Janis Rose is a senior geoscientist with over 20 years’ experience in both exploration and development. She started off in the petroleum industry by joining Chevron Canada and remained a loyal employee for eighteen years, working on assets in western Canada, east coast offshore, and the Mackenzie Delta/Northwest Territories. This gave Janis a broad overview of seismic interpretation and prospect generation, as well as the associated risk and economics. Since 2017, she has been working at Cenovus Energy, and is using her insights and informed decisions towards advancing exploration and development.
Apart from the science that Janis practices, she volunteers her time as an editor for the CSEG RECORDER, where her technical and soft skills are on display in the articles that she edits.
With great pleasure I requested Janis for an interview for the RECORDER, which she kindly accepted. The following are excerpts from the interview.
Janis, please tell us about your educational qualifications and your work experience.
I have a BSc (Honours) in Geophysics from Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). From 1997-2005, I worked for Chevron Canada in Calgary. I transferred to Chevron’s St. John’s office in 2005 and worked there until 2015. I’ve worked with Cenovus Energy (which combined with Husky Energy in 2021) in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) since 2017. I’ve been lucky to work for companies with excellent geoscience training programs. I’ve had many in-depth training courses in field-based and computer-based geology and geophysics topics. I’ve done courses in structural geology, clastic stratigraphy, seismic acquisition design, seismic processing, earth modelling, seismic sequence stratigraphy, play analysis, and training in specific software. I’ve done a variety of soft skills training courses, as well. I even did lean sigma green belt certification.
Fluvio-deltaic stratigraphy, County Claire, Ireland
How did you decide to take up geophysics as a specialization/career?
I loved physics and geology, but I didn’t have a good idea of career options and what it would be like to work in one of those fields. I had never known a geologist, other than my high school geology teacher, who told us stories from when he worked as a geologist in the mining industry. I had never known a physicist, and I had never heard of geophysics. I went to the career center at MUN to do some research, and that’s where I discovered that there was something called geophysics. That was exciting because I realized I could study both those things I was interested in. Next, I made my way over to the Earth Science Department and talked to the adviser there. It turned out that, the following weekend, there was going to be a tour of the Department as part of the Atlantic Universities Geological Conference (AUGC). I joined the tour that Saturday and was rather amazed by the different lab facilities and equipment, and the many areas of research covered by the 20+ faculty. I decided then that I would be a geophysicist. Incidentally, that was after spending a semester in the English Department. English was the other subject I loved throughout grade school. The problem was that I wasn’t interested in any other humanities courses, and I couldn’t imagine not studying science. So, I moved to the Earth Science Department and loved it! I continued working on an English minor, but abandoned it a couple of courses short. I guess my English studies are serving me now as a technical editor for the RECORDER.
You joined Chevron Canada in Calgary in 1997, but after eight years, you came back to St. John’s. Was it a ”home calling”, or something else?
It was a combination of the desire to be closer to family, as well as my interest in the oil and gas industry in NL. The Hibernia and Terra Nova Fields were then being produced, White Rose and Hebron were in development planning, and there was active exploration. Because NL was home, I was really interested in learning more about NL offshore, and I guess I felt a greater sense of satisfaction being part of projects in NL, rather than projects in other jurisdictions. I still feel a vested interest in the economy, environment, and future of NL.
Interestingly, you stayed with Chevron Canada for eighteen years, which is not very common. I have noticed that in North America, people like to go up the ladder fast and so change jobs fast, too. Your comments, please?
I’ve observed that some people like to change jobs, and some people like to stay at a place where they enjoy working. The latter was the case for me. I wasn’t interested in pursuing a management role, but I was interested in climbing the technical ladder, and I was able to do that, there. I enjoyed the people I worked with, the work was usually challenging and interesting, I had some great mentors, and no shortage of smart people to answer questions – that was good for my endlessly enquiring mind! I’m grateful to those people who took the time to help me learn new things, discuss ideas, and figure out how to move forward on projects, starting from the time I was a summer student. I had some fun adventures there, too, like completing a week-long basic survival training course, and then going on a seismic boat offshore Nova Scotia. I also had the opportunity to do a lot of travelling, mostly in North America, for meetings, conferences, training, and to collaborate with people in other offices.
In 2017, you joined Husky, subsequently combined with Cenovus. How did you decide to make this move? What differences in the style of working did you perceive between Chevron and Cenovus?
During the downturn of 2015, there was a significant restructuring, and my role was eliminated. I had a lot of experience and a large network, and I felt confident that I would find another job when I was ready. But, I took a break for two years, during which my twin daughters were in Grades 3 and 4. It was just lovely to spend time with them. We took an epic and memorable family vacation during that time. I also volunteered at the school quite a bit. Not long after I started looking for work again, there was a job posting with Husky that was a perfect fit for my skill set, and I got the job.
The differences I saw between the two companies were largely related to their size. Chevron is a large, global company, headquartered in California, while Cenovus operates in North America and Asia Pacific, with its headquarters in Calgary. The variety of projects and the areas of focus are therefore different. Cenovus operates the White Rose Field and its satellite extensions, so their presence in NL is relatively large. Having worked for both companies, I’ve had the opportunity to work on each of the producing fields offshore NL, many of the significant discoveries, and a wide variety of exploration opportunities. That’s been interesting. Despite any differences between the companies, I think the geoscience work in an asset-based team is very similar, requiring essentially the same skill set. Both companies have a strong focus on safety. The people you work with each day are a big factor in determining how much you enjoy work, and I have been fortunate to work with professional, smart, and fun people.
What were some of the difficult and interesting technical challenges that you came across when you started working in Chevron’s Western Canada business unit?
That was first when I started working, so, on a personal level, everything was a challenge! I look back now, and many of the concepts and workflows are just second nature, but they were all challenging to learn when I started out.
I was hired as a seismic interpreter, which was certainly what I was interested in. But I thought that knowledge of seismic processing was important as well. For my undergraduate thesis, I worked on processing and interpretation of 2D seismic data. I had a similar project as a summer student at Chevron, where I started out by processing some 2D data. I wasn’t a seismic processing expert, but I had done enough to see how important it was, and to know the impact that different parameters could have on the final product. I’ve carried that learning with me for my entire career. At Chevron, I would help QC seismic processing when I was one of the interpreters who would be using the data. In fact, Satinder, I remember a project we worked on with ARCIS when you were there – perhaps late ‘90s or early 2000s! I had some excellent mentors, first as a summer student and then after I joined the company full-time, who worked with me on some short-term processing projects to develop my understanding of seismic processing. I still like being involved in seismic processing QC on my projects, but it’s always a challenge, especially to understand new or novel algorithms and approaches to processing, when it’s not the focus of my daily work.
Other technical challenges at the time included building maps and doing interpretation using 2D data, while wondering what I was missing in-between the lines. As well, we wanted to use pre-stack data sets, and they weren’t always available. There were data quality challenges, too: offline energy with 2D, noise removal versus primary preservation, stratigraphy below seismic resolution, etc. And, you know, all those data challenges – quality, quantity, and availability – are ones seismic interpreters face on every project, everywhere, although the specific details are different for each project.
Later, when you worked in the Nova Scotia Deep Water Exploration Team, how did the challenges change, and how did the team address them?
Joining that team was good for me, personally, as I was very early in my career, and I had excellent mentorship from the experienced geoscientists on the team. So, I learned a lot during that time. After joining the team, we formed a joint venture with Shell and Mobil. We co-located and worked out of the Shell office. We were a group of about a dozen geoscientists working together to advance the exploration work, while performing due diligence for our respective companies. It was sometimes difficult to manage the varied company cultures and differences in company processes, but it was also a fun group. Chevron held some office space for us to use whenever we wanted, and I think that helped us to manage some of the challenges. I also really saw the value of work planning – both with the Chevron team and with the larger group – on that project. Each of the other companies also had an early-career geoscientist, and it was good to have peers at the same level. This was all prior to the Exxon Mobil merger. Once the merger happened, the team was no longer co-located, and we had to manage another company culture, so there was some rebuilding.
The technical challenges included the extensional tectonism coupled with salt tectonics. For the better part of one year, I was responsible for building velocity models to convert the seismic data from time to depth – the seismic data over the entire Scotian Slope! I worked with an internal geophysical specialist on this, who was also an excellent mentor. The team had identified three different styles of salt tectonism over the area. We wanted one large regional model, but we needed three different velocity modelling approaches. We built separate models for the areas of different styles of salt tectonism, then merged the models. The abrupt and steeply dipping shelf edge proved to be another challenge, and we did some testing before we found the right parameters to convert it properly. With so much data over a large area, the compute time was long, so we had to run parameter tests on subsets of the data before building the larger models. We built so many models!
Soon after, you started working in the Mackenzie Delta (NWT), in northern Canada. How was that experience? Do you think this region could generate significant long-term economic and social benefits for Canada?
That was such a great experience. I had been working on the exploration team doing seismic interpretation. I later moved into the seismic operations group, and we were acquiring new 3D seismic surveys in the Mackenzie Delta region. I then moved back into the exploration team, as we were finishing up processing on one of the surveys that I had supported while in the operations group. I worked on some prospects using that data. I literally saw the full cycle of planning, acquisition, processing, and interpreting a 3D seismic survey.
Interpretation in the area was challenging, due to the complex structural geology in the region. The seismic attribute analysis was fun because there were a lot of gas accumulations, so prospects filled with gas, or with gas caps, had significant fluid effects. But we wanted to find oil, not gas. The seismic operations work was interesting and memorable. The surveys were a combination of vibroseis and dynamite – vibroseis on land and ground-fast ice, and dynamite in areas with water under the ice. I got some exposure to survey design. BJV was the contractor and they sent us various layouts to consider. I monitored the schedule and costs, and sent weekly reports. I also visited the seismic programs once a month. This involved flying to Inuvik, and driving with our client rep, on ice roads, to the seismic camp. I stayed the week and participated in safety meetings, checked data quality, and checked in on the field crews. On one trip, I had the opportunity to do a helicopter flight to scout an area for an upcoming seismic survey. It was fantastic to see the Mackenzie Delta from the air. In Inuvik, we would meet with community groups to discuss the projects. One afternoon, I volunteered to give a presentation to a group of high school students who were involved in a youth employment skills program. I remember putting a lot of thought into what I could show and say during my presentation to connect with the students. I felt I had succeeded when they became really engaged during the presentation.
Checking geophones on a 3D seismic survey receiver line in the Arctic
I’m not sure I have enough current knowledge of the region to comment on its potential for economic and social benefits. The region is rich in natural resources, like minerals and petroleum. It’s also rich in culture and beauty – I saw that first-hand. I loved visiting the North because of the physical environment and the culture of the people. However, the population is small and spread out, which, along with its physical remoteness from major centers, makes transportation and marketing a challenge. The impression I have from the time I spent working there is that industry (largely southern-based, then) and the local communities had some different drivers for, and concerns about, development, but could work collaboratively to advance projects for mutual benefit.
It looks like early on in your career, you got to experience the exploration work carried out over Western Canada land areas, Eastern offshore areas and then the areas in the Canadian North, where weather conditions can be punishing. What kinds of data quality challenges did you have to deal with, and how was the seismic interpretation experience in these areas?
Each area has its own unique data quality challenges. In Western Canada, I saw that statics corrections are important. That’s something you don’t have with marine seismic data. The types of noise differ between onshore and offshore data. Ground roll is prominent in onshore data, and we don’t get that in offshore, towed streamer data. Offshore NL, the water bottom is very hard and the amount of multiple energy it generates is extreme. In the Canadian North, the complex structure was a challenge, both for imaging and interpretation. In some areas of the Beaufort Sea there are normal, reverse, and strike-slip faults, all interacting. As an interpreter, you need to have a solid understanding of all those structural styles. We relied on some internal experts to help with structural restorations, to better understand the timing of structural events. In some areas, there were gas hydrates which showed up as very bright reflectors in the shallow subsurface, and in some cases caused disruption in the section imaged below. We sometimes see those offshore NL, as well. Offshore Nova Scotia, the salt tectonism was particularly challenging, both for imaging and interpretation. Offshore NL, the complex structure is challenging. The different phases of extension created complex fault patterns and interactions that need to be sorted out in order to properly correlate horizons. There are also areas with strike-slip faults, transtensional faults, and inverted structures.
Can you describe to me any project you liked working on the most? Which was the most satisfying, professionally?
I’ve described what it was like when I worked in the Mackenzie Delta, and that stands out as a highlight for me, both professionally and personally. My work there was satisfying because I got such a holistic view of the business. Also, spending time in the place where we operated, and with the people who lived there, gave me an appreciation for the impact on the places where we work. That has really stayed with me over the years. That experience with people and place has been invaluable to me in appreciating Canada’s initiatives towards national truth and reconciliation.
Professionally, I really enjoy projects where I get to integrate different types of data and produce something that adds value to a project. A while ago, I worked on a project to complete 4D impedance modelling for a field. This involved incorporating the earth model (geology) with rock physics calculations (geophysics) and the simulation model (reservoir engineering) to predict seismic amplitude and time shift during the life of the field. We then ranked different seismic acquisition technologies based on how repeatable the geometries were, how effective they could be in obtaining high S/N ratio data, and the cost. We also completed a value of information (VOI) analysis for acquiring new 3D data and repeat 4D seismic surveys. The project was so satisfying because I had stretched a bit beyond my area of expertise to integrate all aspects of the business case, and it ended with a good result.
I am sure our members would like to know about the present state of exploration and production of oil and gas from the three areas (Western Canada land areas, Eastern Offshore and Mackenzie Delta, NWT) where you have worked. Please let me know.
Again, I won’t claim to have in-depth knowledge of the industry in the North or even Western Canada at present, but I can say that I’m not aware of a lot of E&P activity in the NWT these days. There is a moratorium on oil and gas activity in the Beaufort Sea which was put in place in 2016. The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Project was discontinued. When I worked in Western Canada many years ago, there was still exploration for carbonate reef plays, as well as other conventional play types. There was some production from oil sands – the open-pit mining projects of Syncrude and Suncor – but SAGD was still being developed. I remember going on a tour of a facility called the AOSTRA (Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority) Underground Test Facility, where they were testing steam-assisted gravity drainage for its potential to tap the vast, deeply buried oil sands deposits in Alberta. Oil sands development using SAGD is tremendous now. Along with the development of unconventional reservoirs, and the remaining potential within conventional reservoirs, I think it’s safe to say that there is enough resource to have production for decades to come. Offshore East Coast, there are a number of exploration licenses in play, and drilling programs planned, but there was little interest in the most recent land sales offshore Nova Scotia and NL. There have been several highly anticipated, but unsuccessful, exploration wells in the last couple of seasons. The Bay du Nord Project in the Flemish Pass Basin has been delayed but is still being evaluated by its partners. Cenovus is continuing to advance the West White Rose project, which is an extension of the producing White Rose Field. We know that oil and natural gas are going to be part of the energy mix, well into the future, and our initiatives within the collaborative effort of the oil sands Pathways Alliance, as well as emission reductions projects at the producing facilities, will help to ensure we continue to be part of that.
You describe your job as integrating varied geological and geophysical concepts and datasets to perform robust technical analysis for key investment decisions. Please give us a flavour for how you accomplish this.
That’s my one sentence summary of what I think a geoscientist who works on an asset does, whether the asset is an exploration license or a developing field. The investment decisions – whether in land, data, drilling, or other opportunities – are ultimately made by management, but their value is based on the asset team’s technical evaluation. I think it’s important to learn and understand everything you can about your job, but also be willing to expand beyond what you are most familiar with. It’s important to continually ask, ”What can make this project better?” If there are gaps, is there someone you can bring in as a resource, something new you can learn to fill in the gap, additional data that would help, or a new way to look at the data? When you read technical articles or hear about new techniques, ask yourself if they can add value to the project you are working on. The RECORDER is an excellent resource for enhancing your technical knowledge!
How do you resolve the challenges of two demanding jobs: as a parent and as a geoscientist? Simply stated, how do you balance your busy work schedule and family life?
That’s a great question. And, you know, it’s one I often get asked by students when we have mentoring sessions. But, just like geoscience challenges, there is no silver bullet. My husband and I were fortunate to have family members who helped us tremendously with childcare when our kids were young and we were both working full-time. Other times, we have had daycare, a nanny, and one parent who wasn’t working. There are different options. I usually tell people that if it feels like you don’t have balance, it’s important to recognize that and keep trying, you will get there. During work hours, I try to focus on work. Outside working hours, I try to focus on everything else. Most mornings, I think about what the priorities are for the day – what is the priority at work, and what is the priority with respect to my family.
What are some of the things you like to do in your free time?
In the summer I enjoy hiking, camping, kayaking, and riding my motorcycle. In the winter I enjoy skiing – downhill and cross-country. In St. John’s in the winter, we get alternating snow and rain, so I ski as much as I can when the conditions are good. I also walk a lot. I like being outdoors. I also like reading. When I really want to relax, I like reading fiction novels. I spend most of my time with my family – my husband, 16-year-old twin daughters, and our dog – doing whatever everyone needs and wants to do. I’m the main “chef” in the family, so I spend a lot of time cooking, too.
Hiking in Arizona with my family
I usually ask this question for the benefit of the young entrants. What is the message you would like to give them?
Take opportunities to try different things and learn what you enjoy doing. Try to do the things you enjoy – chances are you will be good at those things and be more productive. If there is something you want to do, short-term or long-term, talk to your boss and your network – that’s the first step in finding opportunities.