Friday, January 29, 2010

SPE forecasting

Last week, I had a chance to attend an SPE meeting where the guest speaker was next year's President Alain Lebastie. The title of his presentation was The Oil & Gas Industry: What's Next?

It was a general talk about, well, what is next for the industry, with the focus on oil, not natural gas. The short summary is:
Demand - Long-term increase, short-term variability.
Energy Conservation - Lots of room for improvement, both with immediate measures and gradual technological improvements.
Reserves - This was the fun one. All historical production of about 1.07 Gbbls and proven reserves left of about 1.1 Gbbls which may come to about 40 years supply at expected rates of consumption. The kicker is that there is an estimated 1.3 Gbbls of undiscovered reserves available in the world and another 1.0 Gbbls that could be produced if the average recovery factor is increased form 35% to 45%. Recovery rates are quite variable and depend on the technologies used to increase recovery. What does this mean? Production will increase to a plateau of around 100 Mbbl/d around 2020 and stay around that level for 20-30 years, maybe more, maybe less.
Climate Security - I'll be honest, I was getting sleepy at this point. Late afternoon, dark room, overly warm and droll voice do not make me alert. But the gist is that carbon capture and storage is a field where much of the technical expertise will come from the oil and gas industry.

In summary, the message from the last few years has not changed. Cheap oil is over, expect long-term higher prices, and we have precious few decades to bring alternative energy sources up to speed.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

right, more or less

It's good to see that I was more or less right about the, um, iPad.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

not the right demographic

I like to pretend I have some sort of demographic, perhaps some expected socio-economic group that my education, profession, etc would expect me to have. I suspect this demographic is male, 25-34 years old, single, no dependents, BS degree, working professional with a relatively high percentage of disposable income. I should like sports or video games or tech gadgets or something to while away my time with that is both hip, cool, and moderately expensive. Maybe snowboarding while listening to an iPod touch and playing games on it riding up the chair lift.

And then I like to pretend that I don't fit that demographic very well at all because I don't do those things. But sure I do, or maybe I would. If I made the time. And wanted to spend the money. But your slick advertising is lost on me world, possibly because I don't own a television, or the lack of English-language print media around me, or the fact that I derive a great deal of satisfaction from not spending money. It's strange but fun to go to the store, see something I kind of like, then assess if it will actually improve my life, decide it will not, and leave with only my yogurt, fruit, and tuna fish.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

troubles with tablets (or tribbles?)

If you have not heard about the expected product announcement coming from Apple in three days where many expect to hear about the introduction of a tablet-like computing device, then this post is not for you. Frankly, this post is really just for me. I'm not going to link to news articles about what may or may not happen on Wednesday, but I do know that whatever happens, the Apple fanboys will be simultaneously torn between how awesome and how disappointing the product is.

I suppose I have a certain dispassion about the whole hullabaloo because while I may appear to be the ultimate target demographic for such a product, I have no desire for said product or any of the PC-based variants that have already come out and will continue to come. Part of me wants to be surprised and amazed and totally blown away by the announcement and the hardware, software, interface, shininess, and whatever other developmental breakthroughs they have come up with and I know over time many of these features will trickle into ubiquitous and mainstream use. But this larger part of me just does not care.

Perhaps it's a lack of imagination, but I have a litany of questions that I am reasonably sure will not be answered in a satisfactory way.

How do I interface and type with the device? Is it meant for media so as to have a minimal amount of expected typing? I can totally sign off on a virtual keyboard concept, but how do I hold the over-sized smart phone and type with two hands at the same time? Or will the keys be in the bottom corners so I can do some bizarre thumb-typing? Is voice recognition up to speed? Will I not look like a crazy person when I am talking to my metal book?

How do I watch anything on it at a table? Do I have to hold it the whole time? Do I place it on the table and lean over the screen? Perhaps it will have mini-legs that will unfurl from its edges and prop up the tablet.

How do I hold it and how will that dictate the interface method? Two hands with thumb typing or voice recognition. One hand with one-handed semi-full typing? Will it slip from one hand? Will it have a semi-soft rubberized rear surface to help with grip? How hot will it get in my hands? What happens when someone inevitably drops it?

What will this do to improve the quality of my life? Of anyone's life? Of the world? And most importantly, will the back surface by curved oh so slightly such that ti will allow me to spin the tablet for hours of countless entertainment?

earnings and storage

Fourth quarter earnings were announced on Friday. Interesting as always, though I have not had the time to really go through the release. I tried listening to the live webcast, but actual work sort of side-tracked some of that goal so I missed most of the second half of the call. While it is not up yet, the recorded call will eventually be posted here as a mp3 file. However, if you simply cannot wait, you can comb through the transcript from Seeking Alpha.

It seemed like there more more questions than normal about natural gas, but that might be biased by the some of them being at the beginning of the Q&A session so I found that interesting. Of course, natty gas (hey, it's like how people call Natural Light beer 'natty light') might be on everyone's minds as US storage levels have changed dramatically in the last two weeks.

Checking out the storage chart, levels are no longer at record levels. In fact, they have now fallen below the 5-year average. This was made possible by the record drawdown over the last two weeks:
The report also marks the first time in EIA’s 16-year history of weekly inventory data that combined net withdrawals from storage over the course of 2 consecutive weeks have exceeded 500 Bcf.

It probably had something, though I just cannot figure out what, to do with the last week's temperature being "3.6 degrees lower than normal".

Getting back to the earnings conference call, I was hoping to hear someone ask about the Venezuelan currency devaluation from a couple weeks ago and I was not disappointed. Obviously, there is no direct Q4 impact, but I thought it might have a significant impact on the business there, but apparently not, since this was the reply:
"Going forward if the official rate will, the devaluation will take place, it will reduce our revenue because of the local currency portion will obviously be less in the corresponding dollars, however it has no impact on the profitability. It is slightly better as a matter of fact."

I found that surprising, but it hinges on an analysis (which I would struggle with at best) of information (such as the splits between dollar- and bolivar-denominated revenues and expenses) that I do not have.

Friday, January 15, 2010

revisiting airport security

I want revisit my last post on airport security. I got hung up on the pointless search that went on right before boarding the plane, but I neglected to discuss what was probably the most effective security measure.

They interviewed me. It was fast and simple and did not delay me at all because it happened while I was standing in line between the time I used the check-in kiosk to get my boarding pass and the time I reached the counter to drop off my bag. I cannot recall every question, but aside from the standard luggage questions about packing my bag and giving the man my passport during this process so he already knew my name, I was at least asked:
How are you?
Do you have anything with batteries in your bag?
(He did not check my bag at that time.)
How long were you in Hungary? (I keep it short with "engineer for an oilfield services company")
What company?
Where do you live in Hungary?
How did you get to the airport?
(I say my co-worker dropped me off.)
What was his name? (He is not Hungarian either so this leads to me explain where he is from.)
Where are you going?
Who are you seeing?
How long will you be there?

I cannot say for certain if that was everything, but it was most of the questions. It went very quickly and he looked at me the whole time so I looked at him because we were having a quick and highly purposeful conversation. The questions themselves aren't that important and neither are the answers. They are all easy to answer as long as you have a coherent story and the truth is the simplest coherent story. If I had hesitated with my answers or shifted about nervously, then I would be suspicious. And I would be profiled, but not for any reason that people in the States get so worked up about profiling. It would be because I'm a shifty liar, not because I was a foreign, semi-dark-skinned (but not really in the winter), single, male traveller with squinty eyes who had not shaved.

They were doing on a smaller scale what gets discussed in this article about the security at Israeli airports. Layered, quick, effective.

Instead, while at JFK on the way back to Hungary, the TSA agent said shoes do not go in the bins and that they must go directly on the conveyer. WTF? I've travelled many times since the stupid shoe rule went into place and never heard that before. What a joke.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

photo-shopping the truth

I can no longer remember how I found this article (probably reddit) about a ridiculously bad Photoshop job in a Victoria's Secret picture. If you don't see the problem, look at her right hand. The article goes on to dissect the image using various tools and analysis to identify what other parts of the image have been modified (hint: all of them).

The article reminded of the now semi-recent uproar in the UK about a skin cream ad with Twiggy that had also been Photoshopped. People were upset that Twiggy's skin was not made better by the cream, but by computer enhancement. Perhaps I'm already jaded from the 34 gigabytes of information I consumer daily, but photoshopping seems to be the order of the day for advertisements.

And that made me think about food advertising. Ok, so Twiggy's face in the ad isn't really her face, not even her face done up with favorable lighting an d make-up. But food in print and television ads is almost never real food. Where's the uproar? Was there an uproar a long time ago when the wax-for-food substitution began? Give it time and people won't really care about the photoshopping either. It's almost automatic that no one really looks the way they are shown in advertisements. Just look past it all and we're all pretty goofy looking, especially the so-called celebrities.

eating wings and lion and snake

How to eat a chicken wing.

And a generally awesome pair of images of a lion and a snake.

Friday, January 01, 2010

airport security, not making me feel safer

For my flight yesterday, I had a chance to go through the new and imporved airport security screen process. I am not impressed. (Pretend to be surprised.) Oh, sure, there was a half-assed check of my carry-on bag, but no one criticised the dangerously sharp pencil I had. I even got a personal pat don (like everyone else), but unless someone is going to fondle my junk, how do they know what I'm really packing. The terrorists might learn to recruit drag-kings and build bombs that look like a frank and beans.

I'm giving a shout out. Happy New Year.

Now back to your regular scheduled program.

Take this quote from Bruce Schneier, security expert:
I wish that, just once, some terrorist would try something that you can only foil by upgrading the passengers to first class and giving them free drinks.

We could always try this.

happy new year ya'll

Like the title says.