There are places in the world that still have untapped oil —lots of oil. But they're hard to access and therefore expensive to develop, especially when it comes to ensuring their ecosystems are respected. A new technology may radically upset this status quo. METIS aims to complete the exploration and imaging phase virtually without setting foot on the ground. It's clearly a disruptive project that will require patience and acceptance in addition to technology. The enthusiast who has championed the project for the last three years unpacks it.
Approximately 450 billion barrels of oil equivalent1 still lie untouched beneath the Earth's surface. And 15 percent of those resources are in areas geologists refer to as foothills. But there's a problem: These areas are also labeled "geological chaos" for their incredibly complex surface and subsurface, made up of folds and thrusts, which make development difficult if not downright impossible.
What's more, such areas are often found in remote corners of the planet, deep in hard-to-reach, hostile environments whose wildlife and plants are closely watched by multiple stakeholders. So it's not hard to see why these foothills weren't an oil company priority, for reasons of operational difficulty, profitability, social or environmental acceptance and risk management.
Nevertheless, as CEO Patrick Pouyanné points out in his video, The Future of Energy: "[Total's] technological capacity is at the heart of the future of the company." Especially when "competitive oil has a future."
Florent Bertini knows all about competitiveness and technical progress. He runs the Earth Imaging R&D (research and development) program in Total's Exploration & Production segment. Since the summer of 2014 he has been working with his teams on METIS2, which he describes as "a disruptive and holistic project" to acquire very high-caliber geophysical data to produce subsurface images of foothills that can subsequently be used to explore their potential.