GEOSCIENCES

The world is being tied more tightly together than ever before and data is moving closer to the interpreter's fingertips.

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Geo-integration push aimed at 20/80 target

The world is being tied more tightly together than ever before and data is moving closer to the interpreter's fingertips. The old 80/20 ratio of data search-to-interpretation time and effort is being squeezed to about 60/40 as this is being written, and will soon be reduced to a 20/80 ratio. This is the goal that the service companies have set for themselves.

New software tools and online libraries are becoming available (yes, through E-commerce). These new resources are being driven by the cost-containment and productivity targets set in an attempt to draw investment money back into oil and gas.

The digital revolution is beginning to tackle the diverse data needs of geologists in particular. Numeric-intensive professions - geophysics, engineering, and finance - have all been heavy users of computer power to encode, derive, and extract data of various types. More synthesis-oriented professions, such as geology, continue to struggle because of diverse, non-numeric data types, particularly imagery. This is beginning to change, due to:

  • Improved computer databases
  • Quick communication links
  • Higher bandwidth
  • Large format digital workspaces.

Larger format computer equipment, readily accessible data sources, and improved software tools now allow diverse data to be displayed and manipulated in the digital space. This will result in geoscientists having more interpretation/ prospect development time, and less data hunt/ search time.

Polar search outlining early sea changes

The Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) is studying the climate history of the Tasmanian Seaway, between the Australian and Antarctica continents, to find clues to the paleo-oceanographic and paleo-climate changes associated with the opening of the waterway. The JOIDES Resolution is carrying 29 scientists on ODP Leg 189 to take core samples from five sites in water depths of 2,475 meters down to 3,580 meters. The expedition will augment cores taken from the region 25 years ago.

The seaway opened about 65 million years ago (Cenezoic Era) and affected both water circulation and weather circulation patterns over the South Pole. Current scientific thought is that the Earth's stepwise cooling and the development of polar ice sheets resulted in part from progressive plate tectonic motions that thermally isolated Antarctica and allowed the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to develop. Tectonic and paleo-oceanographic changes likely played a fundamental role in the evolution of the Earth's climate and contributed to changes in global sea level.

Virtual development boosting team concept

Tight asset team integration in VR (virtual reality) is beginning to show promise through early problem identification, higher error-trapping, multiple solution generation, and reduced cycle time. The team concept is a success but companies are still developing it.

A primary problem in working teams is leadership or facilitation. The pressures of economic performance require that the team maintain focus on the economic target. This requires a very different leadership style than most companies are comfortable with. The team leader must coach, prod, encourage, redirect, and refocus the team as needed, as well as keep the financial "whip-crackers" away so that the team can do the work. Amazing synergies take place when a team of industry professionals works on a project data set together (see related article in this issue).

Multi-client data down 50%

The market shift to multi-client data sets and commodity pricing for seismic surveying and processing contractors has driven per-sq-km prices for multi-client seismic data down to half the price of two years ago (to $2,500/sq km, from $5,500/sw km average), according to Jean Charot, CGG Marine President.

Based on recent financial reports, cash flows and profits for most seismic companies were off 30% last year. The result is a 20% excess of seismic survey vessels. Also, major mergers resulted in reduced exploration budgets, leaving the market with too many vessels chasing too little demand. Charot cited the fact that Exxon and Mobil spent $100 million individually annually for surveys in the past, but combined they spent only $120 million. Demand will return in time, but the seismic acquisition industry may have to re-think pricing strategies in the meantime (see expanded source material on CGG in this issue).


EXPLORATION

GOM survey

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TGS-NOPEC is gathering a 25,000-km 2D survey over northern Brazil.
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TGS-NOPEC began acquisition of a non-exclusive 2D survey, Phase 48A, in the western Gulf of Mexico. This survey is being gathered in partnership with the Chinese Offshore Oil Geophysical Company (COOGC). "We believe there is untapped potential in the deeper geological section in this area of the Gulf of Mexico," said John Adamick, President of TGS-NOPEC Offshore Division. The 16,000-km survey will be gathered by the M/V Bin Hai 512, COOGC's vessel, which will tow an 8,000-meter streamer and produce 13-second records. Prestack time migration and AVO analysis will be applied to the data.

Brazil survey

TGS-NOPEC has taken control of a 25,000-km survey off Brazil's northern coast. The survey was begun by the Laboratory of Regional Geodynamics Ltd. and is being shot by the group's vessel, M/V Mezen. The regional 2D data grid, NorBraz99, includes over 3,000 km of coverage over ANP Block BM-PAMA-1, which will be included in the second round of licensing during May 2000. The survey is being gathered over the Foz do Amazonas and Para-Maranhao Basins.


TECHNOLOGY

Schlumberger is rolling out a major advance in seismic acquisition. This "Q system" will be applied initially to land operations. The system offers the ability to record on as many as 30,000 sensors in real time. It delivers an optimally sampled seismic wavefield corrected for intra-array perturbations that degrade the seismic signal. The goal is to image complex areas better and deliver data at better resolutions than currently available. The system should improve reservoir characterization and evaluation. Sources within Schlumberger say that the system will be available for marine operations later this year.

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