HOUSTON—When faced with the decision of whether to spend about $30 million to shoot new seismic across Block 7 offshore Mexico or a couple of million dollars to reprocess data provided by the government, Talos Energy CEO Tim Duncan chose the latter.

Comparing two seismic images—one of old data shot by state-owned Pemex and Talos’ reprocessed data—Duncan pointed out an interesting flat spot typically indicative, he said, of a difference between oil and water on the older image.

“We also knew there was a well 40 miles away that was filled with wet sand. Our view was that if those sands were resident in those locations and it had hydrocarbons this should light up,” he told attendees of the AIPN International Petroleum Summit. After reprocessing what the government provided and seeing a clearer image, a well was drilled. The result, as the industry knows it today, is Zama—a discovery believed to hold between 400 and 800 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe) in resources.

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