Geologist's Day: From Jurassic Park to the Eastern Plains of Colombia

From his office in Bogota, Sergio Dacol, an expert in horizontal wells, shares how he found his vocation, at the hand of his grandmother, a professional illustrator.

"I knew I was going to be a geologist from the age of 13," recalls Sergio Dacol as he talks about his childhood vocation. Today he’s 37 and a development geologist at the fields in Block CPO13, in Colombia. "I was 12 and I’d loved the Jurassic Park film. I asked my grandmother about paleontology as she’d been an extremely good illustrator in her youth, drawing for some famous paleontologists, like Hans Burgel and Thomas van der Hammen. I was very attracted by the idea.”

Sergio graduated in 2008 from the National University of Colombia, and today works at Tecpetrol in Bogota, which is where he monitors the Pendare Field wells in real-time.

"My grandmother was always really supportive, she used to tell me that she was absolutely certain that I was going to do very well for myself." When life went online during the pandemic, it brought many changes to the way this fundamental profession for the oil industry is exercised, although it staunchly maintained its essence.     

"Obviously, one thing is what those paleontologists in the Jurassic Park films do, and quite another what real-life geologists do, but it’s a great job, as during your studies you get to travel around the country. And when you graduate and join the profession, you learn a lot in the field according to your specialization," he says.

In the industry, the geologist's job consists of proposing wells, which involves surveying the terrain, making technical analyzes for drilling feasibility, and proposing scenarios. The geologist is also responsible for monitoring the operation, and during the drilling of the well itself, they make adjustments to the drilling to ensure the drill bit lands in the best possible place, always according to each reservoir’s unique features. 

"My routine is pretty varied. In a week without a well, which is what we call work between drilling, we draw up reports and talk to government agencies, spending maybe two or three days a week in the office and the rest working from home. Then there are meetings where we evaluate plans for future drilling campaigns," explained Dacol, who has been working for the company for two years. "But when we’re working on a well, we’re fully connected to the operation, pulling 12-hour shifts, sometimes I’m on during the day and sometimes at night! We follow all the information curves, and I’m the link between the personnel performing the analysis and the people in the field, so I can give them indications about the drilling angle."

Although in recent times tools and techniques have developed significantly, as has technology, the real change came with the pandemic, when "the drill stopped", and people “went remote”.

"Before all of that happened, we used to get together in a room to examine the well, checking the data reaching the surface and encrypting it before it embarked on a journey of many kilometers, but now we can see it in real time from wherever we are," he added. 

"Our work is essential for the oil industry, geologists are always needed to locate reserves, to develop and understand the fields," he explained. "But they’re also important in terms of the country's development, as geologists provide crucial information in the search for alternative energies. This can be geothermal, which is more direct, or hydraulic, more indirect, but we also provide critical input for broader issues: for instance, when you talk about nuclear energy. In Japan, the crisis in Fukushima was the result of a tidal wave, proving that the seismic risks of an area need to be taken into account." 

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