2004 SEG Conference and Exhibition, Denver

The 2004 Denver Annual Conference and Exposition was buzzing even if the mood was of ‘optimistic uncertainty’ because, although oils are raking in the cash, little of it is trickling down to the service companies. SEG president Peter Duncan contrasted the ‘shell shocked’ situation in US geophysics with ‘energized’ countries like China – where 180 land crews operate, and where there are 1,000 geophysics graduates per year. Matthew Simmons (Simmons and Co.) said that peak oil is at hand, but the world is in denial and there is ‘no plan B’. Ibraheen Assa’adan (Saudi Aramco) opined that recovery factors are set to rise from 40% to a target of 70-80%. Meanwhile, the SEG has become a hardware vendors’ paradise—with a vast range of NAS, SAN, switches and clusters on offer. Cluster farms now support ‘Computing on Demand,’ with offerings from IBM, Sun and Appro. Another trend is visualizing multiple representations of the same data—achieved by co-rendering or bump mapping. Landmark showed a 400GB dataset running on an 11 pipe SGI Onyx with 1TB RAM.

According to SEG president Peter Duncan, the Society had a good year with $9 million revenues. The SEG is to celebrate its 75th anniversary next year and is buying a 10% stake in the North American Prospect Expo (NAPE). A novelty for 2005 will be the Distinguished Instructor Short Course (DISC) on DVD. This will cost $29 and will be free to students.

Keynote speaker Bob Gistri (ExxonMobil) called for a return to full hydrocarbon systems analysis. Seismic DHCI is now a mature technology. The changing nature of the opportunity space is leading to tougher rock physics and smaller targets. Today the shift is toward non DHCI, deeper plays (with HPHT challenges) with a return to frontier areas with new data and concepts. The future will bring ‘plates to pores’ integration – from basin fill and evolution through plate dynamics, rock fluid modeling, palaeoenvironment calibration and inverse modeling loops.

Matthew Simmons (Simmons & Co.) asked, ‘Why is ‘peak oil’ so unpopular?’ Simmons believes that peak oil is ‘at hand’. Demand has become a runaway train. 70% of the world’s supply comes from fields over 30 years old. 20% comes from 14 giant fields over 50 years old. Modern technology drains oil faster—global decline rates are ‘soaring’. Demand is set to grow by 2.4 million bbl/day in the next quarter—and by 4.3 mm. bbl/day in the next 15 months. By Q4 2005 demand could be 86 million bbl/day (as compared to 1990’s forecasts of 65million bbl/day). The worst is, ‘there is no plan ‘B’.’ In fact the world is expecting demand to soar. $50 oil may prove to be a blessing because ‘the wall’ may be just ahead of us.

Ibraheen Assa’adan (Saudi Aramco) believes that a major problem facing the explorationist is the disparity of scale between geology and geophysics. We need to bridge the gap between seismics and cores. But an even bigger gap exists between a million cell geological model and a 100k cell reservoir model. Saudi Aramco’s own developments include the Powers reservoir simulator. This will soon be capable of simulating 10 million cell models, realizing fluid-flow simulation of a geological model ‘as-is’. The big picture—of reserve estimation and use—requires improvement of recovery factors from the current 40% to a target of ‘70-80%’. Saudi Aramco believes in a different corporate paradigm to the ‘fastest return on investment’.

Peter Bernard (Landmark) believes that without the impact of E&P innovations, finding and development costs would by now be around $20/bbl. Interviews conducted with 300 E&P research organizations showed that oil and gas companies spend a meager 0.5% of revenues on R&D while service companies spend a (slightly) more healthy 2 to 2.5% of revenues. The oil industry is ‘very, very slow’ to take up new technology and loses money through slow take up of new technologies. Why are we moving at a snail’s pace? Because production operations are a ‘factory-like process, focused on optimization and cost reduction’. What can we do? Get closer to reservoir engineers and help them understand the portfolio management approach to field management.


Landmark, along with SGI, presented a Geoprobe spectacular at the Denver Planetarium. A bespoke facility built by SEOS showed a 400GB dataset from Marathon on a 64 bit, 11 pipe Onyx with 30 processors driving 11 Barco DLP projectors. Overall 14 million pixels were pushed to the planetarium ceiling . The effect was underwhelming. The night time paradigm of bright points in darkness is great for stars, but doesn’t work so well for seismics—even looking up is somehow wrong!


Rick Johnson showed how Schlumberger’s ProSource Results Manager can provide ‘traceability of financials and general business practices’ to support Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. Schlumberger is offering a ‘united reserve management workflow’ from G&G through engineering, reserves, economics, finance and into corporate planning.


ACD Systems Canvas 9 GIS+ is a nifty GIS package offering high quality presentation graphics. Clients include Exxon, BP, Shell and ChevronTexaco. ACD’s brochure and stand were created in Canvas which imports ESRI Shapefiles. We spotted no less than three SEG-Y Viewers—from BHP Billiton, GeoPlus (both of these are free) and a commercial offering from INT. The latter is a general purpose 2D/3D seismic data viewer which can be run as stand-alone application or as Java applet in browser. Clearspeed was showing its new array processor board—as a plug in to a Linux Networx dual-Xeon based cluster. The board offer Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) routines for seismic applications.


IBM is working with Landmark on visualization R&D which sets out to break the ‘pathological’ memory greed of GeoProbe. Currently all data must be resident on memory. DeepView is a cluster of workstations with Infiniband links. Leverages programmable NVIDIA graphics adaptors and TopSpin interconnect. Intercepts OpenGL calls in GeoProbe to ‘virtualize’ graphics. But what caught our eye was the T221 9.2 megapixel display which now runs at full resolution thanks to the NVIDIA FX 3400 card. A real gem of a display. IBM’s Integrated Collaborative Environment for Asset Monitoring (ICE 2.0) leverages IBM’s Websphere to broadcast alerts from the production facility. This highly configurable Java programmer’s dream uses Telispark Mobile Enterprise and Websphere Everyplace Connection to bring data from SCADA systems to smartphones. The original development was for ChevronTexaco’s pipeline unit.


Deep Computing Capacity on Demand is now available in Houston at VeriCenter’s new data center (see page 4 of this issue). Landmark is the ‘anchor’ tenant, GX Technology and PGS are also linked to the center via the Gigabit Ethernet Houston Metro Area Net.

AVO Pack

SMT’s AVO Pack was hauling in the crowds—there were around 100 in attendance at the demo we saw. Kerr-McGee, Unocal and Devon use SMT alongside Landmark, but Pioneer has made a complete switch.


Sonardyne International was showing its Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking system for use with its ocean bottom cable (OBC) asset tracking system. The system manages the hundreds of acoustic positioning transponders used in ocean bottom surveying.


TEEC is working with a cluster hardware company to offer its CRS technology ‘in a box’. The CRS process begins with PSDM and leverages TEEC’s wavefield tomography and AVO attributes to determine pore fill. TEEC also offers ‘data driven’ model-less velocity analysis.

Digital light box

TeraRecon’s F1 graphics card drives ultra high resolution display arrays including its Personal Digital Lightbox. The PDLB was designed to replace light boxes used to view medical films. Up to 9 F1 cards can be used in a single system to drive as many as 36 panels. Each card has dual 6 mega-pixel DVI outputs with up to four 2048 x 1536 panels per card.

Papers of note

Jan Kommedal, (BP) asked, ‘Does life of field seismics work?’ The answer is ‘very clearly yes!’ Kommedal showed a 4D map where the effect of depletion over a four month period could be seen. A ‘puzzling’ pattern was attributed to a plugged injector. One use of the survey is to plot 4D effects along well bore and monitor effect of perforations. BP deployed 120 km of cables – 2,304 groups of 4 C sensors. The array is continuously live (but not recording). Also deployed are three hydrostatic sensors and three low frequency geophones for earthquake monitoring. BP is pleased with the data quality from trenched cables. Acquisition QC is piped to the office over the internet in real time. Problems encountered - seismic vessel noise, tidal variations and varying water velocities – all taken into account. The data volumes (around 4 TB per survey) create their own data management issues. BP advocates frequent surveying.

Shiv Dasgupta, (Saudi Aramco) offered a contrarian view in his paper on permanent seismic monitoring of Gahwar Field. His original title was ‘When 4D seismics doesn’t work!’ In the mature part of the Gahwar field, hard limestone matrix, low (<2%) depletion, low fluid compressibility and other problems conspire to render time-lapse seismics problematical. This is a ‘challenge’ to industry as many giant fields share the same problems. Petro-accoustic modeling showed that the change in acoustic impedance over 80 years is only 4%. A 5-6 year lapse is a minimum for a detectable difference. But the array has proved good at monitoring microseismic events. The 4D time lapse measurement will be replaced with permanent microseismic monitoring.

This article has been taken from a 38 page illustrated report produced as part of The Data Room‘s Technology Watch Reporting Service. More on The Data Room’s Technology Watch Service on the Oil IT Journal website and from tw@oilit.com.

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