Amoco has just announced the award of a patent for their Coherence Cube technology - which is described as "a method for imaging discontinuities (e.g. faults or stratigraphic features)" which allows for "revealing fault surfaces within a 3D volume for which no reflections have been recorded". The process involves scanning a 3D dataset with a filter that outputs a measure of the spatial coherency of reflectors, in the vicinity. The output from the process is in fact the local lack of coherency, and thus is particularly sensitive to faults and other discontinuities. Many users of the Coherency Cube have reported that this technology has become an essential starting point for their 3D interpretations by providing an automated way of extracting fault alignments from the data. Roberts of Amoco, speaking at the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain's PETEX conference described the Coherency Cube as "indispensable for interpretation work in a complex area" saying that they would "hate to have to do without it".
Amoco has awarded Coherence Technology Company (CTC) a world-wide license to market their Coherence Cube Technology with the Geoscience Marketing Group (GMG) as their "preferred provider" for the Europe Africa and Middle East region. CTC has offices in Houston and Calgary via a joint venture with Pulsonic and is thought to be planning further expansion into the UK. Marketing strategy to date has centered around the provision of a service from CTC's Houston headquarters, with no licensing of the technologies to third parties. CTC plan to stick to this approach for the time being, although they do envisage setting up dedicated processing centers for larger organizations outside of the US. The US headquarters are staffed by 13 specialists, and CTC's main processing power is provided by a Silicon Power Challenger with 1 Gig memory and 300 Gigs of disk. Networked NT PC's running Promax are used as front ends by the processors.
Techniques for extracting coherency from seismic data have been tried before, with several in-house products developed by major oil co.s, and some commercial offerings such as Landmark Graphics Corp.'s Continuity Cube. However now that Amoco have succeeded with their patent on this technology, they are now, according to Tony Rebec, CTC's head of marketing seeking to "vigorously defend" this in the face of other commercial providers of competitive technologies. Landmark is thought to be involved in discussions with Amoco on this, and will no doubt be "vigorously defending" their own product. Patents have been awarded and successfully defended in the past for geophysical technology from the CDP, through Vibroseis to various processing techniques. This should make for an interesting struggle as, after about one year of commercial applications outside of Amoco (the CTC was first shown - and with considerable impact - at the 1995 SEG in Houston) the CTC is beginning to be considered by some companies as a mature, essential technology for fully exploiting the 3D seismic data volume.
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