SEG 2001 San Antonio

PDM attended the Society of Exploration Geophysicists annual conference and exhibition, held in San Antonio this month. With a few hundred exhibitors and ten simultaneous technical sessions there is a lot going on at any time, more than we could take in anyhow! But we offer you an eclectic view of what caught our fancy - from the growth of Linux based clusters and pre-stack seismic depth migration, through a history of seismics on the biggest oilfield in the world to the application of crystallographic techniques to seismic interpretation - and much more...

This SEG started off with a very busy first day. Reports from exhibitors told of a significant increase of quality visitor traffic on the exhibition floor. This atmosphere changed after the tragic events of Tuesday 11th. The SEG wisely decided to continue with the conference, but it was a subdued affair from then on.


Observable trends include the growing importance of Linux-based clusters for seismic processing and the increasing size and number of network attached storage solutions. Many companies are now offering pre-stack processing with a significant role played by specialist ‘boutique’ seismic processing houses. Our main take home was the coming of age of seismics in reservoir management (see this month’s lead and editorial).


In a special session on ‘Optimizing integration of Geophysical, Geological and engineering technologies for E&P success’ Exxon’s Randy Ewasko described a ‘volume-based workflow’ with ‘seamless feedback loops at every step.’ This is leveraged and facilitated by the visualization center – qualified as a ‘key element of cross disciplinary learning and interaction.’ The spin-off from such ‘discipline leakage’ can be new solutions to problems such as geological modeling using seismic conditioning, 3D well path planning and steering and Exxon’s next generation reservoir simulator – ‘beyond vendor-supplied software’ – offering co-rendering of engineering and geological parameters. Chevron’s Robert Harding described interpretation as ‘lots of building blocks’ that were not yet put together. One component that does bring some of it together is Chevron’s Common Earth Model – a technology platform that ‘binds communities together.’ Chevron’s Common Earth Model has ‘contributed more than any Knowledge Management initiatives to Chevron’s E&P effort.’


Newcomer Idelix was showing off a curious piece of software - ‘pliable’ display technology (PDT), a ‘virtual lens’ that enhances panning and zooming of visual data. Wherever you look, you still get to see the whole data set in concentric areas of diminishing resolution. PDT works with ArcView 8.1 - and was described as the “hottest thing on the floor” at a recent Integraph Geospatial World conference.


Data mining specialist Spotfire is rumored to be making inroads into the upstream, with a 200 seat sale to Anadarko. Spotfire’s Decision Site works with Excel, Access, Oracle or any ODBC-compliant data source. Spotfire provides an intuitive way of accessing tabular data. Originally developed for the pharmaceutical industry, Spotfire now integrates ESRI’s ArcExplorer to allow for geo-located data analysis. Anadarko worked 15 months with Spotfire to extend the program for geochemical data analysis. Cross plots can be produced with consummate ease, a neat Spotfire trick is the way 2 dimensional cross plots are ordered by cross correlation magnitude - before you have even looked at the data! Spotfire provides simple, insightful and intuitive data mining. The company is now working with Landmark on an OpenWorks link.


Once upon a time, Amoco had a research department where geophysicists beavered away, developing proprietary seismic processing software. But although ‘build’ is no longer cool, all is not lost. BP has placed the fruits of the Amoco researchers’ labors into the public domain. The software is now available, along with a number of other interesting resources, on the FreeUSP website


Calgary-based OpenGeoSolutions is a startup commercial company which hopes to become the ‘Red Hat’ of Free USP. President James Alison told PDM that the company plans to offer a range of services and support around the open source code.


SMT (Kingdom Suite interpretation software) is ‘closing negotiations’ with Open Spirit Corp. SMT president Tom Smith considers that Open Spirit is now ready for use. SMT was the first company to connect to Open Spirit from Windows-based applications. The Kingdom suite is now out in version 7.0 with multi-user, multi-authoring of interpretations. The software suite runs on Access or SQL Server databases. SMT is also to offer Citrix-based Application Service Provision (ASP) for its clients in-house.


Saudi Aramco’s Kamal M. Al-Yaha spoke on the history of 3D seismics over the Ghawar field (the largest oilfield in the world). During the last decade or so, Saudi Aramco has acquired multiple 3D surveys over the field totalizing 12,000 sq. km. Technology has evolved significantly during this period, with fold increasing from 50 to 1000, the number of channels from 500 to 2800 and production up from 1 to 4 sq. KM. per day. Cost per VP has fallen by 80% while cost per trace is down 95%. Processing changes have been implemented by Aramco’s proprietary processing software. Other significant changes have been seen in computing hardware and visualization technology. The target has also moved deeper – from the Arab formation at 2 km depth to the Devonian at 5 km. Coherency software (developed in-house) has been successful in imaging the Khuff-C level and has provided a wealth of information on structure, reservoir and is underpinning drilling decisions.


OpenSpirit has sold 85 development licenses in the last year to 16 software vendors and 5 super majors including TotalFinaElf, Chevron, Agip, Exxon and Shell. Around 400 run time licenses have been purchased by some 20 end-user companies. Most popular OpenSpirit workflows are structural and stratigraphic modeling interactions between T-Surf’s GoCad and OpenWorks or GeoFrame. Open Spirit also offers Windows application developers a shortcut to data access in the main vendor databases. OpenSpirit newcomers include NuTech and Hampson Russel. Paradigm is currently carrying out a technical audit of Open Spirit.

Ikon Science

Ikon Science Ltd. (ISL) is a new company spun off from Ikon Geoscience. ISL’s flagship software is RokDoc, which combines rock physics theory with log and checkshot data to predict facies from seismic data. A new tool, FaultX is scheduled for release in the first quarter 2002. FaultX conditions seismic data and then automatically identifies and extracts fault planes. After extraction and analysis, detected fault planes are returned to the seismic interpretation package for further interpretation. More from

Seismic mesh

Landmark researcher Dave Hale has been applying techniques from crystallography to the task of automating the interpretation process. A recurrent problem in interpretation is that of an incomplete representation of a volume by surfaces.

Space filling

We start, in the case of 3D seismics, with a completely space-filling data set, and we want to finish up with a space filled with cells for reservoir flow modeling. But in between, traditional interpretation methods offer us a ‘space’, which is sparsely populated with horizons and faults. Worse, these surfaces may show topological inconsistencies such as overlap, or shortfall – as when a picked surface fails to meet up with a fault. All these create problems as the picked surfaces are used to define the envelope of the cellular fluid flow model. The math used in studying deformations in crystal lattices may help out here.


A crystal lattice starts out as a regular space-filling mesh. Hale demonstrated the technique by superimposing a regular 3D mesh onto the output of a Continuity Cube seismic coherency volume. A kind of convolutional process maps out the potential energy of lattice nodes according to their proximity to faults in the coherency volume. This information is captured as a deformation in the mesh – which can then be used to produce a completely automated interpretation – with the added advantage that the topology is space filling and consistent.


Michael Batzle, Colorado School of Mines has studied various analyses of cross plots relating rock properties to seismic measurement in an interesting and exhaustive analysis. Watch out for very good correlations, which are due to plotting functions dominated by a 1/x à 1/x component. Another caveat is the dependency of seismic response on fluid and lithology combined – so that a brine with 30% porosity can have the same response as oil with 20% porosity. Batzle outlined other ‘gotchas’ in the published quantitative relationships.

Fault detection

Schlumberger’s Stein Pedersen showed new techniques for the detection of surfaces, with impressive auto-location of faults from the 3D seismic volume. Various fault-enhancing attributes are extracted from the data and connected to indicate fault planes. Another impressive seismic display was presented by Magic Earth’s Tera Bulloch, who offered an impressive display of ‘geovolume visualization and interpretation’ (GVI) techniques demonstrated with PGS’ new Brazilian spec data.

Voxel Vision

VoxelVision has produced an innovative piece of visualization hardware. The VoxBox is a cluster of PC’s dedicated to large data volume visualization. VoxelVision has moved the rendering engine onto the cluster. A thick client running on a Solaris or Windows (NT/2000) workstation is fed visualization information over a 100 megabit switched Ethernet network. The Visualization Hub, the ‘VoxBox,’ offers multiple roaming probes and voxel objects, multi-attribute computation and query, volume tracking and data compression.

Tech tid bits

Axis Geophysics selected newcomer Hybinette’s Granite SAN server. Hybinette servers offer CPU modules for Windows NT and 2000, Solaris, PowerPC and AIX. The latest screen from Panoram, the PV230 triple screen workstation offers a 36” x 9” 2.4 megapixel screen with 7,200 pixels per sq. in. Meanwhile SGI was showing off its “dual dual” channel Octane 2 - allowing 4 monitors. Finally, Hays Information Management is to bring out a new Java version of its inventory management system RSO.

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