Geophysicists do it till it Hertz! (November 1999)

PDM’s editor Neil McNaughton tries to understand what makes the geophysical industry tick. Is it the expectation of untold wealth - or a labor of love? While the seismic industry is suffering badly from orderus interruptus, the software business seems to be thriving on a kiss and a promise.

Sorry about the old bumper sticker, but there is something in the idea of a whole profession plugging on in the face of great adversity. According my old friend ex-GSI-er Rod Cottam, the industry is "holding its breath and waiting for the turn-around which, in spite of $27+ WTI hasn't yet materialized." Attendance at the Houston SEG convention this month topped 11,000 – a record for the post-86 oil industry. But the atmosphere at the SEG Annual Convention could be described as a ‘phony peace.’

bad times

While there is an impressively healthy display of new technology, all this is against the backdrop of a very bad situation in seismic acquisition. While a software house can slow things down, maybe let a few people go when times are hard, the acquisition company which has just launched the latest and greatest seismic boat (and there have been a few recently) just has to grimace and bear it. This has led to some amazing deals on acquisition of late, with 3D costs down to around $2,000 per sq. km. So PDM’s message to the seismic community is to get out there and order some bargain-basement surveys quick. Otherwise there might not be much of an industry left when you do find some budget!


Bumped in to processing guru Sven Treitel at the show who tells a similar tale in geophysical research. Sven told PDM "I do worry that since geophysical R&D is now almost dead in the water, who will be doing the innovative work for the new technologies on exhibit during the 2010 convention?"

labor of love?

My own feeling is that while much research may indeed have died-off, there remains a huge excess of enthusiasm for R&D in both the established players and in the steady supply of start-ups. A friend with considerably more business acumen than me was looking over the PDM books and described my own enterprise as ‘a labor of love.’ Naturally the Bill Gates in me was pretty pissed-off at this, but what the heck. I think that the combination of love and cheap IT, for both admin and development is a real winner that has supported both large and small companies through the bad patch.


Talking of cheap IT, I have to get something off my chest. I know I have bitched about Microsoft in the past, and I have had my share of crashes, glitches and so on. I also know that while dog bites man is news, the reverse is not the case. But I have to tell you. For the last month (since I updated all my drivers, and scan-disked, defragged and so on) I have had a stable system and even Publisher has held up for a whole PDM! I now have the net at my fingertips with ISDN, Office 2000, scanner, CD Writer and Ethernet hub with a whole slug of software running on a machine which is nearly 4 years old! The old Wintel love/hate relationship is definitely on love this month. Lets see what Y2K bringeth...


But back to the show. As I toured the exhibits, asking the usual questions as to industry developments and new software I was sometimes met by a puzzled look. "A press release? Well no, come to think of it, we don’t have anything right now, nope, not this year..." What was unsaid of course was "But we are still around aren’t we – that’s the real news!"

Click here to comment on this article

If your browser does not work with the MailTo button, send mail to with PDM_V_3.3_9911_3 as the subject. Copyright © 2000 The Data Room - all rights reserved.

© Oil IT Journal - all rights reserved.