AAPG 2010, New Orleans

McLendon, Nehring—contrasting views on US shale gas. BP backs Baker’s ‘AziTrak’ deep resistivity tool. Shell contrasts sedimentological modeling and meteorology. Cornell leverages Matlab for carbon sequestration. CLTC introduces CO2 data management. Marathon on new micropal solution.

Chesapeake founder and CEO Aubry McClendon provided the keynote talk on ‘Shale gas and America’s energy future.’ Shale gas is ‘abundant’ and a ‘superior’ molecular structure means ‘freedom’ from dirty coal and ‘dangerous foreign oil.’ But producers of the new unconventional resource are being thwarted by the powerful coal lobby. McClendon sees ‘100 to 200 years’ of gas supply making for a ‘completely radical’ view of the future. More opposition comes from the chemical companies who say, ‘Not so fast. We don’t want new uses for natural gas.’ It behooves the industry to spread the word about gas in transport and power generation. Gas fits better with the environment, ‘Gas beats coal on CO2, sulfur and particulates. Nobody’s trying to coalify gas!’ McClendon finds it ‘amazing’ that Americans don’t have access to this fuel at the equivalent of $1.25 per gallon.

Richard Nehring, Nehring Associates was more circumspect about the ‘100 years or more’ of shale gas. Since reserve decline set-in in the 1970s, there have been several false dawns for new energy sources including self-sourced, deep and ultradeep onshore and deepwater gas. These were perceived as offering great potential, but such ‘transitional’ gas resources are now below 5% of the total. Transitional production peaked in 2003 and is currently declining rapidly. Energy policy options depend on ‘the timely and accurate assessment of the potential of the largest shale plays.’ But it might take decades to reduce the uncertainty. Near term implications are clearer—shale gas and CBM already make ‘LNG unnecessary for 20 years.’ In the Q&A Nehring noted a similar uncertainty over coal, ‘Coal is getting deeper and sourer. Easy coal is gone. It is a paradoxical resource that may be too expensive to produce!’

A presentation by Mark Taylor, BP Algeria, showed how a stripped down ‘fit for purpose’ geological model and a selection of application software supports complex multilateral drilling on BP Algeria’s Teguntour onshore gas field. Here complex multilateral wells are drilled in a geomechanically sensitive reservoir. Baker Hughes’ ‘AziTrak’ azimuthal deep reading resistivity tool is used to keep the hole in the 3-5m thick reservoir. EarthVision’s Coviz is the key application and is duplicated on the rig. A RACI Chart1 ensures that ‘everyone knows what they are going to do.’ This single point of accountability replaced ‘geosteering by committee.’ Taylor described CoViz as a ‘godsend,’ bringing functional 3D models to the rig to ‘keep the drillers on board.’

Shell’s Matthew Wolinsky highlighted issues in sedimentological modeling as processes are upscaled from bed to basin. Process-based numerical modeling is a popular research activity with projects such as the SAFL2 Jurassic Tank and the Delft3D3 model. Models of basins at the macro scale show lobe switching in a delta to be ‘self organizing’ under constant forcing. As models are used to investigate longer time intervals, they become sensitive to initial boundary conditions . Such ‘butterfly effects’ are well understood in weather models which need constant tweaking with new data. This is not an option for the sedimentologist. Models are also highly compute intensive. Even if the next decade sees a 1,000 fold speedup in computing, it would still take weeks to simulate a millenium.

Jess Kozman (CLTC) described CO2 capture and storage (CCS) as leveraging the same data set as conventional E&P. But the hope/expectation is that the new industry ‘will do a better job of managing its data.’ ‘Better’ in this context means the provision of a ‘sound’ data set into the public domain, managed over a ‘century plus’ project lifetime. A case study was presented using a PPDM back end and workflow application to deliver field study results to asset teams. The application from 3GIG was originally designed for gas production, but has been turned over to track CCS, connecting to other data stores and apps. Kozman noted that Schlumberger is setting up a carbon services group to advise power generators.

Cornell’s Gregory Kirkpatrick presented Matlab-based finite element code, ‘PorousM3’ tuned for CCS. The fully parallelized code can run four million degrees of freedom on an 8 gigabyte node and is being tested on a proposed CCS site near the AES Cayuga power station in Lansing, New York.

Gary Kinsland (Louisiana at Lafayette) described a collaborative effort between computer scientists and geologists which has resulted in an immersive 3D Virtual Reality (3DVR) system combining digital well logs and Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) surfaces. A study of the coal and CBM potential of Northern Louisiana involved a VR investigation using over 1,000 logs.

Richard Denne’s (Marathon Oil) paper on microfossil taxonomy traced the subject’s rise in the 20th century with applications in paleoenvironment, sequence stratigraphy, age modeling, and pollution. The advent of computer modeling has distanced researchers from the fossils which are now ‘just a series of data points.’ Denne fears a future penury of micropaleontologists who can generate quality data and that the future will see misidentifications and the loss of local markers and zonation schemes. The answer lies in new methods of digital photography to capture key type specimens. In this context, the Zeiss Universal microscope provides a depth of field sufficient to capture a complete image of a specimen.

Anthony Gary (Utah) reports on use of semantic technologies to enable ‘real-time interaction between specialists and data stores.’ A semantic foundation is under development by the Commission for the Management and Application of Geoscience Information. Utah has started work on an ontology of foraminifera.

A more practical presentation came from Stephen Hasiotis (Kansas), demonstrating the use of multistripe laser triangulation (MLT) to characterize trace fossil morphology and ‘ichnopedologic’ sedimentary fabrics.

Ingelise Schmidt’s (Maersk Oil) presentation gave strong backing to Eliis’ PaleoScan tool to ‘fast-track’ seismic interpretation and modeling. PaleoScan uses an optimization technique to create a ‘continuous geo-model’ using ‘every seismic sample.’

1 Role, accountability, consulted, informed—www.oilit.com/links/1005_25.

2 St Anthony Falls Laboratory Jurassic Tank—www.oilit.com/links/links/1005_26.

3 Delft3D—www.oilit.com/links/1005_27.

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