Blog & News

Going for Gold in Geophysics

Fri 12 August 2016

Category: Conference, Geophysics, London

Article by Stephen Pickering

As I write this article I am listening on the radio to the Rio 2016 Olympics commentary, specifically how technology has been instrumental in improving performance in cycling. The British Cycling Team realised that in addition to carbon fibre technology, the paint on a bicycle weighs 100g, the clothes worn by the cyclists can affect aerodynamics and muscular performance (literally hot pants!), and that the riders experience G-forces which require specific saddle design. All these and many more innovations can all potentially improve performance no matter how small. However, they also realised that the key to winning Olympic Gold lies in the integration of these many marginal innovations and that to remain an Olympic winner, innovation has to become a continuous process.

In June 1999 William Aylor Jr. presented a paper Measuring the Impact of 3D Seismic on Business Performance in the Journal of Petroleum Technology (JPT). In his paper Aylor demonstrated that 3D seismic had a major impact on the performance of Amoco’s E&P operation’s during the 1990’s. Aylor showed that 3D seismic improved reserves replacement, improved exploration finding rates and volumes, and had a positive effect on field-reserves revisions, all of which resulted in a step change in performance for Amoco. In the paper Aylor suggests ways in which to measure the impact of emerging technologies. These measures gauge the benefits (efficiency and effectiveness) as well as the easily measured costs (economy) when managing technology investments.
Twenty years on the investors in our industry; the bankers, investment trusts and venture capitalists, have in recent years become very risk averse with regards Exploration new ventures. Based upon recent drilling results there is a common misbelief that the time for exploration is over. Fortunately, geophysics has a superb track record of game changing innovations combining science and engineering; CDP stack and common midpoint gathers, 3D and 4D seismic, multi-cable and multi-source acquisition, broadband, Reverse Time Migration, are just a few. Each one of these innovations has changed the exploration game through lowering costs, speeding up the process of data collection and analysis, and/or providing more accurate and informed measurements – Economy, Efficiency and Effectiveness. These innovations individually and collectively have contributed to the impressive record of geophysics to make step changes in Exploration drilling performance and in identifying subsurface hydrocarbon resources as demonstrated by William Aylor.
The challenge for Geophysics today is to make yet another step change in performance; integration, cost reduction, improved productivity but most importantly increased accuracy of our measurements and risk reduction.

The Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain (PESGB) will host a seminar at the Geological Society, Piccadilly on 27th/28th September on the theme of Getting Value from Geophysics: Economy, Efficiency and Effectiveness for Low Oil Prices. The aim of this seminar is to stimulate ideas and discussion around just how we can make such a step change in the 21st Century, to challenge those who believe the time for exploration is over, and in due course win that elusive Liquid Gold.
Come and join us

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