couple of innovation fairs at the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) schools, the best ideas were the simplest that addressed a problem. One of my favorites was a machine that dispensed a pill at a predetermined time. The prototype was a box with a digital clock inside, a servo-motor to dispense the pill and a lock on it.

There have been many disruptive technologies in geophysics like 3D surveys and AVO analysis, which are now just standard techniques. More recently we have:

  1. Slip sweep seismic acquisition where single vibrators are spread across an area and one vibrator begins shaking before the other single vibe ended its sweep;
  2. Stake-less seismic acquisition using vibrators equipped with a GPS receiver and a computer-based navigation system to determine where the vibe points are;
  3. Wireless telemetry that uses cell phones which allows a virtual limitless number of channels to be acquired cost-effectively; and
  4. 5D interpolation.

We shot a 3D seismic survey in the winter of 2013 with a 4 vibes array. At the end of the acquisition project we shook with just one Vibrator at each “Vibe Point” as a test. We then analyzed the data to plan for future acquisition projects see if we could acquire good data with just one Vibrator. It cost maybe an extra day with the equipment on the ground but lead to us re-thinking what we were doing regarding seismic acquisition and creating a RECORDER article (Harger et al., 2013).

In another project, we were fracking at the same time we were recording a 3D seismic survey. We did not have a lot of experience with surface microseismic so decided to leave the geophones on during the night to record what was happening as they fracked the well. On the first night we got a call from the rig asking if the perforation guns went off and we looked at the seismic data and saw they had. That saved us a lot of money because the other way to confirm if the guns went off was to bring that perforation gun out of the hole for safety reasons and on a rig, time is money. It ended up being one of the better microseismic datasets we had recorded but just as we started seeing the fracks taking off in the stages we began recording the 3D seismic.

There were issues with depth, but that had to do with the velocity field, not the data.

Carpe Diem

We have all heard the saying “carpe diem” and hopefully, seen the movie “Dead Poets Society” with Robin Williams. To me it exemplifies how I see life and innovation – seizing the day, capturing the moment. As a teacher in Houston Community College I have always said “never be afraid to fail.” I think when we are afraid to fail we never try new ideas, challenge ourselves, or develop innovative ideas and sometimes when we give into fear we miss out because we don’t go beyond our comfort zone, open new doors or just meet new people.

Hopefully the University of Calgary innovation program will spur the students to create disruptive changes in our industry and they will not be afraid to fail. Sometimes young minds can see problems differently from more experienced professionals because we hold onto how it was always done. Innovation is looking at a problem from different angles to understand the problem differently and to think of imaginative and simple solutions.

Investing in the Future

LNG is coming to Kitimat in northern British Columbia, because countries such as China see the need to generate electricity with natural gas rather than coal due to the lower CO2 emissions. We have all heard that we have till 2030 to make drastic changes or we will be faced with extreme drought, food shortages and deadly flooding. Having gone through hurricane Ike and seeing the aftermath of Katrina I see that the hurricanes are getting stronger in their force. With the switching to electricity being generated by natural gas we will lower the CO2 emissions by half. This will cause wells in the dry gas window of the Deep Basin to become economical again.

Continuing with the environment, the Alberta government wants the oil industry to improve on measurement and reporting of methane emissions, as well as leak detection and repair requirements. Methane has a climate change impact that is 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period (Emissions Reduction Alberta, 2018). Oil companies have already responded with multiple developments:

  1. Investing in Seal Well which is developing bismuth-based alloy to seal oil and gas wells for the lifetime of the well rather than using concrete which deteriorates over time causing methane leaks to seal wells once they are no longer in use (Emissions Reduction Alberta, 2018);
  2. ConocoPhillips has developed REMVue which improves the efficiency of fuel injection by reusing emitted exhaust gases to power the engine (Emissions Reduction Alberta, 2018);
  3. Cenovus has developed air/fuel ratio controllers that optimize the ratio of air to fuel to allow for a leaner burn, leading to increased efficiency and decreased emissions (Emissions Reduction Alberta, 2018);
  4. Encana is working on installing 59 different vent gas capture units in natural gas compressor stations that use SlipStream technology to capture methane and feed it back into the stream to help fuel the compressor (Emissions Reduction Alberta, 2018).

These innovations can be used by others around the world to help reduce methane emissions and have an impact on reducing greenhouse gases. We can be the example.

Companies such as BP are looking at other industry technologies to help develop technologies for the oil industry such as using the technology in the music APP Shazam to identify noises in their optical cables that are in the reservoir and compare the noises to a library of acoustics, that help pinpoint problems that range from sand entering a well to gas bubbles in oil and it will show its exact location (Bloomberg, 2018).

BP is also using automated wells that feed data each day on their performance into BP’s supercomputers to see automatically if a well needs maintenance, then it uses an Uber-style system to summon a subcontracted repair firm to keep the shale wells flowing at optimal output and minimal cost (Scheyder & Bousso, 2018). This minimizes the time a well is down. With the number of wells companies operate in the Deep Basin it could be beneficial for Alberta companies to investigate this. Reducing our costs by automatic remote monitoring keeps production from being shut down, lowers break-even points (BEP) and increases profit margins.

These innovations show how we need to be willing to invest in the future, and look at other industries to borrow ideas. We need to consider the ability of a computer to make decisions faster than humans, which allows us to develop new innovations that will disrupt our industry again just like drilling horizontals from pads or using slick water infused with nitrogen. Sometimes the most successful changes are the simple ones, even as simple as taking an old idea and applying it in a new way.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

With hope into the future, from all of us on the RECORDER Committee, my family, and from myself: I wish everyone a Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noël; Feliz Navidad; Maligayan Pasko) and a happy New Year (Bonne Année; Feliz Año Nuevo; Manigong Bagong Taon) and a much improved 2019 to all our readers.


Emissions Reduction Alberta, 2018.

Gilblom, K., 2018, BP Uses Borrowed Tech to Drive Billions in Savings. Bloomberg Business,

Scheyder, E., and Bousso, R., 2018, FOCUS-How BP found shale profits with 'crystal ball' oilfield technology. Rueters – CNBC,

Thacker, P., Harger, D., and Iverson, D., 2014, An evaluation of single vibrator, single sweep, 3D seismic acquisition in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin, CSEG Recorder Vol 39, No 5.



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