This excellent volume is the result of a very successful meeting of the Geological Society’s Petroleum Group (Biostratigraphy in Production and Development Geology) held at Aberdeen University in June 1997. There are sixteen diverse papers and a decent looking index. All the papers are of excellent quality and some include colour diagrams. There are not many plates, but those present are generally very good; the exception being the palynological plates in the paper by Simmons et al. – the figures must have been taken using a filthy microscope, and embarrassingly one of them finds its way onto the front of the book. Even one of the Magnus Field Trochammina specimens would have been better!
When the volume first appeared, the price of oil had plummeted, and the it had rather an ‘end of an era’ feel about it – the end of the golden years of biostratigraphy perhaps, and indeed there are some golden papers in this collection. The first paper by Simon Payne, Dave Ewan and Mike Bowman (The role and value of ‘high-impact biostratigraphy’ in reservoir appraisal and development) sets the tone and deserves a special mention (although the phrase ‘high-impact biostratigraphy’ still makes me squirm; it’s defined by Payne et al. as “The alignment of high-resolution biostratigraphy with the attainment of business goals”). Despite the jargon, the authors have an important message for the application of biostratigraphy which should be noted by any practising biostratigrapher in the industry today (and their clients – the geologists, geophysicists and reservoir engineers). Payne et al. summarize their approach as follows:
a. keep the focus on understanding the business aim – what questions need to be answered?
b. think field scale and field specific, and push the data hard
c. think ‘bioevents’ not ‘biozonation’
d. communicate confidence limits on your data points
e. integrate and iterate with other geoscience
f. realize the ‘technology’ can work at the well site.
The rest of the volume essentially comprises a series of case histories, eleven from the North Sea (including Payne et al.), two from Nigeria and one each from Borneo, Venezuela, and the Gulf of Mexico. Without exception, all these contributions are excellent. I haven’t seen a better collection of applied biostratigraphy papers since the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM’s ‘Innovative biostratigraphic approaches to sequence analysis: new exploration opportunities’ published back in 1987. The volume should be at the desk of every industrial biostratigrapher at work today. Whether it would be of interest to geologists, geophysicist and reservoir engineers is debateable as there is a high technical quotient. However, if biostratigraphers keep the message of Payne et al. in mind, the impact of biostratigraphy in reservoir and development studies is likely to get higher and higher.