From reservoir to surface planning

Visuals Explore Past the ‘Snapshot’

They say seeing is believing.

If that’s true, then imagine the possibilities of seeing more.

A virtual smorgasbord of up-to-the-minute advances in visualization technology to help enhance and improve exploration efforts is on tap for a session at the upcoming joint annual meeting of the GCAGS-GSA in Houston Oct. 5-9.

The session dubbed “Visualization of Depositional Systems” is among the many events likely to attract an SRO crowd.

Talk about eye-popping.

Getting a better view: The HIVE (Highly Immersive Visualization Environment) at the BP Canada office, with its flat screen, blended two channel enclosed projection and touch-sensitive screen to the side, is an example of how the rapidly evolving technology can be useful for training, multi-discipline collaboration and improved decision making.
Photo courtesy of BP Canada
Getting a better view: The HIVE (Highly Immersive Visualization Environment) at the BP Canada office, with its flat screen, blended two channel enclosed projection and touch-sensitive screen to the side, is an example of how the rapidly evolving technology can be useful for training, multi-discipline collaboration and improved decision making. Photo courtesy of BP Canada
This particular gathering will explore advances in visualization techniques that enable geoscientists to identify, interpret and investigate models of depositional systems in a broad array of environments, from fluvial to deep marine.

“Our goal is to show where visualization stands now, with an emphasis on sedimentology and stratigraphy but not limiting topics to just that,” said session co-chair Jim Thomson, visualization theme lead at BP.

“We tried to get a cross section of abstracts and presentations that cover that whole gamut,” he noted “because this is not just the usual oil and gas crowd we would normally get.”

Indeed, organizers were sensitive to the need to cover the “whole gamut” because it’s a joint meeting of GCAGS and GSA.

“The presenters represent a cross section from industry,” Thomson continued, “with speakers from both large and small petroleum companies and from vendors and from academia.”

Come Fly With Me

The presentation format is out-of-the ordinary.

“About half the talks will be standard PowerPoint presentations you normally get,” Thomson said. “But the real icing on the cake is that about half will be live demos of 3-D visualization where the presenters will plug in their computers and do live visualization fly-throughs with their data sets and their workflows – so it will be dynamic instead of the static PowerPoints.”

Thomson said they’ll be bringing in 3-D stereoscopic visualization equipment from the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise (LITE).

“We’ll have specialized glasses, projectors and screens,” he said, “so the whole audience will have an IMAX-like experience for those talks.”

The session is timely, indeed, according to session co-chair Kevin Bradford, geophysicist-reservoir characterization team at Shell.

“What we’re seeing in various companies is the use of visualization is becoming increasingly important, all the way from initial project framing up to the actual review process with management teams at the various stages of project review,” Bradford said.

“It’s becoming more and more important to actually interrogate the data in a live fashion,” he said. “Rather than just having snapshots and PowerPoint-type presentations, it’s increasingly essential to actually see the data live – that’s what visualization brings, and we’re seeing that kind of at all stages now.

“It used to be something you might see at the subsurface level when actually delineating reservoirs, but now it’s all the way up there to surface facility planning as well,” Bradford noted.

“That’s what the session is trying to show – to highlight new techniques that enable that, but also to show this kind of breadth of where visualization can really play a role all the way from shallow hazard mapping to large-scale regional exploration.”

Twice As Good

The response and enthusiasm triggered by the visualization session planned at this year’s GCAGS-GSA meeting in Houston have been notable.

In fact, AAPG member Gary Kinsland, Pioneer Production-endowed professor of geology and engineering at University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL), was so enthusiastic he’s presenting twice – besides overseeing delivery of all the gear from the LITE.

Kinsland and his peers at ULL are developing a 3-D GIS of north Louisiana; they have digitized over 700 well logs and are developing two different 3-D systems in parallel. He noted the goal is to develop one or both systems such that they can view and interpret the 3-D data within the total immersive system (TIS) at LITE.

Kinsland said they believe that interpretation within fully immersive, interactive 3-D virtual reality space will enable them to understand the difficult-to-interpret fluvial Wilcox formation in North Louisiana more quickly and thoroughly than otherwise possible.

The group’s current interest is coalbed natural gas in this region, but Kinsland noted the data set is broadly applicable.

“We’ll be doing Wilcox well log data (in one presentation) at the session in dual projector 3-D with 3-D glasses and showing the stage where we are,” Kinsland said, “and telling people where we want to go with this.

“We’ll have some well logs in 3-D, and we’ll move them around and look at the different surfaces and glean information.

“We’re still working to get to the point where we can put the well logs in a TIS,” Kinsland said, “and that’s where we want to go.

“I should be able to move through my well logs, move within the Wilcox rocks and interpret them,” he said.

Kinsland said that interpretations he’s done previously in 3-D convinced him that being in the data allows you to be “a whole lot more intuitive” about the way in which you interpret the data.

“If you want to look at something, you do – you just walk over and look at it,” Kinsland said. “It’s like being at the outcrop.

“That’s where we want to go,” he said, “and we’re not there quite yet.”

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Goal Is to Integrate Section, Plan Images

Three-dimensional seismic data can be invaluable with regard to mitigating risk associated with the presence of reservoir, source and seal facies.

For AAPG member Henry Posamentier that’s not a casual concept. That’s a key foundation of his work – and his approach to his work.

Posamentier, an AAPG George Matson Award winner and popular past Distinguished Lecturer, is senior consultant geologist at Chevron.

According to him, 3-D data can afford direct imaging of depositional elements, which can then be analyzed by applying seismic stratigraphic and seismic geomorphologic principles to yield predictions of lithologic distribution, insights to compartmentalization and identification of stratigraphic trapping possibilities.

This will be the theme of Posamentier’s presentation at the visualization session during the GCAGS/GSA annual meeting in Houston.

“We’re using 3-D seismic data to predict (lithology) as always,” Posamentier said, “but we’re doing it 21st century-style.

“In the old days it was 2-D seismic and now it’s 3-D, and what that brings to the table is the ability to integrate the section view – which is the 2-D – with the plan view that we derive from the 3-D,” Posamentier said.

“We’re integrating the concepts of stratigraphy with the concepts of geomorphology to get a more robust interpretation,” he said, “and a much more precise prediction of lithology ahead of the drill bit.

“The key buzzword is integration of section view – or stratigraphic – with plan view – or geomorphologic – images,” Posamentier said.

“That’s really the key,” he noted. “It’s that integration of good old fashioned stratigraphy with good old fashioned geomorphology, or the study of land forms.

“It’s being able to see depositional systems in the plan view that really elevates our ability to predict.”

Emphasis: Gulf Coast