ESTEVAN, Saskatchewan – Back in the early history of the PNG industry, oil was literally found by stumbling upon seeps of oil that made its way to the surface of the earth – drill there. Easy. More recently, seismic technology, along with the geophysical analysis performed to the seismic data, is being used to locate structural highs and other features that could suggest the presence of oil or gas.

But every now and again a company, or individual, develops a ground-breaking technique for finding and estimating reserves of oil and gas that just boggles the mind. Marlene Shookshank, staff geophysicist with Tumbleweed Resources, has done just that.

Marlene Shookshank, Senior Geophysicist

In the summer of 2012, as we were driving around to visit drill sites and other facilities during our last team field trip, our reservoir engineer noticed that I would giggle or laugh hysterically for no apparent reason. He thought I was nuts. But then one of the team’s geologists noticed that there was a pattern to my laughter, or at least some sort of positive correlation between my laughter and my proximity to a bottomhole location. What the hell? We knew we were onto something. – Marlene Shookshank

Onto something, they indeed were. According to documents leaked by one of Marlene’s team members to 2P News, the company had discovered that Marlene would start to laugh when she is positioned over a structural high, and the louder she laughed, the more oil the team figured was trapped within that high. And on the contrary, Marlene would become sad over structural lows, and the less prospective the area, the more crestfallen she would become. This was the theory, at least, and the team set out to prove it up.

In the summer of 2013, the team set out to its Gabfire property in the southwest corner of Manitoba, not very far from Virden. The team was equipped with an ATV, a GPS, a voice recorder, and a trailer just big enough to fit a single mattress. The idea was to systematically traverse the field while simultaneously recording Marlene’s laughter events (and amplitude) with respect to her lat-long coordinates.

Business Unit Manager
Michael Cera – Manager

So we equipped Marlene with a lapel microphone hooked up to a voice recorder, and comfortably strapped her to the mattress that was on the trailer. Our Gabfire lead operator then took the controls of the ATV and zig-zagged across an entire township of land – an area large enough to make the results of the experiment statistically significant. Then we headed back to the field office to analyze the results. – Michael Cera, Business Unit Manager

The ATV-trailer setup that the team employed for the field study

After throwing the laughter recorder data and the GPS data on a spatial scatterplot, and superimposing the scatterplot atop a 3D seismic data map that the company had shot 3 years ago, the results were nothing short of astonishing.

The correlation was uncanny – the correlation coefficient was nearly 1. At this point, the company knew that it was onto something. Thanks to a geophysicist who had a 6th sense for identifying subsurface structural variations, it had invented a technique that allowed it not only more accurately plan its development, but save all sorts of time and money by not shooting or purchasing 3D seismic.

After hearing of this success, Bendovus Energy poached Marlene Shookshank from Tumbleweed Resources and attempted to replicate and patent the technology. But the company struggled to reproduce the results with Marlene, and after questioning her why it is not working, she politely responded that, “working here at Bendovus blows and that just ruined the entire thing for me – my creativity is lost.”


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