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The recipe for a successful geoscientist? Travel the world and ask a lot of questions.
As a geoscientist with Chevron Energy Technology Co., Andrew Kulpecz has found dynamic and "exciting" work that capitalizes on his science background and love for teaching. A member of the Reservoir Prediction team, he is part of a group working with the different operating companies to contribute to the biggest exploration and development projects being undertaken worldwide. And he teaches classroom and field courses to new hires in the US and internationally.
This mix of fast-paced, ever-changing work suits him. He grew up in the UK, the Netherlands, and Syria courtesy of his father's career as a geologist and senior executive for Royal Dutch Shell. Kulpecz returned to the US for his undergraduate studies at Wheaton College as a history major before falling in love with geology. He then earned his master's and Ph.D. degrees in geological sciences at Rutgers University.
On graduating, he found the decision to work in the energy industry was easy. "I really enjoy the teamwork that's used in industry to solve problems," he said.
At Chevron he is a sequence stratigrapher and sedimentologist, a natural fit given his sharp interest in nature and history nurtured by road trips his family took to the Alps, the Dead Sea, Jordan's Petra, and other far-flung natural and man-made wonders. "I love understanding the way things work today and then applying those concepts back through geologic time in the search for hydrocarbons," he said.
This past year he spent six months as an ex-pat in Perth, Australia, working on reservoir characterization and front-end geology for the Gorgon and Wheatstone natural gas projects, on which Chevron will spend US $40 billion to develop. He's also studied emerging basins in Brazil, the Arctic, Angola, and offshore Canada, among others. He is married with two young children, whom he intends to someday submit to the same educational family travels he benefited from.
In an interview for Hart Energy, Kulpecz shared his passion for his work.
What role does your group play within Chevron?
We evaluate basins for our exploration and new ventures business partners. We interpret 3-D seismic, study well and core data, and run paleoclimate and forward stratigraphic models and more to understand and predict the presence of both reservoir and source rock. These interpretations assist in risking different projects and deciding whether to enter new basins, bid on lease blocks, and drill exploration wells.
A lot of these basins have sparse data, so it's a challenge. There's much uncertainty, so it's difficult to make robust predictions about what you'll find. But that's what makes it fun – you get to be innovative and use technology to develop accurate forecasts.
What project that you have worked on is furthest along?
The Gorgon and Wheatstone liquefied natural gas projects, where Chevron has had a good run of success in drilling and finding natural gas resources. A lot of the other projects are new ventures – looking for the next big thing.
What does your teaching entail?
Given the current demographics of the industry, there are a lot of young employees. I teach new hires both in the classroom and in the field. This past year I taught stratigraphy courses in Australia and Indonesia and led field trips to Utah and New Mexico to teach key concepts. Students can look at outcrops that are on the same scale as the reservoirs they'll be working on.
I also teach integrated teams of modelers, scientists, and engineers. The goal is to get the whole team out together to look at analogs for reservoirs so they can be on the same page.
What is your take on the concept of peak oil?
With any finite resource there's going to be a peak and eventual drawdown. But the industry is constantly pushing technology boundaries to further the recovery of existing resources and to find new ones. In just a decade, we've revolutionized the way we look for gas. The industry is very good at what it does.
Will you be working in shale plays internationally?
Chevron has acquired acreage in Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria. The company is positioning itself relatively close to major markets in Europe and Asia. I'm currently dealing with more conventional clastic and carbonate reservoirs, but as the portfolio evolves in the coming years, I will probably be working on unconventional plays.
Given your studies of paleoclimates, what are your thoughts on climate change?
I recognize the concerns about climate change, and we must be mindful of the environment. Recent studies have focused on looking for periods when COwas as high or higher than it is today to understand what could occur in future scenarios. In our work at Chevron, we use paleoclimate models to understand environmental conditions in geologic time to predict where reservoirs will be today.
You mentioned the many new people entering the industry. What has helped you be successful so far in your career?
It's important to find something you enjoy and can be passionate about. Seek senior mentors and assignments that are challenging, where you can grow and learn. And don't be afraid to ask questions.