Domestic 3-D seismic data acquisition has long been a valuable practice, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico and nearby onshore areas, but less so for the Rocky Mountain region.
But that’s changing significantly, according to AAPG member R. Randy Ray, a Denver-based consulting geologist and geophysicist.
“The Rockies historically don’t have 3-D coverage like offshore and onshore Texas and Louisiana, but in the last 10 years we’ve been catching up to other areas in the U.S. in having more seismic acquired,” Ray said. “As a result, new plays are emerging as data are shot – and there’s a better understanding, particularly of the large resource plays.”
Given the region’s wide range of often-complex geology, 3-D seismic is a natural fit.
“In the Rockies we have a lot of structure and faulting,” Ray said, “and when you see this on 3-D seismic it helps drive the plays and focus areas for sweet spot prospecting.”
Ray’s zeal for 3-D led him to assemble a technical session on the business value of 3-D seismic to be presented at an upcoming energy summit set for July 9-11 in Denver.
The meeting, titled “Rocky Mountain Energy Epicenter,” will be jointly hosted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and AAPG’s Rocky Mountain Section. The organizers anticipate more than 3,000 attendees.
“The reason to make ‘energy epicenter’ the theme is that Colorado has become the focus of how to change oil and gas operations to make them more environmentally conscious and minimize footprints,” said Ray, who will co-chair the event’s 3-D seismic session.
“The governor is being very proactive in encouraging the best technology and best practices to keep Colorado beautiful, but at the same time keep it an energy producer.”
Increased availability and use of 3-D seismic dovetails nicely with this focus.
“Three-D is a non-invasive technique for ‘catscanning’ the subsurface,” Ray said. “Because of that, it provides the ideal data set to evaluate potential resources in areas of concern for environmentalists.
“It’s a passive event on the surface and leaves a minimal footprint,” he added, “and from the data you’re able to pick the most prospective locations to consider for development instead of drilling more haphazardly.”
Ray emphasized the planned technical session that will address the business value of 3-D seismic is targeted for a broad audience – including geologists and geophysicists.
“We’ll talk about how seismic brings value to the decision process of looking for oil and gas, and also how new speculative surveys are promoted,” Ray said. “Instead of technical details of seismic, we’ll stand back and look at the value of 3-D and how important it is to the growth of activity in the Rockies.”
Company presenters will address an array of topics, including:
♦ Three-D for pre-planning drilling and forecasting reserves.
♦ Searching for deeper targets under old fields.
♦ Three-D as a path to successful decisions in O&G expenditures.
♦ Identifying areas for spec surveys on federal lands in the Rockies.
♦ Business drivers, challenges and multiple benefits of 3-D seismic when planning field development.
♦ Three-D seismic for shallow coalbed methane objectives.
“The session will point out active Rockies companies’ views on why they’re spending more of their budget money shooting 3-D in the Rockies,” Ray said.
“It’s paying off in a number of ways, including developing shale gas resource plays and in pore pressure prediction,” he noted. “A lot of resource plays in the Rockies are overpressured, and seismic helps map out the overpressure cells.”
The use of 3-D seismic in the Rockies does more than just improve drilling results; it helps to locate horizontal wells, which are the method of choice for drilling in many plays in the region.
Ray noted the 3-D data also are highly valuable as a means to determine what level to target the wells and what direction to go laterally to intersect natural fractures.
“The business leaders in these companies today are starting to realize the seismic dollars are well spent in improving the business performance of drilling resource plays,” Ray noted.
“The complete subsurface view from 3-D seismic allows companies to organize their large drilling programs, including location planning and permitting, optimizing reserve growth and forecasting results,” he said.
“It’s very important for corporate planning and budgeting.”