EAGE 2009, Amsterdam

European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers session on mature basins highlights growing importance of portfolio modeling to optimize ‘materiality.’ We report on BP’s multi-field reservoir modeling, ‘unbelievable’ claims from Scottish start-up, petascale HPC and Google Earth in E&P.

EAGE attendance was low this year, particularly at the plenary sessions with about 40-60 present for the mature basins session and only 20 at the start of the HSE session. Very poor for what are billed as ‘executive’ plenary sessions. The ‘Mature Basins’ session kicked off with a presentation by Mike Ames, Cirrus Energy. Ames believes that mature basins align well with small companies’ objectives. Cirrus is ‘following’ the creaming curve out to identify low risk prospects with good politics, hydrocarbons proven, infrastructure and markets. The right sort of government helps. In NW EU, governments, in general have ‘got it’. In the Netherlands, the ‘small fields’ policy creates incentives and drives ‘faster and cheaper’ developments. But this is not the case in many other countries. If governments want entrepreneurial small caps, they need to relax ‘minimum requirements’ and focus on people and practices rather than ‘five years of operating experience.’ Access to data is also important. Information, ‘data with purpose’ should be made freely available on the web!

Nick Maden described how Petro-Canada has carved up its asset portfolio into risk categories from T1 (production) to T4 (frontier) plays. Until recently, Petro-Canada was ‘bleeding to death’ on its T4 spend. In 2004, the company changed tack and aimed to find 100 million barrels per year in a ‘sustainable’ way. This was done by leveraging existing geographical focus, building acreage positions and losing the ‘dross.’ The company was to ‘learn from its mistakes and move on.’ No more ‘just another go,’ no more 10% chance prospects. The strategy of moving away from high risk and building the portfolio has been a success with finding costs down to $3/barrel.

David Parkinson presented the results of a WoodMac survey of the period 1999 to 2008 showing that mature basins represent 53% of exploration spend. The big issue here is the question of ‘materiality,’ are the reserves enough to satisfy corporate goals? Mature basins offer a decent ROI of 17%, thanks to shorter lead times. They offer a higher chance of success and lower government take. But returns have declined in recent years and spend is suffering with the downturn. It is harder to raise capital—the UK AIM has ‘shut down’ and the delta between US T-Bond and corporate paper is now 5%. Parkinson anticipates that large caps will focus on ‘core and hub-based’ exploration, noting the increasing interest from utilities in exploration. Mature basins have produced value—but the credit crunch and downturn will impact this activity. .

Andy Spencer described GDF Suez’ progress from ‘ugly duckling’ to a ‘Cygnus’ thanks to an astute combination of farm-in and acquisition based on ‘deep technical understanding’ and ‘intensive’ reprocessing of seismic and well data.

GDF uses Rose Associates’ SAAM Direct Hydrocarbon Indicator (DHI) risk tool. Risking parameters were established by consensus amongst GDF decision makers—allowing for a ‘disciplined split’ of exploration budget categories. The Cygnus discovery, an earlier missed opportunity, is now one of the top three post 1980 Southern North Sea fields.

Portfolio management is not rocket science, but it is not generally applied. For Spencer, ‘You need to stick to the rules. Technical staff need to treat data like a dog with a bone—then you will find stuff that people have not seen.’

Chris Flavell ascribed Tullow Oil’s Southern North Sea success to an astute acquisition (from BP) and successful application of computer technology. Tullow uses Schlumberger’s Petrel to evaluate regional potential with a variety of isopachs and subcrop maps. This allowed the company to extend a UK SNS play with low materiality into the adjacent Netherlands. Comparison of UK and NL creaming curves suggests that the grass is greener on the NL side of the fence where structural traps are still in play.

Russ Bellis (ExxonMobil) stated that mature basin E&P depends the effective application of technology. It also depends on our ability to develop subtle plays and produce from smaller targets than standalone development would require. Materiality and commerciality are keys. Mature basins are good for commerciality thanks to the infrastructure. The creaming curve data from West Africa deepwater is ‘incredibly steep.’ Here a robust petroleum system is under attack from geoscience and engineering and is proceeding at a furious pace. Key technologies include DHI and deepwater drilling knowhow. A range of geoscience technologies is applied from plate tectonics through petroleum systems to pore analysis a.k.a. ‘from plates to pores’. Exxon addresses the ‘materiality’ question by building ‘global perspectives’ and testing opportunities in a consistent way. If a play fails, it is re-evaluated when new data or ideas comes along.

Glyn Edwards showed how multiple software applications were harnessed to provide Monte Carlo-based simulation of BP Angola’s multi field development. The deepwater development includes three over pressured oil reservoirs tied in to a single FPSO. BP’s ‘Top Down Reservoir Modeling (TDRM) application was used to drive Roxar’s RMS geomodeler and Landmark’s Nexus fluid flow simulator in an automate loop. This allowed BP’s asset team to investigate a range of geological parameters and to fine tune the development in the face of constraints such as gas re-injection. 700 multi-reservoir simulations were run in 2 months on a PC cluster.

A quite exceptional, if not unbelievable presentation was made by a Scottish startup, ‘Adrock.’ The company claims to have invented a low power infra red laser sounding technique that provides a ‘99.9% correlation with lithology’ at a depth of several kilometers. The device is claimed to generate standing waves to get returns far into the ground. Needless to say this met with some skepticism and not a little outrage at the lack of technical backup for the paper!

A less contentious system was presented by Paul Hatchell, Shell. The autonomous seafloor system for monitoring reservoir deformation seeks to provide a service similar to that provided by satellite InSar surveys—but in 1,000 meters of water. The study was initiated to identify un-drained compartments on Ormen Lange, and to ‘de-risk’ the timing of 4D seismics in the face of uncertainty as to reservoir compressibility. There is no point doing a repeat survey until there is something to see. Shell turned to underwater acoustic ranging specialist Sonardyne which came up with an autonomous solution capable of running for three years. Acoustic sensors on 3 meter high stands on the sea bed ‘wake up’ every hour and chat to each other with coded pulses. Ormen Lange lies beneath the famous Storegga landslide boulder field creating line of sight issues. Accuracy of around 1cm/km was obtained and the system even detects ‘weather’ in the form of mini storms at the sea bed. There is clear evidence of centimetric movement down to the center of field although the current network is considered too small to properly evaluate the subsidence.

Those with access to serious compute resources will be interested in Mark Noble’s (Ecole des Mines de Paris) presentation (with Philippe Thierry, Intel) on the use of millions of shots to derive a surface velocity model for seismic static corrections. These techniques have been known about for years but are extremely compute intensive. Algorithms need to be aligned with current computer technology but with an eye on the future. The tomographic techniques are being evaluated on a 2048 core ‘fat tree’ Nehalem EP X5560 2.8GZ cluster with a 24GB/node interconnect. The idea is to be ready for the advent of ‘multi petaflop’ machines and to be able to spec out interconnect and memory requirements when the technology is ready for prime time. Noble envisages a 100 million shot workflow running on a 100,000 plus core system—real soon now!

Consultant Claudio Turrini presented an entertaining multi-media traverse of the Alps from the Po Valley to the Rhine Graben—all built with Google SketchUp. This included Google Earth movies across Alps, geological story-telling with maps, cross sections and 3D seismics. Petroleum geology was checked out en passant with well log information from a Po Valley reservoir. One minute we were looking at results from Midland Valley’s 2D/3D Move in Google Earth, the next were in Google’s Flight Simulator for a Mont Blanc flyover! Google SketchUp allows any geo-referenced information to be visualized.

Another enthusiastic Google Earth aficionado is TNO/VU’s Garry Sonke whose ‘GeoMAX’ package offers inexpensive 3D mapping. The free GeoMAX package leverages the open source Collada 3D modeling tool, the Google Earth API and any 3D gridded geology. The results are pretty neat—an arbitrary map cross section is pulled out of the earth to reveal the underlying geology. On the downside, both these last two Google Earth presenters mentioned that establishing a dialog with Google was just about impossible.

This article is an abstract from The Data Room’s Technology Watch from the 2009 EAGE. More information and samples from www.oilit.com/tech.

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