Morris L. Helbach

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-05-07

Vice President, Information Technology Services and CIO, Anadarko Petroleum

Age: 55

Degree: Bachelor of Science, Management Science, Oklahoma State University

Car: Mercedes Benz E430

Favorite TV show: Discovery Channel

Anadarko Petroleum is on a roll. Over the past year, it spent $1.1 billion to buy Berkley Petroleum, completed a $4.4 billion merger with Union Pacific Resources Group and saw its stock price double. Much of Anadarkos success hinges on its ability to manipulate information. The company has 23,000 oil and gas wells worldwide and will drill another 2,200 wells this year, each requiring the analysis of massive amounts of data. At the start of 2001, the company had about 10 terabytes of storage capacity. By early next year, it will have four times that amount. In February 2000, Morris Helbach left Conoco to become Anadarkos CIO. He talked with Senior Writer Robert Bryce.

The increased use of data-intensive applications like 3D seismic has changed the oil exploration business. What challenges does that present?

Seismic work is very data-intensive. When we acquire data over a typical exploration block in the Gulf of Mexico, there will be about 240 gigabytes of information in one block. Anadarko owns 350 blocks and there are 7,000 blocks in the Gulf. And that doesnt include Alaska, Latin America or Africa. Plus, we will buy $30 [million] to $40 million in raw seismic data this year. That means we have to double our data storage capacity every three to six months. We have been evaluating products, including network-attached storage. We are moving toward an integrated mass- storage facility that will give us more expansion capability.

How has the Internet changed how you do your job?

The total company impact is still yet to come. However, there are multiple examples of small transformations under way now. One is working with [Houston construction giant] Brown & Root Services on an engineering design for new facilities in Algeria. They are using the Net to link people in Italy, Algeria and Houston to speed decision time on all construction activities. Another would be just straight procurement activities. I honestly believe weve just touched the tip of the iceberg.

How much is Anadarko spending per year on IT?

This year we will have $110 million in expenditures. A lot of thats because we are having to retool the whole IT capability. Next year, it will be somewhat less than that.

Whats the greatest challenge in your job?

My biggest challenge is ensuring we dont get locked down into thinking long-term on everything we do. We have to build two types of infrastructure: One is the reliable, static stuff, like human resources and finance. On the other hand, we may have to build infrastructure that is in digital speed, where it may only last 12 months.

What was your biggest mistake?

If I had it to do again, I would have accelerated an effort we started in mid-February of 2000. About that time, I felt convinced Anadarko would go through a merger, so we created a team to look at how wed do that. I could have gotten ready for it sooner. The merger [with Union Pacific in April 2000] came about more quickly than I anticipated.

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