Discovering the secrets
of the subsurface

From the outset, Verónica Castillo transmits an absolute passion for her profession and for one specialty in particular: geology. But unlike many professionals, her interest in this area of expertise did not come at an early age. In her own words, “it grew little by little.” It wasn’t until her second year of university when she was introduced to earth sciences, more specifically geology, that she was finally hooked.

As a university student, she never imagined that she would play a role in important hydrocarbon discoveries like Perla. This offshore gas field, located in the Gulf of Venezuela, is the biggest in Latin America and was started up by the company Cardón IV (a 50:50 joint venture between Repsol and Eni) in 2015. “Perla has been one of the most important parts of my life. Over a period of more than six years, I participated in all the phases of the exploration process, from the evaluation of the area and acquisition of the block to the moment the well was drilled and we made the discovery.” It’s an exploration geologist’s dream come true, since you usually only participate in one phase of the project” she stated with satisfaction.

Verónica, Ph.D. in Geological Sciences at the University of Texas, works as a Senior Geoscientist with the Exploration Quality group in Houston, where her work involves helping team members to create quality and technically valuable exploration opportunities.

Throughout her career, Verónica has been in charge of predicting what the subsurface of the area to explore looks like — the type of rocks and their distribution and composition — all of which is analyzed using seismic data, calibrated with surface geology and well data.

For example, she’s been responsible for developing new exploration opportunities for Repsol in South America and the Caribbean. “It’s about spotting an opportunity and making sure it’s viable. Once all the information about the area has been looked over, explored, and put together, I have to determine whether or not it would be valuable to explore the area from a technical point of view,” Verónica explained.

María Verónica Castillo

Self-identifying as a “citizen of the world” has led her to participate in exploration projects in a number of different countries that have been significant on an international scale and extremely interesting geologically. She currently lives in Houston, which has given her a “truly enriching opportunity from a professional standpoint,” although she admits that she still has strong ties to Venezuela “because that’s where my roots are.”

She feels fortunate to have been able to “participate in projects full of challenges and to learn more about the world using cutting-edge technology that allows us to be more precise in our final results. Working at Repsol is paradise for a geologist,” she confidently affirmed.

Verónica stresses that her success is the result of a group effort. She forms part of cross-discipline teams where the fact that “we all have different specialties and nationalities and are from different areas” is key. The different disciplines help us see things from all points of view. The goal is to arrive at a final, integrated vision.”

“Having a cross-discipline team is essential because it gives us a variety of perspectives that enrich the projects,” says Verónica, describing her current working team in Houston.

Today, Verónica practices her profession by putting all of her energy into each project and enjoying the evolution exploration geology has seen in recent years. “Now we’ve got to look for different opportunities and create value in places we previously wouldn’t have thought possible. We’re working in places we know nothing about, so we have to explore new interpretations and bring new ideas to the table.” Predicting the makeup of the subsurface in detail is no easy task, but Verónica emphasizes the important role the technological revolution and knowledge play in improving predictions.

“Things are becoming increasingly precise and new tools are constantly becoming available. This helps us understand what in the subsurface could be of use and determine if extracting it is economically viable or not.” That’s the idea she tries to instill in students at the University of Houston, where she takes part in academic events and works with postgraduate students (Master’s and PhD) at the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, evaluating student projects and analyzing their real viability. “My work at the University of Houston is all about making students passionate about studying and helping them understand our planet and the resources it provides us, which we must use responsibly,” Veronica said.

“My work at the University of Houston is all about making students passionate about studying and helping them understand our planet and the resources it provides us, which we must use responsibly”. Verónica Castillo

The specialist reflects on her responsibility as a geologist with a view to the future: “The more we can predict and be sure about what’s in the subsurface, the more able we’ll be to assess the exploration opportunities and gain access to energy even more responsibly.”

 

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