Oil giants prospect in Cambridge
The world’s leading oil and gas companies have descended on a young Cambridge company in the hope that the firm can help eliminate the expensive uncertainty they face in the search for increasingly depleted oil reserves.
ARKeX Ltd says it is bursting at the seams as top multinationals, state-owned corporations and even small independent prospectors look to harness the company’s hi-tech imaging solution, BlueQube, capable of surveying for petroleum deposits as far as 40 kilometres beneath the Earth’s surface from the air.
Speaking after completing the largest ever multi-client GGI survey for JEBCO Seismic, ARKeX marketing manager, Mark Champion, said the company was in the awkward position of having to turn work away while it awaited delivery of a second aircraft – expected within the next month.
A third should then be available in 2008 allowing ARKeX to make an aggressive sales and marketing push forward and establish offices in Africa and petroleum hotbed, the Middle East.
“We really want to be part of the whole exploration market and we’re trying to fulfil demand, but have had to turn work away, which is not great,” said Champion.
ARKeX formed as a joint spin-out from Oxford Instruments Superconductivity and ARK Geophysics.
Its BlueQube technology uses minute variations in the earth’s gravitational field to pinpoint oil, gas and mineral deposits buried deep underground from a plane flying overhead.
It is designed to complement the oil industry’s more convent-ional seismic reflection survey methods that are used to determine subsurface structure and locate potential oil and gas reserves by helping resolve issues of awkward terrain, safety considerations, logistics or legislation, which can make them too costly or too difficult to execute.
ARKeX’s airborne surveys are able to overcome these limitations by covering vast areas of land in a short period of time, thus pinpointing the areas worth further work, such as seismic or drilling, by the oil companies.
This ability has several interested groups beating at the door, according to Champion: “A whole range of companies from Shell and BP to national state-owned oil companies to small independents.
“For them our solution would reduce uncertainty involved in the surveying work. Hitting a dry well is very costly and if we can reduce that uncertainty it’s fantastic for them.”
This growing interest in ARKeX is being reflected at the company, which has recruited half a dozen people this year. Beyond the UK it is looking to where the greatest demand lies and with the extra aircraft will be able to position itself nearer to the work.
“We plan to expand into the Middle East where there is a lot of interest,” said Champion. “Then North Africa and possibly South Africa. Offices would be established to run operations from there. This will allow the US operation to stay focused where it is, currently our main market.”
ARKeX surveyed 6,000 sq km of prospective territory for JEBCO in British Columbia’s Muskwa-Kechika, located in the foothills area of Canada’s Western sedimentary basin, which contains some of the highest potential petroleum deposits in all of Western Canada.
Due to the mountainous terrain, a seismic survey would have been prohibitively expensive and taken far longer to complete. “ARKeX’s BlueQube gravity gradient surveys provide us and our clients with a greater understanding of the geology in this extremely important area”, said Wayne Turner, president of JEBCO.
BlueQube originates from airborne gravity gradiometry techniques originally used by the military in the Cold War. ARKeX has updated this with a highly sensitive version that uses a single platform package in combination with magnetic gradiometry, digital terrain mapping (LIDAR technology), digital video and a gravimeter.
Though the company is primarily using it for onshore surveying, BluQube can be mounted onto a ship for offshore work, which ARKeX will consider doing in the future.