In an industry that is almost creating itself from scratch, the company that commercialized surface microseismic technology has taken the next logical step. Microseismic Inc. (MSI) was founded in Peter Duncan’s spare bedroom back in 2003. Since then Duncan has molded the company into one of the foremost providers of microseismic services, particularly in completions evaluation and hydraulic fracture monitoring.

What was a nascent technology only five years ago is now on solid ground, and it is with that confidence that the company has announced the appointment of Jeff Foster to the position of president and CEO. Passing the reins from a founder with a Ph.D. in geophysics to a business leader with a drilling and completions background seems the next logical step in the company’s growth strategy.

“We as a board were of a mind that we needed to bring in an experienced businessman who could look strategically at the position of the company and come up with some new ideas on how to take it forward,” Duncan said. “We were also looking for an engineer because microseismic is becoming more of an engineering tool. We wanted someone with completions expertise, so we took time to find exactly the right person. That’s what I believe we’ve found in Jeff.”

For Foster’s part, he has experience in working both for a major oil company and a major service company. In his previous positions, he has come to realize the value that microseismic information, in which hydraulic fracture operations are imaged in real time, brings to the booming shale industry.

“Building on the vision of a world where every fracture is monitored—that was very compelling to me,” Foster said. “I consider this to be where industry is going in terms of automation. It’s not just about optimizing rigs. It starts there, but it runs through the drilling and completion process. Ultimately we want to monitor the unconventional horizontal shale completions in real time and impact the customers on the spot.”

MSI has made tremendous strides since its founding 11 years ago, and Foster said that despite the competition, some of which comes from major service companies, he was drawn to the company’s culture and vision. “It started with the people, the philosophy and the progress that’s been made to date,” he said. “And there’s also consistency from the board.”

The technology in general was also a lure. “One phrase I heard from a geophysicist was, ‘This is the new age of geology,’” he said. “This is where you can actually create value in how you develop your fields. I think it will be a game-changer and something that everyone will want in their toolbox going forward.”

While his tenure is still new, Foster was able to outline a few strategic ideas going forward, primarily in terms of growing around the company’s vision and incorporating acquisitions where they complement the overarching strategy.

Duncan has no plans to retire quietly. He will continue to be very active in the company as co-chairman of the board0 and plans to focus on the technology and on communicating the enormous value of microseismic to the industry at large. And there’s always more work to be done.

“I’m very much of the opinion that we’ve taken the data acquisition and the imaging process down the road to where the next real developments are in the interpretation and analysis of the data,” he said. “Having confidence in that and being able to put that into a production model is the next step.

“We’ve got to get it to the point where we can tell the completions engineers how best to complete each stage of their well. That means we have to do it in real time and then give them confidence on the uncertainty limits. It needs to be an economic evaluation rather than a geological and geophysical evaluation.”

These are not insurmountable challenges; they’re just boxes to be ticked. “From my point of view, Microseismic Inc. as a corporation is making a significant investment in the future because we strongly believe that there is a future for this business,” Duncan said.

Contact the author, Rhonda Duey, at