9. Ceuta – Tomoporo giant field discovery

Ceuta Giant Field - MCAL
Ceuta Giant Field - MCAL
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Ceuta Giant Field – MCAL

This article is my personal story and memory of my own involvement in this giant field discovery. In the already very mature Maracaibo basin. Almost 70 years after the first discovery.

This is a tribute to the smart, young and bold discovery team of Meneven. Under leadership of my dear friend Diego Funes, in Lagunillas, Zulia.

The real, hidden and not yet published exciting story behind the scenes of this important discovery.

A tribute to the real, authentic and original discoverers of the giant Ceuta field in 1981. Located in the classic Maracaibo basin, State of Zulia, western Venezuela, South America.

Ceuta, one of the different giant field discoveries where I was privileged to be on the spot and where I could assist and participate during my career. I was so fortunate to be able to deliver as integral part of the brand new discovery team of 10 explorers.

Therefore I know the background and details that I wish to share with you.

Hopefully this history will benefit and motivate you in your own both marvelous and tortuous career as an explorationist.

Ceuta – Tomoporo is one of the ” Giant Oil and Gas Fields of the Decade 1978 – 1988 “. Described in AAPG Memoir 54, 1992, Editor Michel T. Halbouty, ISBN: 0-89181-333-0. Chapter 11, Ceuta-Tomoporo Field, Venezuela, page 163 – 173. The first 3 maps (Figs. 2,3,4) are taken from this publication.

The original field documents of S.A. Meneven (former Gulf Oil), Filial de PDVSA, that led to the Ceuta discovery are included as figures 5 – 9.

The field was found by the small, young and very competitive field Exploration team of Meneven, Affiliate of PDVSA, in Lagunillas, sector Campo Alegre.

Main credit of the discovery goes to exploration manager Diego Funes. A very energetic, inspiring, clever, pragmatic, down-to-earth, astute geologist and proven oil finder. The youngest superintendent and senior manager of Meneven, just in his early thirty. He studied earth sciences in Venezuela and France.

The small Exploration team consisted of 10 professionals, mainly geologists (7), geophysicists (3) and technicians (2).

The exploration landscape and tools available in 1981 to find a giant field ?

Back in 1981 present day sophisticated geological-geophysical workstations, laptops, tablets, iPadPro’s and iPhonesSE’s etc. etc. did not exist. Were still patiently waiting to be invented.
Steve Jobs was 26 years old then and had just founded Apple Computer on January 3, 1977.

IBM on 12 august 1981 had presented its first PC, 5150 IBM.

And on 22 July 1975 Microsoft of Bill Gates was born.

A Casio or Hewlett-Packard graphic scientific calculator was the most sophisticated tool available, proud to have, similar to your iPadPro nowadays.

This was for example used for time-depth conversion purposes and for petrophysical So, Sw, Rt calculations. The brand new fax, thrilling high tech, was used to sent the daily drilling reports to the head office in Caracas. Now already obsolete, say fossilised and not even accepted in the recycle shops.

Seismic interpretation was mainly 2D and done manually on paper sections, by drawing the reflectors and faults with sharp pencils. Correlating the seismic reflectors and sections was realised using the hands by folding, comparing and matching them.
Both seismic time, depth, fault maps as well as geological maps, contours and well correlations were all drawn by hand and with manual interpolations.
First a draft or sketch version handmade by the geophysicist and geologist themselves. Subsequently upgraded and finished in the drawing department.
3D seismic was still in its infancy and not yet commonly applied on a big scale.

3D geological cartoons and reservoir models were drawn by hand using well log prints, correlations and educated-guess subsurface concepts and above all, imagination. Unbridled, not limited by a software program, its program options and buttons.

The traditional Ceuta – West field was one of the crown jewels of Meneven, with a production of some 100,000 barrels/day of mainly light high quality oil.

Discovery philosophy.

Only one dry hole had previously been drilled on the east flank of the Ceuta field and anticline, where later in 1981 the discovery was made.
This dry hole encountered very low porosities in the reservoir section. This was one of the main reasons why exploration in this area was previously postponed. Or virtually abandoned for an extended time by Meneven (former Gulf Oil affiliate) before being nationalised on January 1, 1976.

For the young and new Meneven exploration team in 1980, just one dry hole was not at all a convincing argument to neglect exploration in the eastern flank.
It was decided to initially locate two exploration well in this area. Both turned out to be discovery wells yielding a tremendous 3100 – 4500 barrels of light oil on production.
These two wells are the official discovery wells of the Ceuta (-Tomoporo) field.

The giant field in the mature Maracaibo basin, that had been patiently waiting to be unveiled. On one’s doorstep, a few kilometres away, most efficiently overlooked, neglected and by-passed by already generations of clever, seasoned explorationists. Sixty seven (67) years after the first commercial well of Maracaibo Basin, located in the vicinity, well Zumaque-1 in 1914, finally unveiled.

The Tomoporo area to the south east was then not yet extensively explored.
Meneven was license holder of a small block (Bloque 80) to the south of Ceuta and close to the discovery wells..
Based on our 2 successful wells Diego Funes asked me to study this area in more detail. This as Meneven, Lagunillas Field Exploration Department, proceeded with a plan and bid report to obtain the still open and promising area assigned from PDVSA headoffices, for further exploration.

In 1983, after the discovery, however crown jewel Ceuta area was assigned to affiliate Maraven (former Shell). In a major reshuffle to realign the different areas and licenses puzzle, a heritage from the former multinational firms. Licenses were regrouped to improve efficiency and economies of scale.


About adding substantial value and sustained cash flow, for shareholders and stakeholders ??

Some 100 billion US$ gross value.

The traditional Ceuta field had 638 MMSTB of ultimate recoverable (proven) reserves. The new discoveries have added 764 MMSTB (as of December 1990). Defined prospects total 340 MMSTB light oil.

Totalling 1740 MMSTB for the Ceuta  – Tomoporo giant field, with a gross value of some 90 billion US$.

Higher reserve figures of 3065 MMBBls have been indicated, that would represent some 150 billion US$ gross value (1990, Classic Petroleum Provinces, Geological Society Special Publication No. 50, Editor J.Brooks, 1990, New oil discoveries in the Ceuta area, SE Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela,page 77 – 88).

My musings, questions and lessons learned about exploration and finding giant fields, in retrospect some 4 decades later?

This discovery was made with handcrafted geological and geophysical interpretations and maps.
Without all the sophisticated tools now so common and available to all the geoscientists.
But ? How many additional giant fields have been found in Maracaibo basin and Venezuela since 1981 by using high tech?
How many proven reserves have been added?

How much was the quantified proven and added value of having used high tech ?

How many present day high level geoscientist experts could make a giant field discovery with only their own handcrafted and handdrafted geophysical time and depth maps and geological and reservoir maps?

With 2D seismic lines from 1977 ? Without fading or getting blasted away by the strong ammonia odour permeating from the old time printed seismic sections.

With just a beautiful set of 6 colour pencils, a pencil sharpener, two eraser, a tiger claw for interpolations, a mini broom, a blank map. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s it. If you like it or not.

Just 12 poor boy items.

Exploration tools totaling a value of only some 5 US$. But accompanied by an unconstrained and uninhibited exploration mindset and attitude as tools, and…… ??

Without the whole Landmark E&P software suite. With solutions for Exploration Insights, Geosciences, Geomechanics, Reservoir Management, Drilling, Production, Economics and Information Management ?

Without Oracle Crystal Ball, to safely execute the predictive modelling, forecasting, simulation and optimisation. Claiming to give explorationists unparalleled insight into the critical factors affecting risk?

Without Questor, for concept screening, project modelling, cost analysis, estimators for the pre-FEED stages of field development planning, evaluation and decision support?

Without BasinMod 2-D Platte River Associates, software for dynamic geologic conditions modelling within a petroleum system?

Without the business valuation software tools.

To calculate the capitalised excess earnings, discounted cash flow, market comps, multiple of discretionary earnings, net present value, cash flow, deal structuring tools ? Such as for your farm-ins, farm-outs, new (ad)ventures, mergers, acquisitions?

Without IHS Markit, Energy and Natural Resources, Vantage, Kingdom Seismic and Geologic Interpretation Software, Geoscience Solutions, Harmony and Harmony Enterprise, Global Gas, Petra Geologic Interpretation Software, Questor O&G Capex/Opex cost estimation software, Petrodata Product Suite; Financial Services, Consulting, Technology ?

Myself, (un?)fortunately, I had to go, crack my poor brains, crawl, get almost drowned, surf upon and try to understand, master and integrate a fair part of above mentioned software. Bottoms-up, hands-on, buttons-up and buttons-down, in the last 4 decades.

But, how much technology and software do you really need nowadays as a geoscientist to be a successful added value explorer and oil finder?

Is it determined by her/his virtuosity of being able to choose and toggle with high speed on some 10,000 options and buttons in these energy related programs.

Where you can conveniently press on, to get a hardcopy answer. Mostly without even understanding remotely what the software in the black box is doing to deliver the desired and supposedly correct answer ?

It certainly helps a great deal, but….?

The greatest explorer of this universe ???

Explorationist pur sang.

His universal classical theory (…oeps…universal…but covering only up to the nasty black holes. So nasty that quantum gravity and unified theories have to assist his legacy to survive, to explain the functioning of our Universe):

All his articles and superb calculations on general relativity, were done by using only his, by the way, undersized brain.

1,230 Grams instead of the average of 1,400 grams.
But with a much greater density of connected neurons as the deep grove that normally divides the parietal cortex was absent, thus merging two remote areas and increasing connectivity in this area.

By writing his thoughts and findings with his left hand on blank paper.

With his fountain pen.
The Waterman 22 Taper-Cap, vintage fountain pen. This pen was left as a gift to his dear friend Ehrenfest in Leiden, where he was a regular guest, professor and guest professor in the period 1911 – 1933. This pen is exposed in the Museum Boerhave, Leiden, the Netherlands.

Just four (4) exploration tools.

Own brains, left hand, blank paper, fountain pen.

The comprehensive, maybe some 100+++ gigabyte, software suite for his imagination and theory was embedded in the undersized brains of this grand genius.

Einstein - Universal Explorationist - Exploration Tool - Waterman pen 22 taper-cap - MCAL
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Einstein – Universal Explorationist – Exploration Tool – Waterman pen 22 Taper-Cap – MCAL


In retrospect, what is most critical for exploration and discovering oil and gas ?

The answer, my friend……..is imagination.

The rest is ” Blowin’ in the Wind “….

As the lyrics of the iconic song, dated april 1962.

Of Nobel Prize Literature winner 2016. Awarded with the coveted prize during a jovial, champagne-laced ceremony on a Saturday. At a secret location in Stockholm, before his first concert stopover, on his long-planned European tour.

Mr. Bob Dylan.

Sabrosos recuerdos de Mara Caibo, las Mara Cuchas, los Mara Cuchos, la Virgen de Chiquinquira, Estado Zulia etc. etc. etc. ?

Cuando Voy A Maracaibo, song by Maracaibo 15:

Cuando voy a Maracaibo
Y empiezo a pasar el puente
Siento una emoción tan grande
Que se me nubla la mente
Siento un nudo en la garganta
Y el corazón se me salta
Y sin darme cuenta tiemblo
Sin querer estoy llorando
– verso I –
Es la tierra del Zuliano
Un paraiso pequeño
Donde todos son hermanos
Desde el goajiro al costeño
– verso II –
Todo Zuliano que siente
Su terruño en lo profundo
Le parece que su gente
Es la mejor de este mundo
– verso III –
La Chinita y Papá Dios
Andan por el Saladillo
Paseando bajo su sol

Enjoy, doei, salut, ciao, ate logo, grussen, tan bun ala mala, tur kos bon mi hendenán na mi dushi Korsow, como estai vos priiimo, que molleja, muchos saludos.

Figure 1: Ceuta – Tomoporo is one of the ” Giant Oil and Gas Fields of the Decade 1978 – 1988 “. Described in AAPG Memoir 54, 1992, Editor Michel T. Halbouty, ISBN: 0-89181-333-0. Chapter 11, Ceuta-Tomoporo Field, Venezuela, page 163 – 173. The first 3 maps (Figs. 2,3,4) are taken from this publication.

Giant fields - AAPG Memoir 54 - M. Halbouty - MCAL
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Giant fields – AAPG Memoir 54 – M. Halbouty – MCAL

Figure 2: Map Ceuta – Tomoporo discovery

AAPG Memoir 54 - Chapter 11 - Ceuta - Fig 9, p. 169 - MCAL
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AAPG Memoir 54 – Chapter 11 – Ceuta – Fig 9, p. 169 – MCAL

Well 693 (Maraven Well VLG-693 – originally Meneven Well location E-CKK aj, 1981). Discovered new oil accumulations to the east of the traditional Ceuta field, in an area bounded by an important normal fault to the north. It had an initial production rate of 3100 BOPD from the lower “B” Eocene sandstones.

Well 707 (Maraven Well VLG-707 – originally Meneven Well location E-CNK aj, 1981) produced 4500 BOPD.

Fig. 3: Maracaibo basin oil fields

AAPG Memoir 54 - Ceuta Field - Fig. 2, p.164 - MCAL
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AAPG Memoir 54 – Ceuta Field – Fig. 2, p.164 – MCAL

Fig. 4: Early Eocene structural map

AAPG Memoir 54 - Ceuta Field - Fig. 3, p.165 - MCAL
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AAPG Memoir 54 – Ceuta Field – Fig. 3, p.165 – MCAL

Fig. 5: Meneven, Filial de Petroleos de Venezuela. Distrito Lagunillas. Departamento de Exploracion. Programa Exploratorio Perforacion 1981 (complemento).

Ceuta Discoveries - Meneven - Programa Exploración 1981 - MCAL
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Ceuta Discoveries – Meneven – Programa Exploración 1981 – MCAL

Fig. 6: Meneven’s exploration program 1981 consisted of 15 exploration wells.

The 2 discovery wells of Meneven were CKK aj (renamed as VLG-3693 by Maraven). And E-CNK aj (renamed VLG – 3707 by Maraven).

Ceuta Discovery - Meneven - Programa Perforación 1981 - MCAL
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Ceuta Discovery – Meneven – Programa Perforación 1981 – MCAL

Fig. 7: Meneven’s 1981 exploration program of 15 wells.They were expected to increase proven reserves to 100.2 MMBLS.

Ceuta – Tomoporo with the following discoveries appears to contain 1740 MMSTB (1990), some 17X more that in 1981.

Ceuta discovery - Meneven - Programa Exploración p. 4 - 1981 - MCAL
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Ceuta discovery – Meneven – Programa Exploración p. 4 – 1981 – MCAL

Fig. 8: Meneven, Filial de Petroleos de Venezuela. Distrito Lagunillas. Departamento de EXploracion. Programa Exploratorio 1981.

Location of giant field discovery wells proposals CKK aj (VLG – 3693) and E-CNK aj (VLG – 3707)

Ceuta discovery - Meneven - Programa Exploración - Localizaciónes - 1981 - MCAL
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Ceuta discovery – Meneven – Programa Exploración – Localizaciónes – CKK aj and E-CNKaj, discovery wells, 1981 – MCAL

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