Virtual Seismic Atlas

UK academic extends BHP Billiton’s getKnowledge application with data from CGGVeritas and Web 2.0 technology in online library of seismic image data. System to roll-out at AAPG this month.

In a webinar last month, Rob Butler* described how the University of Leeds, along with Endeca and Blue Fish Group developed the ‘Virtual Seismic Atlas’ (VSA). VSA is an online library of seismic image data classified according to a flexible taxonomy that leverages work done in the Turbidites Research Group. Partner BlueFish developed the solution around Endeca’s ‘Profind’ search and navigation platform. VSA evolved from BHP Billiton’s ‘getKnowledge’ application and rolls in content from CGG-Veritas, the Geological Society, TGS-Nopec and the BGS. Butler described VSA as a ‘subsurface version of Google Earth.’


This is a bit of an exaggeration. The VSA is more like Flickr with seismic images tagged according to multiple taxonomies and relationships. Seismic data is stored as jpeg thumbnails within Documentum with access to higher resolution imagery on demand. VSA offers local and regional project views of documents and interpretations. The tool targets both researchers and folks looking for a particular seismic image in commercial libraries.


Alongside the current images, the VSA offers ‘related documents,’ i.e. interpretations and documents showing similar deformation, sedimentology or other geological context. The VSA can store multiple ‘competing’ interpretations along with the base seismic image. Butler believes that as it is populated, the VSA will benefit academics by exposing students to the best imagery available. For oils the VSA will help in training interpreters. The VSA also has applications in disambiguating interpretations and evaluating uncertainty. Butler also expects the Turbidites Research Group to benefit from the showcase.


In the website Q&A Butler was asked if the VSA would take contributed interpretations from the general public in Wikipedia fashion. The answer is no. Public access would require more development resources than are currently available. But the VSA team is working on functionality that would allow an individual to download a seismic image, re-interpret it and post it back as a ‘competing’ interpretation. The VSA provides serendipitous insights from the juxtaposition of seismic sections. The VSA is currently hosted by Leeds University’s IT Department. The Endeca solution is considered scalable—although currently ‘cost constrained.’

Planet Earth

Butler told Oil IT Journal, ‘Linking seismic data in the VSA to public GIS platforms such as Google Earth would make it even easier to find images globally and the team are planning this for the next stage of development. A tie-in with the Google Earth-based geology project, ‘Planet Earth’ is planned. Test drive the VSA at

* Butler is currently professor of tectonics at the University of Aberdeen.

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