George Barber

Country Manager Indonesia at Terra Energy & Resource Technologies, (TERT) Inc.
Last Updated: September 18, 2018
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Exploration
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The title of this article is the title of a recent three day workshop that was organized by SkkMigas that had apparently been arranged due to the concern that Indonesia has with the ever-growing gap between the demand for oil and what is being produced in the country, as well as the ever-increasing concern about the economics of the country with the spending on infrastructure projects being a concern and development in the natural resource industry not being as expected.

There are other concerns, such as the ever-growing reliance on Pertamina to take over blocks from International companies, to develop existing and hopefully new blocks, or a recent headline: Pertamina sells off shares to stay afloat, or the concern of Pertamina to meet the government’s policy of ensuring the availability of Premium grade fuel at one price throughout the whole country. One senior person from Pertamina said to me recently, we will survive until the election, but what happens after that, who knows.

This makes one wonder, how will Pertamina develop new or existing blocks? How will they carry out the exploration that is needed to meet the subject of this opinion piece which is an interesting title in itself for many reasons. When I was asked about finding Giant Oil & Gas Fields by Badan Geology, I said, Pak, the chances of finding Giant Fields is fairly low, because if they were available they would have been found by now with existing methods of exploration. I was to learn that what they meant by Giant Fields is anything that contains a probable reserve of 500 million barrels of oil, (Giant oil and gas fields = those with 500 million barrels (79,000,000 m3) of ultimately recoverable oil or gas equivalent. Supergiant oil field = holds equivalent of 5.5bn barrels of oil reserves).

This is a different story then, as it is known that there are fields that contain this amount and above, just waiting to be confirmed and exploited, one such field has been known about for several years which contains something in the region of 1 billion barrels of oil, as well as gas and condensate, but due to political and other reasons this has not been developed until now.

The author of this article has written several times that Indonesia does have the potential to be self-supportive in resources, if only the knowledge of the country’s resources was known, sadly to say until now, the potential of the country’s resources is just that, potential. What has become apparent from the workshop organized by SkkMigas is that many people are concerned with the situation, but very few (if any) are prepared to take the risk for exploration, which does include the country’s own banks and entrepreneurs. What does risk mean? Put simply, it means loss of money. In my view, Indonesia is no different to any other country, the people in the country do not like to lose money, so why does Indonesia expect investors from other countries to lose money when they are not prepared to accept the risk themselves?

How to minimize the risk?, how to increase the success rate from 15%?, which is what Pertamina achieved last year for drilling of new wells, although this is not too far below the accepted success rate within the industry which is in the region of 20 – 25% (the normal). These figures can of course be argued about from company to company, but the overall success rate is low, if you were a gambling person, you would unlikely accept these odds. The answer is simple, technology, a technology that has been developed by people of the trade, not by some mad scientist, technology that has been used in different countries with a high success rate. Contrary to believe, Indonesia is no different to any other country when it comes to geology, yes Indonesia has complex geology such as volcanics in Java, deep water in East Indonesia, difficult terrain in Papua where some of the technology that is used today does not allow a detailed exploration survey to be carried out. I can name a number of other countries that have extremely complicated geology that has been successfully explored with technology. The old excuse that the technology has not been used in Indonesia does not wash, how can it be used if people do not want to accept technology readily? It does appear that SkkMigas is waking up, they realize that if they do not adapt to new technology faster, then the situation will not improve.

Technology that we take for granted has come a long way in the past twenty or more years, where did the technology come from? Normally technology comes from someone seeing a problem and asking a simple question, how can we do this better. I was giving a presentation the other day, when someone said, we have not been taught this in University, so how can we believe that this works, where I replied, it has been proven in many other countries with a high success rate, can you as a geologist work in another country, where the answer was “of course we can” where my reply was, if you can do this, why can technology that works in these countries not work in Indonesia? Technology that has been developed by people such as yourself which is based on geology, of course, there was no reply.

The point of this article is that Indonesia appears to be ready to accept technology, although there are still divisions within the government (ESDM) where you have so many different interests, what is required is that one central policy is required for technology and not so many different empires, it should be united.

Most people will accept technology from the medical industry that can save life’s, the same people in the exploration industry are reluctant to accept technology that not only improves the success rate of exploration but will create jobs for people as companies are exploring at reduced costs which in turn relates to reduced risk.

Indonesia does have the potential to meet its energy needs, to meet its goals that are agreed with increased success and reduced costs, as long as people are willing to accept technology and make decisions.

“Baby Giant Fields” are waiting to be discovered.

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U.S. renewable energy consumption by sector

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review

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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Inventory

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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Inventory

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operating natural gas-fired electric generating capacity in selected states

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Inventory

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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2020 (IEO2020)

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Asia infographic, as described in the article text


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2020 (IEO2020)
Note: Click to enlarge.

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