KAPPA was created in September 1987 by two former grumpy Flopetrol-Johnston Schlumberger engineers who specialized in well test interpretation and production logging: Dominique Bourdet (1951-2003), who left 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 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 software market was already crowded with products acknowledged as ‘industry standards’, and the idea was to develop a research and consultancy company. However, in the absence of a reasonable (read affordable) third party solution 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 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 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, as Dominique was leaving.
The first generation of Saphir was DOS based, written in Fortran and using GKS graphics. On the demand of its first corporate clients, KAPPA had to release a Unix version in the early 1990s. The resulting second generation was written in C under a multi-platform environment (XVT) and ran under Windows, Unix and even the Mac. It turned out to be a mistake, the resulting product working so-so in any environment, whilst the true market was for a Windows based application. We had wasted years, and this was the last time we listened to clients predicting the future of software platforms. We had to move urgently to a third generation in the right environment. We did so in the context of our second product, Emeraude, a Production Logging software released in 1995. The market for such a package was not proven, but we used it as a laboratory to develop our third generation of software, 100% object oriented (C++) under a Microsoft environment (MFC). Emeraude actually proved to be viable and instantly became the leader of its niche market.
In 2000 KAPPA moved its R&D activity from Paris to Sophia Antipolis, the French version of Silicon Valley on the Riviera. 2000 also saw the release of the the third generation of Saphir, with a first version of a numerical model based on an unstructured (Voronoi) grid. At this time Saphir became the world leader in Pressure Transient Analysis, and by 2017 there were more than 3,000 active commercial licenses. A third product, Topaze, was released in 2003 as the result of a demand for sophisticated Rate Transient Analysis. It was originally a Saphir ‘upside-down’, but it quickly became much more.
The early 2000s was also the time of proliferation of Permanent Downhole Gauges (PDG) and the industry’s first experience of reservoir data overload. This rich source of data required smart filtering (wavelets) to drastically reduce the number of data points without losing information. These algorithms were integrated in a new product, Diamant, which was also transferring select parts of the resulting filtered data to Saphir and Topaze on a single click. It transpired that most companies wanted this workflow but under a single shared environment working 24/7. This was the basis of the development and release in 2004 of Diamant-Master, KAPPA’s first client-server solution.
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.
With an increasing number of products, KAPPA users argued that they would like to have all applications under a single environment to avoid workflow duplication. This was the driver behind the release in 2005 of KAPPA’s fourth generation of software, using the same technologies as the third generation but under a single workstation environment; Ecrin. The three first Ecrin modules (Saphir, Topaze, Diamant) were joined by Rubis (2008), a full field numerical model and by Amethyste (2009), a Nodal Analysis program. In cooperation of DeGolyer & MacNaughton, KAPPA later released Citrine (2014), a program designed for the analysis of field performance, particularly used in the context of unconventional plays.
The early 2010s was the time to address the structural limitations of the technologies used in KAPPA software since the mid-1990s. KAPPA-Workstation and KAPPA-Server, the fifth generation replacements of Ecrin and Diamant-Master, are based on the DOT.NET environment and addressed clients’ expectations in terms of ergonomics and all architectural limits identified in Generation 4. KAPPA-Workstation v5.10, released in March 2016, integrates Saphir NL, Topaze NL, Rubis and Azurite, a module dedicated to the interpretation of Formation Tests. The transition will be completed in June 2017 by the integration of Citrine and Emeraude in KAPPA-Workstation v5.12. The integration of the tools generated as a result of our unconventional resources consortium (KURC) in KAPPA-Workstation was made in v5.12.
In the meantime, the company has grown from two engineers working in a Paris servant’s quarters to something a little more substantial. KAPPA has now around 100 employees, mainly engineers, half of them in France and the rest spread between our regional offices in Houston, Bahrain, Punta del Este and Saint-Petersburg and our Marketing and support office in Reigate. Financially, and until the end of 2014, KAPPA had grown at a sustainable double-digit annual rate.
The crisis has hit us, as everybody else, and we had to adjust. Nevertheless we maintained our development effort in 2015, allowing KAPPA-Workstation to be released with only limited delay. We delivered on ambitious development plans for 2016 and are continuing this effort in 2017, including strategic work on automation, cloud deployment, data analytics and the continuation of our unconventional resources consortium.