Making Technology a Profitable Enterprise

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

The aim is pretty clear: “Converting Technology Into Dollars.”

That’s the title of one of several panel discussions scheduled for the Unconventional Resources Technology Conference (URTeC) Aug. 25-27 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

Panelists will include:

  • AAPG member D. Nathan Meehan, senior executive adviser, Baker Hughes.
  • AAPG member Bob Hardage, senior research scientist, Bureau of Economic Geology. He’s a past president of SEG and former editor of the EXPLORER’s Geophysical Corner.
  • AAPG member Mark Sonnenfeld, vice president geosciences, Whiting Petroleum.
  • Dennis Degner, director of operations, Range Resources.
  • Jeff Meisenhelder, vice president, unconventional resources, Schlumberger.

AAPG member Douglas Valleau of the Houston Geological Society will moderate the discussion.

The panel will explore how top-tier organizations lead the way by rapidly improving and deploying unconventional resource technologies and incorporating new learnings across their organizations.

“Because I am a geophysicist, the best contribution I can make is to inform attendees about emerging new seismic technology that provides significant cost savings in acquiring P and S seismic data,” Hardage said.

“This topic is important,” he added, “because S (shear) waves are particularly valuable for evaluating unconventional reservoirs.”

Show Me the Money … and Reservoirs

The Bureau of Economic Geology has been involved in evaluating unconventional reservoirs for the last decade, conducting several projects in different disciplines each year, he said.

The economic impact on his state’s economy is significant, according to Hardage.

“For example, a short note in USA Today ... stated that royalty payments from unconventional reservoir production on university lands is adding $1 billion annually to the university lands account that supports the University of Texas and Texas A&M University Systems,” Hardage said. “This contribution of unconventional reservoir production is only a small part of the overall economic impact that unconventional reservoirs have in Texas.

“One type of reservoir that fits into the unconventional category is geothermal,” he continued. “The BEG also has an aggressive program in geothermal systems. Many people do not think of geothermal when unconventional reservoirs are discussed.”

He outlined some of the challenges faced in the Barnett Shale.

“From the seismic imaging perspective, one challenge has been, and still is, to predict geomechanical (rock stiffness) parameters with remote sensing so frac programs can be improved and optimized,” he said. “For optimal estimation of rock stiffness with seismic data, it is essential to image reservoir systems with both P and S seismic wavefields.

“We at BEG think we may have a way to do this imaging at low cost and across earth surfaces where conventional S-wave sources cannot be used,” Hardage said.

Sharing Trade Secrets

Sonnenfeld’s company, Whiting Petroleum, has been involved in the horizontal middle Bakken play since 2005 and the Niobrara play since 2010.

“In the Bakken we have 15 rigs running, and in the Niobrara we have three rigs running, anticipating several more before year end,” he said.

“The greatest challenges,” he added, “are how densely to drill/downspace to maximize recovery efficiency and present value.

“Pilot project design, implementation, and interpretation sooner rather than later in a sweet spot’s development history – this trend is one of the most important areas of technology development at the moment,” he said.

“These projects can involve anywhere from three to 16-plus wells and typically diverse data types; the more diverse and independent the data types acquired, the more robust the interpretive results,” he said. “Specifically, HD pilot objectives emphasize how frac jobs and drainage areas among closely-spaced wells interact to produce incremental versus accelerative production.

According to Sonnenfeld, microseismic technology has made major, rapid strides and evolving hydraulic fracturing technology is making sweet spots in areas considered low-performing scant years ago.

Sonnenfeld also said discussions at conferences like URTeC are a valuable way to share ideas and new technology, especially across disciplines.

“There are also different degrees of data sharing across technical fields; specifically geology, geophysics, petrophysics and engineering,” he said. “I would describe engineering as being the most open, followed by geology, and finally geophysics.

“In some areas like drilling and completion,” he added, “‘secrets’ travel fast.”

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