2012 Honorary LecturerSponsored by Shell

Middle East & Africa

Rocco Detomo, Jr.

Shell Nigeria Exploration & Production Company, Inc. Lagos, Nigeria

4D time-lapse seismic reservoir monitoring of African reservoirs


Rocco DeTomo

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.  (e.g. your education and work experience, why you became a geophysicist, etc.)

As a second-generation Italian-American, the values that my family brought from "The Old Country" included hard work, education, and taking advantage of the opportunities that America offered which they never had. I was born and raised in upstate New York until my family moved to Florida and my father took a job as an engineer for NASA at Cape Canaveral. From an early age, I was interested in science and math and had decided before the age of 13 that I wanted to be a physicist. After serving in the Air Force and receiving my PhD in Experimental Nuclear Physics, I decided to take my scientific interests into an industry where innovation came quickly and where science could make a visible impact on the people around me. And so I joined Shell Oil company as a geophysicist in 1981, and have been exploring my curiosity and applying the geosciences ever since.

Would you like to mention anything about your personal attributes that helped you achieve the professional status you enjoy today; was it self-belief, hard work, a mentor, or something else?

All of these attributes contribute, but it was sitting at my father's side when he repaired plumbing, installed electrical or shingled roofs during his weekends that I truly learned the value of curiosity, problem-solving, perseverance and understanding the laws of physics that drive how the world works around you. It was natural that this grew into a physics degree. As a youngster, I was also a Boy Scout, and from them and my military service, the value of teamwork and the roles and responsibility of leadership were well ingrained. These attributes have successfully carried me throughout my career. 

Why did you choose this lecture topic?  Why is it important?

The oil and gas industry has matured into a critical component of the social success of worldwide human progress, especially in Africa and the Middle East. However, with that success comes a growing responsibility to monitor our operations, improve our resource efficiency and reduce any adverse impact on our environment. 4D time lapse monitoring of our reservoirs helps to address each of these items.

Could you tell us in a few sentences what your course objectives are?

For the novice, I hope to bring an awareness of the value of 4D reservoir monitoring, an understanding of the principles involved, and the confidence to ask critical questions about whether or not reservoir monitoring should be considered. For the experienced professional, I hope to highlight the critical success factors that one should weigh when considering 4D time lapse reservoir monitoring, and discuss examples of where it has been used and has been successful.

Are there any more specific areas that you want to emphasize?

I would like everyone to consider some of our "difficult" issues, such as how to estimate the value of learning something that was unanticipated, unexpected or unknown? In the past, reservoir monitoring has had to be cost justified with value of information studies, when the most significant impact is often hidden in "not knowing what we don't know." I also hope to emphasize the rapid technical development in instrumentation and the explosion in data volumes that will need to be addressed by our industry's next generation.

What do you hope people will have learned after they attend your lecture?  How is it different from other lectures?

I hope to stimulate their curiosity so that they leave asking "What new opportunities exist to make the uncertain more constrained?" "How can reservoir monitoring help me to increase my reservoir recovery while improving the safety of our operations?"

You have quite a busy year ahead.  Do you enjoy traveling?  Will it be difficult to balance the tour with your work?

Where science is predictable, people are always unique and interesting!  Because of this, I greatly enjoy traveling to new places, meeting new people, and learning about the questions that drive their inquiry. It will be difficult managing the work while I am traveling, but Shell Oil Company has always been supportive of these type of contributions to our industry, and I am blessed to have qualified peers who will assist during my absences.

Would you share with us one or two of your most exciting successes?

Working on integrated teams where (1) a successful lease sale bid wins a coveted Gulf of Mexico prospect, (2) a successful deep-water wildcat exploration well makes a giant field discovery, and (3) a 3 year project to construct, install and develop an offshore oil field is led to deliver on time, on budget, and without a single lost-time accident. I find taking on challenges, seeing what others have overlooked, and helping others to do the same, as exciting.

How about a couple of disappointments?

The "downsides" of the above, including: (1) losing a key prospect in a Gulf of Mexico lease sale by a fraction of a percent, (2) being "fooled" by believing a diagenetic boundary was a fluid contact and drilling an expensive exploratory "dry hole", and (3) leading a technical team that delivered world-class results and recommendations only for them to be irrelevant due to a change in strategic direction. Disappointments are a part of our business, where risk and reward need to be kept in balance. The key to disappointments is to always derive learning and value from them.

What advice would you give to geophysics students and professionals just starting out in the industry?

Don't be in a hurry – allow yourself time to become technically proficient!  Use the early part of your career to develop industry experiences and technical expertise. Some of today's youngsters are in a hurry to lead teams, make decisions and get to senior leadership positions in our industry, but to do so successfully, they need to command the respect of the technical experts that will advise them in the future. Good leadership starts with earning the respect of those you lead, and demonstrating technical proficiency is a prerequisite for this.  In addition, without a range of experiences, it will be difficult to assess the conflicting and uncertain data from which we must make our decisions. Good, moral, business decisions are what will keep our industry strong and earn the respect of our world's citizenry. The other thing I tell young professionals is that in our industry, good technical professional will always be in demand. Develop something that you are an expert at, and build on that expertise.  Try to learn a little of everything, but be an expert in at least one thing!