Archive for February, 2012

Important vs. Urgent vs. Critical

February 29, 2012

We do a lot of important things in the oil and gas business, and sometimes we have to prioritize what we do first, and there seems to be some question about whether you do the urgent things first or the critical things first. So let’s look at the differences in these definitions to help us understand what is being said when something is “important,” “urgent,” or “critical.”

Important = of significant worth or consequence, a value judgment of superior worth

Urgent = calling for immediate attention, pressing, a timing judgment

Critical = crucial, vital, at a juncture where the consequences can change significantly for the better or worse

All three of these words have to do with judgment:

Important is a value judgment.

Urgent is a timing judgment.

A situation where judgment is needed to effect the situation positively is critical.

So which word should you use as a flag in the subject line of your email?

Answer: That depends.

Situation 1: You are working on your weekly status report, and your boss wants you to do a few net present value calculations to see if an acidizing job is worth doing in a particular well. He wants you to do the calculations before you finish the status report. He flags the email as “Important.”

Situation 2: You are writing up the documentation for your recent petrophysics study, and the guys from the field who are drilling that horizontal well are seeing something different than you had projected. They want your advice right away, so they flag the email as “Urgent.”

Situation 3: Your overseas partner is thinking of pulling out of the joint venture because your original modeling work showed lower reserves than they had expected. However, your updated model with the data from Well #3 shows the reservoir extends further to the east than the original model assumed. You flag your email to the partner as “Critical.”

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of when to use these important terms.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“A comprehensive national energy policy is critical to our nation’s economy and our national security. Energy expenditures account for about 7% percent of our total economy and influence pricing in the much of the rest of the economy.”

– Heather Wilson, American Congresswoman, R-NM, b. 1960


Where It’s At

February 29, 2012

This Tip of the Day is brought to you by the tiny word “at.”

There are right ways and wrong ways to use “at,” and we are going to discuss when and how to use “at” both in the middle and at the end of sentences.

Bad Examples:

Where are my sunglasses at?  (end of sentence)

Oil production is at 475 b/d and the water cut is at 23%. (middle of sentence)

Corrected Examples:

Where are my sunglasses?

Oil production is 475 b/d and the water cut is 23%.

[Commercial Break]

Sometimes you feel like an “at,”

Sometimes you don’t.

The boys in the ‘hood use “at,”

Grammar geeks won’t.
[Now, back to our regularly scheduled program…]

There are times, however, when using a colloquialism adds the appropriate flavor to a particular sentence. Even the Oxford English Dictionary defines a proper use for the idiom “where it’s at” as “the true or essential nature of a situation (or person); the true state of affairs; a place of central activity.”


He’s a hip, cool dude who really knows where it’s at.

That drilling rig superintendent has drilled so many horizontal wells, he really knows where it’s at.

These days, the Bakken Shale is where it’s at.


It pays to read those weekly status reports carefully, because sometimes you get a few good laughs.

Here are two examples I saw today.

1) The backflush was perfumed with no success. I’m sure they meant “performed” rather than “perfumed.” No, they weren’t talking about bathroom odors here; they were trying to perform a backflush on a well to clean out perforations or drilling fluids or something.

2) The rig is currently in the well to fish the roads. I’m sure they cannot fit the entire rig in the wellbore, and they were fishing out a parted rod from a beam pump, not a road. But the image of the rig in the well trying to catch a fish in the roads was worth having to read the entire progress report.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself – the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us – that’s where it’s at.”

– Jesse Owens, American runner, 4 gold medals in 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, 1913-1980

Attribute vs. Property

February 24, 2012

Both of the words “attribute” and “property” mean a feature by which a thing may be identified.

However, “attribute” tends to be more qualitative, while “property” tends to be more quantitative.

According to Webster, a property is a characteristic that belongs to a thing’s essential nature and may be used to describe a type or species.

A property is owned or possessed by the thing, much like real estate is owned property.


The rock porosity is 21% — porosity is a property of the rock

An attribute is a modifier word that serves to limit, identify, particularize, describe, or supplement the meaning of the word it modifies.


Carbonate rock – carbonate is an attribute of the rock

Profound Quote of the Day:
“But freedom, liberty, is an attribute of the soul and it may exist even when the body is in bondage.”

– Ralph A. Cram, American architect, 1863-1942

Goals vs. Targets

February 23, 2012

At the beginning of each year, most employees are supposed to write down some goals they hope to achieve for their team and their company to succeed. But what is the difference between “goals” and “targets”?

Goal means an end toward which effort is directed. Another definition is an “aim.” But don’t you aim at a target? Well, yes.

A target is defined as a goal to be achieved. So are they the same thing?

A goal can be broader and more general than a target, which is usually a specific number.


Her goal is to lose weight.

Her target is to reach 125 lb.

So how will we remember this?

Think sports: an archery target is smaller and harder to hit than a soccer or football goal.

Thus, goals are easier to reach than more specific targets, so craft the wording of your goals accordingly.

Baseball Spring Training Quote of the Day:
“A man has to have goals — for a day, for a lifetime — and that was mine, to have people say: ‘There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.’”

(Ah, but what was his target?  Batting .406 in 1941)

– Ted Williams, American Baseball Hall of Fame, 1918-2002

Accumulative vs. Cumulative

February 23, 2012

Hooray! I got a question from the Peanut Gallery on Fat Tuesday!  John writes from Bahrain:

“I have been building an Excel spreadsheet. At the column heading for a daily reading that is adding up each day’s barrels produced for a cumulative volume, I have a coworker (Scottish) who changed the word I used ‘cumulative’ to ‘accumulative.’ Which is correct to use? I have looked them up in a dictionary, and it doesn’t explain the difference.”

Well, John, in certain situations, both of these adjectives can mean the same thing: increasing the total by successive additions, which is basically what you are doing in that particular spreadsheet column, adding another day’s worth of oil in barrels to the total. So I would say you are both right. However, “cumulative” is used far more often than “accumulative” (30 to 1) for that specific meaning. Normally I do not condone democracy in grammar, spelling, or punctuation, but in word choice it’s best to go with the crowd if you wish to communicate clearly to the crowd.

One of the definitions of “cumulative” is “formed by the addition of new material of the same kind,” which works for oil barrels, grade point averages in college, or even a periodical index (said the former librarian).

“Accumulative” also has another meaning: “tending to acquire” or “acquisitive,” especially when it comes to wealth.


Her accumulative tendencies could result in hoarding, if taken to the extreme.

His accumulative managerial style has resulted in Special Projects becoming the largest department of all the company’s business units.

In this sense, “accumulative” refers to the acquirer, whereas “cumulative” always refers to the stuff being acquired.
Funny Typo of the Day:  May 20111


February 18, 2012

Last week the Merriam-Webster word of the day was “cacography.”

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Cacography means bad writing, which can manifest itself in either bad spelling or bad handwriting. Believe it or not, I used to suffer from a bad case of cacography – the bad handwriting type, not the bad spelling type.

In fourth and fifth grades, after we had learned cursive handwriting, I was always scribbling my class assignments very fast so I could finish early and get back to reading my books while everyone else was still writing. Consequently, my handwriting was practically illegible, but the content was excellent, once the teacher figured out what it said. I got A’s in every subject except handwriting; for that I got C’s on every report card.

Well, there was this beautiful girl in my class, Shannon Spillane, with long, black, wavy hair, and she was teacher’s pet. And when she won a new pen for having the best penmanship for the week, I got so jealous I made up my mind to win the penmanship award the next week. So for five straight days, I wrote slowly and carefully, making sure every letter was perfectly formed. And sure enough, I won a nice new pen for having the most improved penmanship in my class!

After they announced this over the loudspeaker, my teacher came over to me and said: “Now that I know you can write so neatly, I expect you to do this all the time.” I was devastated.

Later in life, when I was a journalist and had not learned shorthand, my fast scribbling abilities came in very handy when writing down what energy VPs and CIOs were saying so I could include their quotes verbatim in the next issue of the magazine. The trouble was, nobody else could read my cacography, and I had to type up my own notes.

These days, schoolchildren learn texting and keyboarding before they ever learn cursive handwriting. I’m afraid that there may be a marked increase in cacography in the near future – both of the handwriting and spelling kinds.

Reducing vs. Declining

February 18, 2012

Petroleum engineers understand decline curves. However, some are a bit fuzzy about the difference between “declining” and “reducing.” To explain these differences, we will have to understand transitive and intransitive verbs. A transitive verb takes an object, whereas an intransitive verb does not.

Transitive: He fits the flange onto the pipe. (object)

Intransitive: The flange fits nicely. (no object)

The same verb can transfer the action to an object, or not. Now let’s look at our verbs du jour.

Reduce (transitive) means to make the size or quantity less or to diminish the extent.

Examples: reduce a sauce to concentrate it, reduce a fraction or equation to simplify it, reduce Fe+3 (ferric ion) to Fe+2 (ferrous ion), reduce prices

Reduce (intransitive) means to become diminished in size.

Examples: She is reducing (dieting) after eating all that Valentine candy. The sauce is reducing on the stove. Fe+3 ion reduces in the presence of this additive.

Decline (intransitive) means to slope downward, descend, or droop.

Examples: oil production declined, the road declined toward the lake, her health declined

Decline (transitive) means to refuse or turn down an opportunity.

Examples: She declined his invitation to dinner. She was offered a promotion, but she declined it.

The transitive form of “decline” is not used to denote a decrease.

Bad Example: The supervisor declined his assistant’s salary.

This sentence means the assistant offered her meager salary to the supervisor, but he turned down her generous offer. If you mean that the supervisor had to decrease the assistant’s salary because of the department’s 5% budget cut, then use the word “reduced” rather than “declined.”

Overlays vs. Overlies

February 15, 2012

Many times when geologists are talking about the arrangement of the various rock strata, they will say that the A Sand overlays the B Sand, when they really should say “overlies.”

A person can overlay a transparency with another transparency to add a layer of information to the picture. This was done very well in the ancient World Book Encyclopedia my husband had as a kid. You could start with the human skeleton, then add the overlay with the internal organs, then add the overlay with the muscles, then the overlay with the circulatory system, then finally the overlay of the skin. When we threw out that old, dusty encyclopedia, we kept that one volume. That’s something Wikipedia has not been able to duplicate – yet.

Ah, but I digress.

To overlay means to spread over or across, to lay something on top of something else. It denotes the action of placement.

To overlie means to rest upon or lie on top of something. It denotes passive location.

So if you are talking about a sand that is placidly resting on top of a shale, it is overlying the shale, not overlaying the shale.

The river that carried all that sand did the overlaying.

Another meaning for overlie is to kill by lying on top of, which is why you should never have your baby sleep in bed with you. That happened in King Solomon’s day, after which he wisely offered to cut the surviving baby in half so the two women who claimed it could share the remaining infant. Better safe than sorry, eh?

Bad, Better, and Why

February 14, 2012

Let’s make the following bad sentences better, shall we?

Bad:  The well will be installed with a larger pump.

Better: We will install a larger pump in the well.

Why:  There is no rule requiring passive sentence construction in technical writing. If you are going to do something, go ahead and take credit for it and say “we will.”
Bad:  It was decided that a new pump should be installed.

Better: We decided to install a new pump.

Why:  Let the reader know who made the decision so the proper heads can roll if it fails.
Bad:  Of the 59 wells, 36 of them have FMI logs available.

Better: Of the 59 wells, 36 have FMI logs available.

Why:  The second “of them” is redundant.
Bad:  Water saturation was calculated by Archie’s equation.

Better: Water saturation was calculated using Archie’s equation.

Why:   Archie’s equation did not do the calculation; the equation was used by some human to do the calculation.
And here the kind of really funny sentence that can happen if you just change the numbers in last week’s status report:

“Wellhead pressure is 0 psi and declining.”

Oh, so the wellhead is starting to pull a vacuum and suck the oil up all by itself, eh? That’s some trick! Better patent that wellhead design!

Quotes of the Day
“Be smart enough to ask for what you need. You may be surprised at who is willing to help you.”
“Commit now to being a lifetime student, to actively seeking out new, challenging experiences and people who will push you to your next level.”
― Vickie L. Milazzo, Houston businesswoman and author

Those Pesky Little Dots

February 7, 2012

Decimal points are so very tiny, and yet so important.

One of my online service providers “accidentally” charged me 82.5% sales tax instead of 8.25%.

To quote the Texas governor: “Oops.”

The placement of that little dot caused quite a ruckus. Fortunately, I’m getting a refund.

Sometimes you think you have a decimal point there, but it’s really a speck of dirt on your computer screen. Moral of the story: keep you screen clean.

I’ve run across a number of incidents of double periods at the end of the sentence. Sometimes you just have to crane your neck and squint your eyes or adjust your bifocals to make sure you catch all these tiny extra dots and eliminate them.

Here are some other “oopsies” that happen frequently in spreadsheets.

Sometimes the letter O is entered instead of a zero.

Sometimes the exclamation point ( ! ) is entered instead of the number one – or perhaps a lower case L ( 1 vs. l – it’s hard to tell).

But Excel knows an L when it sees one, and it considers it a letter, not a number, so your equations and formulas won’t work right.

Keep this tip in mind the next time you see your spreadsheet doing something funny. You just might have an O instead of a 0.

Funny Typo of the Day: Gammy Ray

Profound Quote of the Day
“The small wisdom is like water in a glass: clear, transparent, pure.

The great wisdom is like the water in the sea: dark, mysterious, impenetrable.”

― Rabindranath Tagore, India’s first Nobel Prize poet, 1861-1941