A Tale of Two Prices...

By Peter Duncan
Founder & Co-Chairman

With apologies to Dickens, I must start by saying this is just the worst of times, this “winter of our despair”. There is no “best of times” about it, no “spring of hope” in sight. We are cast in a tale of two prices, the price of oil that we had become comfortable with and the new price that is but half.

For those of us who have been in the industry for a decade or two, there is a certain déjà vu about the whole scene. We know that our industry tends to run in cycles and that we will return to some sense of normalcy in due time whether it is six months or 16. For the newer folks, that assurance is of small comfort when there are mortgages due and student loans to service.

Like most of our peers, we have had to reduce our staff. This is an incredibly hard thing to do. After years of selecting the best and the brightest and then training them in the MSI way, we have tried to tell too many, way too many, that our workload and our cash flow cannot sustain our staff level. And while we have said goodbye to a number of friends and colleagues, we have had to be sure that we retain a cross section of the enterprise’s skills, such that we can continue to look after our client’s needs, continue to improve our technical offering and be prepared to catch the tide of business when it begins to flow once again.

I believe the actions we have taken while painful, have met those goals. We have cut deeply across the board but have retained all the core skills in microseismic frac monitoring data acquisition, imaging, and analysis that our clients have come to depend upon. We have maintained a capacity that is fully twice what our current activity level is, and believe we can grow as the market demands. Furthermore, we have retained a disproportionate size in our development group, recognizing that we are a technology company and that technology development is the key to our future market share. Nor have we backed off our strategy with regards to Completions Evaluation. We continue to emphasize a methodology that not only describes what the frac treatment achieved in the most complete and accurate fashion but also prescribes how to get a better frac for the same or less spend. We recognize that in a time of low commodity prices, such a service will be seen as even more valuable since we are all driven to get more out of each and every dollar of CAPEX.

Tough times often bring new opportunities or make us recognize ones that we overlooked in the hurly burly of everyday hustle. For us, an enhanced sensitivity to induced seismic events has opened an opportunity to extend our permanent reservoir monitoring solution to a play-wide seismicity monitoring array we call AlertArray™. We have already deployed small versions of this in California, England, and Canada. Now we are mounting a program that will result in a ~14,000 sq km array that will continuously monitor for induced seismicity in Alberta covering the entire Kaybob play. We believe that the seismicity monitoring network, AlertArray, allows us to offer a low-cost alternative to monitoring each completion in a wide range of areas.

Two other new-old opportunities that are gaining momentum for us are monitoring of refrac’s which benefit from having the infrastructure already in place and a re-emergent downhole monitoring market where our full waveform imaging approach is attracting attention.

Returning to Dickens, it may seem right now that we have “nothing before us”, but I firmly believe we in fact have “everything before us”. Microseismic technology remains the only tool to accurately see how the reservoir responded to the stimulation. We have much to do to really apprehend the knowledge of the reservoir that each microseismic dataset contains. It is with a renewed sense of urgency and mission that we plunge into the months ahead, determined to bring to our industry ever more understanding of frac’ing and reservoir performance. And when the thaw in the business comes, MSI will be here, stronger than ever and even better prepared to help our clients produce more hydrocarbons for less dollars.