Digital full-wave seismic technology is the next step in the critical task of finding hydrocarbon reservoirs to meet the energy demands of the future, says Robert Peebler, CEO of Input/Output Inc. of Houston.
Peebler spoke recently in Denver at the 11th annual 3-D Seismic Symposium sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists. A record crowd of 580 people attended the program.
As the kickoff speaker, Peebler spoke on the coming era of digital full-wave seismic, saying that full-wave imaging already is helping to locate harder-to-find hydrocarbon reservoirs and increasing productivity in acquiring and processing seismic data.
Early adopters of full-wave imaging have seen improved success ratios, increased production and a reduction in finding and development costs, he said.
"Though still in the early stages of adoption, digital full-wave is already proving its value as the cornerstone of the next seismic era," Peebler said, noting also that North America is "behind in applying" the technique when compared to the international arena.
"A lot of people have told me there’s nothing on the horizon as significant as 3-D seismic technology," he said, "but these same people also talk of the complexity of the problems they face that our technology can’t handle. It strikes me that this is a great disconnect."
In North America, the number of new wells drilled in 2005 is declining by 30 percent, he noted. "We must bring in technology to find and develop more reservoirs," he said.
"We look at the global supply and demand and the decline in reservoirs," he said. "We have an energy crisis that is not good in the long-term for any of us.
Although the industry recently has spent $30 billion in exploration worldwide, it spends the same amount at repurchasing its stock.
"That says a lot about what we think of our own confidence," he said. "We’ve gone through the cycle, past the boom. We weren’t that efficient in using our technology.
"As an industry we’ve become too risk adverse," he continued. "We aren’t stepping out like we used to step out. We need to go forward."
Peebler pointed out that $6 trillion needs to be spent on exploration and production nationally over the next 25 years to meet consumer demand.
"It’s time for new technology. We are at the beginning of a new technology era. It’s the full wave era. We’re about where 3-D was in 1986," he said.
In the early 1980s, many people in the industry believed 3-D was a niche technology, it was too expensive and it wasn’t needed, thanks to 2-D potential.
"Now we’re at the mature end of the curve with 3-D. I like to call it 3-D on steroids," he said. "We need to increase the quality of measurement and the content of measurement."
Enter the new technology.
"Full wave is measuring a full wave field, measuring the ground motion," he said. "It also measures gravity and the position of the sensors. At its core is the MEMS-based, three-channel, single point sensors, which capture broader bandwidth, higher resolution seismic data and improves productivity.
"You replace the full geophysical array," he said. "This will result in enhanced imaging with higher-resolution images of small anomalies in reservoirs."
This requires a collection of factors to do the imaging work differently including point sources and point receivers, long offsets and multi-component receivers, he said.
"Full-wave will ultimately replace analog," he said. "Within five years, a third of all surveys on land will be full-wave."
"We will use more technology to be more efficient," he said. "With digital technology we can use our dollars for better imaging and that will result in a lot less equipment on the ground."
People, Get Ready
At the foot of the digital explosion is the challenge to the entire industry’s infrastructure that operates today.
"Ultimately," Peebler said, "it will be replaced.
"The good news is we have the technology that can help us. The gaming industry is pursuing IT technology, so we don’t have the challenge (of inventing new technology) that we had in the 1980s. I think that’s a good thing."
Peebler said he believes technology will advance on course, but the individual mindset and approach may slow down the process.
"People have thought this was a valley of despair and there was no future for geophysics," he said.
Yet, less than 5 percent of geoscientists today now have the technical skills to manage full-wave, he said.
"The data explosion will challenge processing, interpretation and data management systems."
And, it will happen fast.
"Now we’re at the start of another long growth period due to the supply and demand," he said, "which begs for new technology to take us forward."