Baker Hughes sold Western Geophysical to Schlumberger beginning a process of consolidation in the marine seismic contracting business.

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Seismic: A different kind of compression

Baker Hughes sold Western Geophysical to Schlumberger beginning a process of consolidation in the marine seismic contracting business. Attendees at the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers convention (EAGE) in Glasgow, Scotland stated that the move needed to happen last year and some were surprised that Schlumberger made the match rather than one of the other major players. Some implications resulting from the first consolidation move include the following:

  • Reduced competition for seismic projects
  • Less vessel choice (many will be retired)
  • Higher data prices
  • Longer-term contracts for vessel exclusivity
  • Longer lead times for proprietary work.

A new company, Western GECO, will be formed to control the assets of Geco-Prakla and Western Geophysical. Ownership will be split between Schlumberger (70%) and Baker Hughes (30%). Headquarters for the new entity will be in London.

Supercomputer ASP using Internet

A service announced by Mercury Inter-national Technology, Inc (MIT) at the EAGE offers access to supercomputer power by way of the Internet for high-end software used by the geophysical industry. The company, and applications service provider (ASP), has a network of supercomputers that it is offering to the industry. This removes the need for a small company to own sophisticated hardware and software that is usually cost prohibitive. MIT's service - Interactive Internet Processing (iIPtrademark), is offered at usage rates of approximately $25 per hour on a pay-as-you-use basis.

Deep crustal flows through faults

In a recent issue of Geology, authors Townend and Zoback reviewed research on bulk permeability of the crust in intraplate settings. Their work from core sample data and seismic studies indicates that significantly higher permeabilities exist for the crust than for individual rocks. They explain this by deep connected faults, which prevent excessive pressure buildups at depth. Thus, the high permeabilities keep the intraplate crust strong and deep fluids moving through the lithosphere.

One conclusion (this editor's) from this is that deep mantle fluids could transport abiogenic hydrocarbons from deep within the earth to trapping reservoirs within reach of current drilling equipment. There may be places where significant "shallow" faults connect to deep fluid migration. Such connections could create large and recurring reservoirs of abiobentic gas (and maybe oil) that could be tapped. Just one more good reason to look deep with our exploration tools.

Net-enabled apps

Paradigm Geophysical, also at EAGE, demonstrated Internet delivery of geo-software. The company is now able to deliver four of its products as plug-and-play applets for well data management, data loading, seismic processing, and structural inversion among other capabilities. "This is a crucial step forward for this industry, as we can now prepare and run high-end geoscience applications from anywhere with Internet access," said Mark Walker, Managing Director of Paradigm's Europe, Africa & Middle East Operations.

Japanese hydrates

First reports from the Japanese NanHai Trough methane hydrates well in very deep water are encouraging (see map, Offshore, April 1999). The well was designed to evaluate the future prospect of methane hydrate production. Industry sources report that the well was highly saturated with methane hydrates. It is likely that another test well will be drilled.


Nuussuaq Basin survey
The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland is gathering new multi-channel seismic in the waters around Nuussuaq and Ubekendt Eijland off the west coast of Greenland. The research vessel, Dana, is gathering the data with seismic equipment from the Geological Institute, Aarthus University. The survey will be gathered during July and August 2000 using a short streamer due to the icy conditions and deep water depths.

Fylla well

In related activity, Statoil (operator), Phillips, DONG and Nunaoil are drilling the first well, Qulleq-1, on the Fylla license. This license has a pronounced "flat-spot" that has intrigued explorers for years. The drillship, West Navion, is drilling the test.


MC3d UK Survey
TGS-NOPEC Geophysical announced plans for a new 650 sq km 3D survey in UK waters. It is the first phase of a planned 2,000 sq km non-exclusive survey to be collected this summer. The company will process the new survey using its processing center in Bedford, UK. This is an extension of the center's capabilities, which has only handled 2D processing until now.

Untangling the spaghetti

Schlumberger Geco-Prakla has solved a heretofore intractable problem - controlling seismic streamers. At the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers convention (EAGE) in Glasgow, Scotland, the company unveiled a new system of streamer steering. "Birds" attached along the length of each streamer are actively controlled from the vessel to:

  • Provide greater control of the bin spacing
  • Compensate for current-induced "feathering"
  • Improve safety and efficiency of streamer deployment and retrieval
  • Provide better streamer control around marine obstructions.

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A new streamer "bird" allows full steering control of lengthy streamers.
Click here to enlarge image

Active control permits tighter vessel turns and path repeatability for 4D surveys.


Veritas DGC Inc. opened its new visualization center in Calgary, Canada. The center has a 126 sq ft viewing screen in a collaborative theater format where up to 30 professionals can view high resolution 3D images at the same time. The new center is open to third party projects from oil and gas companies as well as Veritas projects. This brings the company's visualization installations to four worldwide.

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