What’s in a name? Wildcat mused this week, its imagination inspired by the bard’s birthday. Stars are christened according to the Greek alphabet, and ships sail in the memory of great battles and formidable women, but what are the naming conventions in the oil and gas industry?
It appears to be a miscellany of references from the classics, folk taxonomy and local history. “The story goes in the industry that BP likes Scottish saints, mountains, sunken cities and rock bands. Total chooses flowers. Shell names their prospects after birds,” one industry source tells Wildcat.
“There’s also an apocryphal story of one oil and gas company running into difficulty with their alphabetised naming system for UK fields. They started with AUK, BUK, CUK and so on. They had to stop at the sixth letter,” he adds.
In that spirit of sharing, here are some notes on ten names that have recently caught Wildcat’s eye. Much of the information below is anecdotal, so feel free to tie up the loose ends.
Prosperidade: Anadarko’s gas reservoir offshore Mozambique. Prosperidade had an unorthodox christening, its name (‘Prosperity’ in Portuguese) chosen by local schoolchildren from a list of optimistic monikers. It may not need the powers of nominative determinism: Propseridade is estimated to hold recoverable resources of 17-30 trillion cubic feet (481-850 billion cubic metres) of gas.
Zaedyus: Tullow Oil announced an oil-strike in the GM-ES-1 block of Zaedyus on 9 September 2012, and that the prospect could contain resources of 700 million barrels of oil equivalent. Zaedyus is a type of Latin American armadillo – a small, but surprisingly durable animal.
Leviathan: Discovered in June 2010, Leviathan lies in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel. Leviathan was a sea monster in the Bible (Book of Job, 41, if you’ve got one to hand), and in Modern Hebrew, it simply means ‘whale’ – apposite for the 480 bcm of reserves that lurks in the Levant Basin.
Nabucco: The proposed pipeline from Turkey to Austria that will diversify Europe’s supply and delivery route. Named after the Verdi opera enjoyed by the five pipeline partners at the Vienna State Opera in 2002. Verdi was proud of the work, claiming Nabucco was “born under a lucky star”.
Macondo: Oil and gas prospect in the Gulf of Mexico. Site of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion and spill in April 2010. “This one was named by a group of BP employees who won a charity raffle. According to folklore, they were fans of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez book One Hundred Years of Solitude, and named the prospect after the famous town,” a BP spokesman tells Wildcat.
Thunder Horse: Originally called ‘Crazy Horse’ in homage to Neil Young, BP’s rockers changed the name of this deepwater field in the Gulf of Mexico out of respect to descendants of the Native American warrior of the same name.
Lula: Not in homage to Brazil’s popular former President Luiz Inacio da Silva, but a happy coincidence. State-controlled Petrobras traditionally names new commercial prospects after sea creatures. Lula, the giant field in the country’s pre-salt, means ‘squid’ in Portuguese. “It’s not my name — it’s a (mollusc),” said [President] Lula at the time.
Vaca Muerta: YPF, which until recently belonged to Spanish giant Repsol, said its Vaca Muerta [‘Dead Cow’] shale prospect held proven resources of 22.8 billion barrels of oil equivalent (bboe) in February 2012. Wildcat still hasn’t worked out why it’s called dead cow, although the recent expropriation of YPF, has prompted some dark jokes.
Ichthys: INPEX’s mammoth project off the north-west coast of Western Australia is named after the ancient Greek word for ‘fish’. “You can’t just call it ‘fish’,” as a wise man once told Wildcat.
Snøhvit: This 193 billion cubic metre monster in the Norwegian Sea means ‘Snow White’ in Norwegian. No idea how its name was conceived. Snøhvit is operated by Statoil on behalf of the six gas companies (not dwarves) who own licences.
Who Dat: Wildcat’s favourite. The Who Dat field in the Gulf of Mexico, operated by LLOG Exploration, takes its name from a chant delivered loudly by fans of the New Orleans Saints NFL football team. Now echoes around Wildcat’s offices.
Also worthy of a mention, but victims of limited space: Prelude, Shah Deniz, Ku-Maloob-Zaap, Aphrodite, and Gorgon. Answers on a postcard, please. CN