Frustration leads to solution idea

Standards Raised With Lithology Logic

Scott Wright is a man with a mission:

He’s out to get more respect for mudloggers.

And some in the industry think this AAPG member is on track to do just that, thanks to a new program he conceived and initiated that aims to set an industry-wide standard for describing well lithology and rock cutting descriptions.

Those who’ve experienced the work say seeing is believing – which, coincidentally, is one way to describe Wright’s creation.

And in Wright’s words, it was a development that was at least in part born out of desperation.

Wright, an Oregon native, had spent 15 years in the U.S. Army, including duty on the 2002-03 invasion of Iraq, when he left the service in 2005 and took a job mud logging in southeastern Oklahoma.

It was there when he quickly became frustrated, and then perplexed, by the lack of standardization in the tasks and interpretations he was expected to perform, especially in the area of lithology.

Establishing an industry-wide standard may seem like a pipe dream, but Wright thought it could be done.

Drawing on his military background, Wright figured the quickest way to get from “here to there” was to develop an interactive checklist of major rock types and properties such as color, size, shape, texture, hardness and secondary constituents like embedded materials and fossils.

He knew he would need help pulling together such a program, so he made a cold call to fellow AAPG member Tim Dean of Terra Domain Consulting, Aledo, Texas, who helped develop geosteering in horizontal drilling.

Together with a team of petrologists from the University of Oklahoma (right), they devised what Wright says is a straightforward, easy-to-use program called “Litho-Logic.”

Getting on the Same Page

Wright’s team started out by gathering high-resolution microphotographs of various rock types and included industry standard and layman’s definitions of the various qualities.

With “Litho-Logic,” the logger then can compare his or her cuttings to the photographs. They then can click on the various qualities in order to prepare a report on the color, size, shape, etc. of the sample.

Conveniently, the program’s color bar incorporates standard RGB values, allowing the logger to state the color objectively instead of guessing, Wright said.

In addition to photos, Wright included videos to illustrate mineralogical pore fluid tests. One video, for example, shows a sample being squeezed by tweezers to determine its hardness.

Photos show samples both wet and dry.

Wright apparently sensed that something intended to be an industry “standard” needed to be comprehensive – and apparently he has done just that.

“I was blown away by the amount of work he (Wright) put into it,” said AAPG member Norm Hyne, professor of petroleum geology in Continuing Engineering and Science Education at the University of Tulsa – an unabashed fan of Wright’s drive to set a standard for describing well lithology.

“The pictures are great,” he said.

While wireline logs produce measurements that are absolute and repeatable, “mud logging is very different,” Hyne said, because the analysis depends on the individual geologist “and is very subjective.

“What Scott has done is take mud logging to a very high standard that any geologist can use and produce a very high quality log,” Hyne said.

Micah Banks, operations manager for Trans Pecos Well Logging said his company has been using the program for about a year.

“We were a little reluctant in the beginning ... (because) the people using it may not be as good as the program makes them appear,” Banks said.

“But the idea of normalizing the way we enter data forced us into giving it a try. It’s had a very positive impact on how we communicate with our clients,” he said.

“If we’re running 10 units on one play ... with 20 personnel, we get 20 interpretations on the same formation,” Banks said.

With Wright’s program, “We get at least 90 percent consistency,” he said.

“It makes it a lot more valuable to a geologist watching multiple wells,” Banks said.

The American Dream

The tool also is valuable in training personnel, he said.

Trans Pecos is currently working in the Permian Basin, with 20 units in the Delaware Basin and Eastern Shelf, Banks said.

“When he (Wright) brought it in, it was lacking in a couple of areas. They’ve really been proactive that rock types of region-specific geology are entered in a timely manner,” he said.

Wright said the price of $5 per day is “background noise” in the context of the expense of drilling a well.

“I think what I’ve done is going to help a lot of people ... it’s the American dream, using not education but smarts to do something that’s good for everybody,” Wright said.

“The technology for this has been out there a long time, but people wanted to keep it proprietary. There has to be a standard,” he said.

“You just focus on fixing the little things,” he added. “Getting simple solutions is so much more simple than people think.”

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About the Project

Scott Wright
Scott Wright

Scott Wright said the Litho-Logic project began about two years ago when he contacted AAPG member Tim Dean for technical help and financial backing.

Wright said he gathered most of the data and took the photographs, and Tim’s son, James Dean, built the program.

They hired a team of graduate and post-doctorate students at the University of Oklahoma through awardwinning AAPG member Roger Slatt, the Gungoll Family Chair Professor of Petroleum Geology and Geophysics and director of the Institute of Reservoir Characterization, Sarkeys Energy Center.

“We worked at OU for nine to 10 months,” Wright said.

The team at OU included AAPG members Tarek Hodairi and Carlos Ceron, plus Mohamed Omar Aboueresh, Grant Heard and Majia Zheng.

Wright can be contacted via email.

– KEN MILAM