Robert P. PeeblerIn Trinidad, prospect geoscientists take a 3D visualization system offshore to help drilling engineers successfully geosteer a horizontal well. A small oil company in Texas processes and interprets a 3D survey during acquisition, improving survey design and cutting cycle time in half. In Calgary, a major oil company tears down walls to build a common work environment for a multidisciplinary team. The team completes an integrated reservoir study in record time, achieving 100% drilling success in the field.
President and CEO
Landmark Graphics Corporation
What do all of these stories have in common? In each case, dramatic business results came from technical and operational innovations in the gaps between the disciplines.
Extending multidisciplinary team
I believe innovations that enable tighter, real-time collaboration between groups will impact productivity far more than new tools within any particular discipline. This is not to minimize advancements in, say, drilling or geophysical technology. But innovations at the intersections between the disciplines will ultimately have a greater payoff. And I'm not just talking about integrating geology and geophysics or creating multidisciplinary asset teams. That's important, but it's only the beginning.
We need to merge the interpreting geoscientists with every other discipline in E&P - data acquisition crews, seismic processing specialists, reservoir simulation engineers, production facilities planners, drilling and well completion engineers. Few oil companies make these disciplines an integral part of their asset teams. But gaps between them can have enormous impact on the bottom line.
Consider how much money is spent acquiring seismic data, drilling wells, and building facilities. Each of these activities influence or depend directly or indirectly on the quality of the subsurface model. Better collaboration between geoscientists who build the models and other professionals could save billions of dollars.
Building a better earth model
Perhaps the greatest technical challenge is creating a common earth model that all the disciplines can use through the entire life cycle of a reservoir. Why is this so difficult? Because data types vary drastically in complexity and scale.
During exploration, the earth model is based primarily on seismology and other macro-scale measurements. In reservoir delineation, well data "scales down" the earth model and adds detail. In reservoir development, the model is further refined with micro-scale data from petrophysical analyses. Finally, dynamic flow tests and production information add another dimension: time. Most earth modeling today simply cannot handle all these data types. Inevitably, certain data get left out.
Even after geoscientists develop a complex 3D model, engineers must "upscale" it - averaging away many of the details - to run a simulation. Yet reservoir simulation directly impacts facilities planning. Millions of dollars ride on making the right decision. This is why the greatest productivity gains will occur only when we bridge the gaps between earth modeling and other E&P activities.
Collaborating across groups
Let's look at two examples. Innovations in seismic technology are resolving increasingly complex structures. Consider the subsalt play. Advancements in pre- and post-stack depth imaging are unraveling extremely complex velocity fields, revitalizing exploration in mature areas.
Depth imaging might seem like an innovation within the discipline of seismic processing. But effective depth imaging requires collaboration between interpreters and processors. Iterations with the earth model are vital to success. Therefore, depth processors must join the asset team, or interpreters must have easier access to processing technology. Either way, the team needs seamless data movement between processing and interpretation systems.
Consider wellbore planning. Horizontal drilling and multilateral completions are reducing costs in complex reservoirs. But the more complex the geology, the greater the need to optimize the well path with data from the earth model. Unfortunately, most well planning is still an "over-the-wall" process. Geoscientists create a 3D model on a UNIX workstation; drilling engineers design wells on a PC. Very little reservoir complexity gets over the wall.
But recent software innovations allow geoscientists to create preliminary well paths inside their own 3D modeling applications using some of the same tools drilling engineers use to compute the final trajectory. Iterations between these two groups can be done more quickly and efficiently.
Developing peripheral vision
When a company wants to improve a whole process, every individual involved has to develop better "peripheral vision." No one can afford a narrow, functional view any more. Drilling engineers have to learn some geology to collaborate effectively. Geologists have to understand reservoir simulation. Seismic interpreters must know depth processing. And every discipline must become more aware of the financial implications of their own activities. To achieve this, the industry needs considerable innovation in decision support technology so companies can model the entire E&P business process - not just the reservoir.
Obviously, we have a long way to go. Therefore, we must continue to invest in innovations at the intersections between the disciplines. Collaborating more interactively, diverse E&P professionals will reduce technical uncertainties and manage economic risk more intelligently.
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