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NZ software underpins the race for new oil finds

Media Release Monday 20 November 2006

NZ software underpins the race for new oil discoveries

Specialised software developed by GNS Science is attracting keen interest from international oil exploration companies jostling to find new supply sources as fuel prices continue to skyrocket.

The Claritas software reconstructs seismic signals into two and three-dimensional images of the geological structure of the earth’s subsurface, to a depth of 10 kilometres, making it ideal for determining whether it is worth drilling an area for oil. Claritas is also used by engineers and those who manage groundwater.

With the help of Government investment, through the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology’s Pre-Seed Accelerator Fund, GNS has transformed its Claritas software from a research tool to a smart commercial package and found a United States partner to take it to market.

GNS has formed a reseller partnership with US information technology specialists Stillwater Resource Group Inc, a Houston-based company located just minutes from the Houston energy corridor, with a possible joint venture further down the track. GNS has also joined forces with the New Zealand Supercomputing Centre in Wellington, giving it the capability to process standard jobs many times faster than conventional computing power.

Time is money when you are drilling for oil, says Dr David Darby, a Business Development Manager for GNS Science. “To be able to quickly give clients the information they need to accelerate a drilling decision is worth gold in the current boom cycle.

“The opportunities right now are huge. There is a chronic shortage of skilled people in the oil industry and intense pressure to find new oil reserves. Companies are going back to old sites and re-processing historical data to see if there is potential worth exploiting and Claritas gives them a clearer picture and delivers results faster.”

A unique feature of Claritas is that while it is ideal for use on a super computer, the software is also high performing on a lap top out in the field.

Stillwater Chief Executive, Stacey Horne, says Claritas is a robust, flexible and innovative product which has a broad and bright future in the global oil and gas industry.

“There is strong demand for this kind of product from individual geo-physicists through to mid tier companies. Houston is a logical springboard for selling Claritas because so many of the world’s big oil explorers have a base there so we can achieve global reach.”

Mr Horne sees New Zealand’s geographical location as a plus, because it allows GNS and Stillwater to offer premium servicing of the Claritas software.

“We can really differentiate ourselves through excellent support, service and responsiveness. By working in parallel with New Zealand, we can offer round the clock coverage because you work while we sleep and vice versa.”

Dr Darby says investment of around $220,000 through the Foundation’s Pre-Seed Accelerator Fund (PSAF) over the last two years has helped GNS Science take Claritas from the laboratory to the marketplace.

“Claritas was first developed 20 years ago but it was really just intellectual property. Big growth in the petroleum sector has been the trigger to power up the product and the PSAF investment has been the tool to do that. It’s partly technical development but it also required us to go through a process of building business links, thinking about the skills and firepower we needed and planning for commercialisation.”

Part of that process was to contract Hamish Clark, of iMC2, in the role of Claritas International Business Development in order to provide a blue print which could be used by GNS Science to take other savvy ideas to the global marketplace.

“Claritas is the most visible star in the GNS stable but we now have a framework, and some really valuable experience, for turning research into saleable products. We can use that to take some of GNS’s other world-leading research to market.”

Hamish Clark says part of the secret to success lies in the New Zealand conditions in which Claritas was developed.

“New Zealand has really complex topography so the onshore and offshore work done by GNS Science over the years using Claritas has delivered very sophisticated software. In New Zealand we deal with challenging conditions, and often have only a couple of people on a project who must use their creativity to solve a problem from end to end.

“As with Claritas, that can deliver an outstanding tool without New Zealand really realising it until we take it to the rest of the world.”

The Globe Claritas team is made up of software development specialists, geophysicists and a business development manager. The business is growing rapidly with revenue having climbed from $250,000 to well over $1 million in the last year.


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