KAPPA was created in September 1987 by two former increasingly grumpy Flopetrol-Johnston Schlumberger engineers who specialized in well test interpretation and production logging: Dominique Bourdet (1951-2003), who left the company in 1991, and Olivier Houzé, who, since then, has been the KAPPA Managing Director.
Our story begins with a big marketing mistake and a research contract for the development of analytical well test solutions for Elf in Norway. The marketing mistake was that we believed there was no room for software but a huge potential for services. It turned out to be the opposite. The Pressure Transient Analysis (PTA) software market was already crowded with products acknowledged as ‘industry standards’, and the idea was to continue to develop a PTA research and consultancy company. However, in the absence of a reasonable third party solution (read affordable, we begged for free or reduced cost licenses), a first set of routines was developed in order to perform the consultancy work. The initial specification was to combine a strong technical content and interaction / logic based on the methodology of the Bourdet derivative. The program would execute, by default, the successive steps required to perform an analysis using this methodology. In short, make it good, make it strong and make it easy.
After a year, and with a first set of routines ready, the first commercial efforts generated absolutely no consultancy work but, against all expectations, clients liked what they saw and the routines were turned into a commercial product, Saphir. The initial marketing was ‘word of mouth’ and by 1990 Saphir became the primary source of revenue. Very soon the first Saphir Corporate license was signed for the then Mobil. Olivier Allain, now KAPPA Technical Director, joined KAPPA in 1990, at the time Dominique was leaving.
Saphir Generation 1, released in 1988, was DOS based, written in Fortran and used GKS graphics. Generation 2, released in 1993, was multi-platform (Windows, Unix and even the Mac), written in C (later complemented by C++) and used XVT graphics.
In 1994 KAPPA decided to develop a second product, Emeraude, for the interpretation of Production Log (PL) data. The market for such a package was not proven, but it was also the occasion to go through the useful learning curve for our software Generation 3: 100% object written in C++ on top of the Microsoft Foundation Classes (MFC). Emeraude was released in 1995, it proved to be viable and instantly became the leader of its small, but expanding, market.
In 2000 we moved most of our activity from Paris to the sunny Riviera, in a high tech area, French version of the Silicon Valley called Sophia Antipolis. 2000 was also the time when Saphir was ported to Generation 3 and became the world leader in PTA software. By 2010 there were more than 2,700 active commercial Saphir licenses.
The development of Topaze in 2003 was a result of the demand for sophisticated Production Analysis (PA). This need originated from the proliferation of data coming from Permanent Downhole Gauges (PDG) and the fact that this data was stretching the handling capabilities of transient analysis software. Such data demanded specific treatment and a seamless transfer between PTA and PA software. This also gave rise in 2004 to the development and release of Diamant, a Permanent Gauge Reservoir Surveillance tool.
Increasing the number of products bought its own new set of issues. Users of several of our products argued that they would like to have all of the applications under one environment to save them time and reduce the double handling of data and objects. This demand was at the origin of the specification of our Generation 4. Ecrin, released in September 2005, became a single environment workstation solution including Diamant, Saphir and Topaze. In 2008, Ecrin v4.10 was extended to include a full field history matching (HM) model called Rubis. In 2009 a Well Performance Analysis (WPA) module, Amethyste, was added.
Diamant was originally a workstation tool, allowing individual engineers to perform their own treatment of PDG data. It transpired that most companies wanted this to be done under a single process shared by all engineers. This was the basis for the development and release, in 2005, of the equivalent server solution, Diamant Master.
In the meantime the company has grown from two engineers working in a Paris servants quarters to something a little more substantial. By 2010 KAPPA had around 80 employees, mainly engineers, half of them in France and the rest spread between our regional offices in Houston, Bahrain and Saint-Petersburg, our Marketing office in Reigate, or on a plane or in a distant client office. Financially, over the last ten years KAPPA has grown at a strong and sustainable annual rate of 20%. This was still the case in 2009, a record year despite the looming crisis. We do not answer to banks or shareholders (being 80% employee owned) which means we can listen only to our clients.
Training and Consulting, the original idea behind creating KAPPA that had initially failed to get off the blocks, now accounts for 25% of KAPPA activity.
KAPPA is now preparing for the development of Generation 5, which we hope to see as a game changer. But this is another story.