Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Indian Petroleum Geoscientists Are Being Unshackled

Geology and livelihoods - 6

The September issue of Journal of Sedimentary Research has a paper on the sedimentology and stratigraphy of continental slope reservoir facies of the Krishna- Godavari Basin south east India.

Sandy Debrites and Tidalites of Pliocene Reservoir Sands in Upper-Slope Canyon Environments, Offshore Krishna–Godavari Basin (India): Implications

I am not that interested in the contents of the paper. Instead I am going to point to the authorship-

G. Shanmugam1, S.K. Shrivastava2 and Bhagaban Das3

1 Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Texas at Arlington, P.O. Box 19049, Arlington, Texas 76019-0049, U.S.A.; shanshanmugam@aol.com
2 Reliance Industries Limited, E&P Business, Reliance Corporate Park, Thane Belapur Road, Ghansoli, Navi Mumbai-400701, India
3 Reliance Industries Limited, E&P Business, Reliance Corporate Park, Thane Belapur Road, Ghansoli, Navi Mumbai-400701, India

This is just about the first paper I have come across in a top sed geology journal authored by researchers working for a private Indian petroleum /energy company and it is just one sign that the Indian hydrocarbon industry intellectual landscape is undergoing a rapid change the last decade or so. Previously all Indian oil fields were managed and operated by nationalized petroleum companies. But in the last few years the government has thrown open exploration blocks to private players and Reliance Industries Limited is one of the most active of the lot.

Private participation has caused quite a ruffle in government operations since lots of talented middle and senior level geologists has left government companies to work for the private sector. Financial gain allied with inducements of greater intellectual freedom especially for the Ph.D types are the main reasons for the move. Reliance for example has set up a well funded sedimentology research lab and the results are showing.

Companies like the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) - a nationalized behemoth- are feeling the pain of this fleeing human capital. One complaint I have heard is that specialization is not always respected and handled with care at these government oil companies. A Ph.D with an expertise in micropalaeontology and biostratigraphy may spend long years doing some other work. That essentially is a waste of talent. No wonder lots of specialists are jumping ship and heading for private organizations who are putting their specialization to a challenging test.

A better use of specialization is good news for geoscientists and for the industry. ONGC will have to follow suit if it wants to retain talent. That in fact will be critical for exploration and exploitation of emerging oil fields. Out of the 160 blocks auctioned for licensing since the year 2000 ONGC has leases for about half of them. A lack of specialists in the government sector could limit India's future oil and gas production capacity.

See: Geology and livelihoods

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