Seismic ‘ecosystem’

Shell and HP are to build a new seismic system, part of HP’s ‘Central Nervous System for the Earth.’ New system faces stiff competition from WesternGeco and a complex web of patents.

Shell and Hewlett Packard (HP) have announced that they are to develop an ‘ultra high resolution’ land wireless seismic recording system. The system is to be built around HP’s new sensing technology, a key enabler of HP’s vision for a ‘Central Nervous System for the Earth*’ (CeNSE). The new seismic system promises a ‘much higher channel count’ and ‘broader frequency range’ than is currently available. The solution will integrate Shell’s high-performance computing and seismic imaging environment.

Shell’s Gerald Schotman said, ‘We think this will represent a leap forward in seismic data quality that will provide Shell with a competitive advantage in exploring difficult oil and gas reservoirs, such as sub-salt plays in the Middle East and unconventional gas in North America.’

The strategic relationship with Shell is a component of HP’s CeNSE ‘information ecosystem.’ CeNSE involves a network of sensors, data storage and analytical tools. HP Labs’ Peter Hartwell effervesced, ‘CeNSE will revolutionize communication between objects and people. With a trillion sensors embedded in the environment, it will be possible to ‘hear’ the heartbeat of the Earth. This will impact human interaction with the globe as profoundly as the internet has revolutionized communication.’

HP’s new sensing technology includes low-power MEMS** accelerometers that are said to be ‘1,000 times more sensitive than high-volume, commercial products’ (no comparison with existing geophone technology was offered.) The devices can be customized with single or multiple axes per chip—with implications for full waveform seismic recording. The solution will be delivered by HP Enterprise Services.


An announcement from WesternGeco this month underscores just how high the bar of what is ‘currently available’ is set. Schlumberger’s new ‘UniQ’ seismic recording system is capable of 150,000 ‘point-receiver’ channels at a 2ms sample rate, generating around two terabytes of data per hour.

The idea of a seismic recording solution ‘exclusive’ to Shell harks back improbably to the days when oils ran their own seismic crews, notably when Conoco astonished the seismic community by patenting the Vibroseis method***.

The situation today is that the co-venturers will be confronted with a complex web of patents surrounding seismic systems—as witnessed by the ongoing $25 million spat between ION Geophysical and CGGVeritas.

* links/1003_9.

** Micro-electro mechanical systems (on-chip accelerometers).

*** links/1003_10.

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