Ed Gilmet is a geophysicist at Poco Petroleum, in Calgary. As team leader for northern Alberta, Gilmet is kept extremely busy ensuring that the company's substantial seismic data is properly interpreted.
Three years ago, Gilmet inherited an unfamiliar workstation from a company that Poco bought out. "I was reluctant to use it, because I didn't have the luxury of time to learn," he recalls. "But I loaded one project on it, and realized it was a good machine."
Gilmet had stumbled across the EarthWorks Exploration System, one of the best-kept secrets in the business. EarthWorks is the brainchild of Mark Sun, president and owner of Genetek Earth Research, based in Vancouver (with offices in Calgary and Houston). "We have sold systems to individual consultants, and right up to companies the size of Shell," says the 39-year old geophysicist. "Once people see the product, they love it."
Sun, a graduate of UBC, began to develop the system from scratch after being hired by Suncor as a seismic interpreter, in 1981. " I found the interpretation tools lacking," he recalls. " I had programming skills, so I began to develop a geophysicist's interpretive package in my spare time."
When Suncor stopped development on the system in 1988, Sun quit his job, sold his house to buy a workstation, and began to develop the EarthWorks system. "I wanted to build an application that had all the major components in a single system, connected extremely tightly," says Sun. " I wanted it live-linked, so the programs would talk to each other. I wanted it in real-time, so changes happened in all applications right away, as you worked."
In 1992, the EarthWorks Exploration System was born. The CPU processor is a Compaq Alpha 64-bit, currently running at over 600 MHz. "It's the only system we write our application to," says Sun. "It's the fastest processor in the world."
The hardware and software package sells for $58,000 - $90,000. Genetek charges an 18% annual maintenance fee, which includes upgrades and new software technology.
Because a working geophysicist designed EarthWorks, it provides all the sophisticated functions that an interpreter needs, yet it is easy-to-use.
Basemaps showing seismic lines, wells, topography, grids and land holdings are easily constructed. "You can import data from all major suppliers via the Internet," says Sun.
Real-time filter, phase and spectra l enhancement features allow you to calibrate different-vintage seismic lines and tie in synthetic log responses at the workstation level.
Horizon-picking is automated for quick interpretation, and structure, isochron and other maps can be computed, contoured and 3D-visualized on the fly as horizons are picked. "In most systems, you have to pick horizons, store the data then import it into a mapping program," says Sun. "EarthWorks does it all instantaneously, to continuously give you map results in three dimensions."
Data can be contoured automatically, or the interpreter can introduce strike or other bias to adjust for known structure and / or geology. Interpolated data is automatically ranged to any desired density.
EarthWorks is very strong in stratigraphic interpretation. An amplitude map, which looks at the strength of reflection, can show lateral changes in lithology and possibly signal the presence of gas. "You can see amplitude changes even better with Event Imaging (tm), which is our 3D visualization of 2D and 3D seismic data," says Sun. "The spatial characteristics of the anomaly may point toward a deltaic fan or sinuous channel."
Spectral Analysis can be done in real-time to cover more ground. "Just pick a window in the seismic section, then display the frequency spectrum," says Sun. "You can then fine-tune your seismic data for enhanced band-limited interpretation."
EarthWorks also features a sophisticated synthetic seismogram modeling tool. "You can add porosity by reducing the velocity in an interval," says Sun. "You can also change the thickness of the zone, and the modified synthetic is immediately animated over the actual seismic section in real-time."
Live-linking technology enables maps to flex into new shapes on the fly when seismic or geological log picks are graphically added, changed or deleted. It also enables you to point to a seismic anomaly and ' touch' the depth-converted, mapped feature in three dimensions.
Another recent innovation is Event Imaging (till), a new way to interpret 2D and 3D seismic projects. "Geoscientists can rotate the 3D volume of seismic data, easily identifying seismic events, their structural, amplitude and character distributions," says Sun.
One of the newest features to EarthWorks is instantaneous time-to-depth conversion. "You can take time values and convert them to depth in real-time," explains Sun. "Velocity models are quickly built using interactive 3D velocity and depth-sculpting tools. You can do it for every play and horizon, in minutes."
"I like the EarthWorks station a lot," says Poco's Ed Gilmet. "It does things that others don't, and it's quicker. If I want to change phase, I click on a button, and it's done. If I want to adjust the phase of a synthetic, I can go through 360 degrees in a matter of seconds. This machine saves you days and days of interpretation."
As part of its newest package, Genetek has slated a pre-stack, seismic analysis and geological integration rollout for this fall. "You can bring up well formation tops and the sonic log and plot them on a 3D map," says Sun. "You can take well curves and seismic and paste up a cross section of logs, seismic, or any combination."
In addition, Genetek intends to take advantage of Compaq's slated 1,000 MHz Alpha. "I'm writing software now which will take advantage of the 1,000 MHz capability when it becomes available next year."
Ed Van Wieren makes no bones about the fact that SeisWare is a number-cruncher's dream. "Our system is truly multiprocess/ multi-threaded. You can install up to four processors on the computer, and you can do processing while interpreting."
Van Wieren and Shane Stogrin are the founders of Calgary-based Zokero Incorporated. The two software developers gained their knowledge of seismic interpretation at Photon Systems Ltd., where they were in charge of software development for SeisX.
But the duo wanted to take advantage of object linking and embedding (OLE), the latest generation of software programming, in order to build a powerful seismic interpretation tool. In 1996, they quit the company due to changes in the corporation. The following year, they formed Zokero.
Right from the beginning, Zokero adopted a corporate strategy of creating a product that delivered fast, efficient seismic interpretation to their clients at low cost.
Seismic interpretation requires large computing capacity, which means either buying an expensive, powerful box or going with multiple processors. While the low price of CPUs makes multi-processing far more attractive, much of the software on the market is not purpose-designed to take advantage of multi-processing's potential.
"We focused on multiple processing rather than faster CPUs," says Van Wieren. "With SeisWare, if you add multiple CPUs, you will see a major improvement of operations."
Zokero also decided to build SeisWare on a Windows NT platform. "We used NT because many companies want to move to NT. Hardware can be used within the corporation longer, there's better integration, and IS costs come down."
Zokero built in the standards that the industry is looking to adopt over the next few years. 'T he strength of SeisWare is in its component architecture, its integration with existing applications, its open standards, and being on NT," says Van Wieren.
Just one of the technologies that Zokero embedded is Open DataBase Connect (ODBC). "You can attach SEG-Y files," says Van Wieren. "It's easy to bring in any data. It has one of the easiest data loading systems. The basemap for a project can be built from scratch in less than half an hour"
The stable nature of the architecture reduces crash-and-bum. "If one component goes down, it will not take the whole package down," says Van Wieren. "Sometimes, you can be in the middle of a project and hit a bug, and with other packages, it can take everything down. This package is specifically designed to avoid that."
Zokero talked to working geophysicists to find out exactly what the troops in the trenches needed. "The focus is on seismic interpretation," says Van Wieren. "Synthetic and geological modeling are secondary-there are third party applications with all the bells and whistles that already do that. You can put SeisWare on everybody's desktop. It's the bread-and-butter of geophysical work."
Zokero designs the software, and Blue Castle Corporation handles training, support and service. The system requires a minimum 200 MHz Pentium with 256 Meg of RAM. Basic training on the system takes half a day, with a further four hours for advanced training.
Zokero currently has 15 seats in Calgary, with about two dozen expected by the end of the year "We don't sell software, you buy a subscription on an annual basis," says Van Wieren. "We charge $9,000 per year per seat for the software and support."
Ed Chow is a geophysicist who supplies support to SeisWare users. "You can interactively process and modify data on-the-fly," says Chow. "You can filter out noise to help accentuate anomalies. This makes the interpretation process more efficient."
SeisWare has a powerful interactive mistie program that automatically analyzes data at intersections and computes phase, static and gain adjustments. "Thanks to multi-processing, once the adjustments are computed, you can send off the job to process all the data and continue with interpretation," says Chow.
TI1e multi-processing is invaluable when the user wants to crank out a large number of maps. "SeisWare allows the user to create and display any number of maps and isochrons," says Chow. "You can change the interpretation on one horizon, and the software will automatically update isochrons. It's great for helping to identify and correct mis-picks."
Darren Kondrat is one of 20 geophysicists at Crestar. He used SeisX for six years before switching to SeisWare six months ago. "It's very easy to use," says the 10-year veteran, who chases shallow stratigraphic plays in southern Saskatchewan. "A lot of the common steps are automated. For example, gridding and contouring can be done with the press of a single button. TI1ey didn't develop their own, either; they used Surfer, which is an industry standard ."
Crestar is currently on UNIX boxes, and is looking to upgrade. Kondrat is assisting the company's task force. "The industry is pushing to go to ODBC," he says. "I'd like to see the open data base concept take off. The user will have a live link to up-to-the-minute information. There will be no need to update maps."
Secondly, the industry is moving toward open integration of different products. "The last thing the customer wants is that everything has to be one large proprietary application," says Kondrat. "We want the freedom to get the best application for the task. "
Finally, Crestar is currently deciding whether to upgrade their UNIX boxes or convert to NT. Kondrat likes NT because it facilitates his workflow by, for example, creating plots and plot previews quickly and efficiently. "In NT, those tasks don't require third-party applications."
"SeisWare is currently working on a well log module, and they don't have faults yet, but their draw is that they're easy to use and have gone with the ODBC architecture for live links to other packages or databases," says Kondrat. "I like the future they have."
Integrated Exploration Software System
Roger Whittaker is a dyed-in-the-wool fan of GMA's Integrated Exploration Software System.
Since 1979, Whittaker has worked as a geologist and geophysicist for Dome, Esso and Questar, but for the last few years, he has been on his own as a consulting geoscientist.
"I've been using GMA software for 10 years," says the University of New Brunswick grad. "It's a good tool for large and small companies because it can handle large and small data sets, but it is a real benefit to small companies because it's affordable. You can put it on a PC, and it's transportable."
GMA was formed in 1982 by Calgary-based geophysicists Ron Newman and Greg Davidson, who wanted to create a powerful synthetic log-modeling program that could run on a PC. " It was one of the first synthetic log modeling programs around," says Eric Trouillot, technical sales representative for GMA (International) Ltd. In 1989, the CSEG awarded its first medal to Davidson in recognition of GMA's impact on domestic and international products.
Over the last 17 years, GMA has grown to a publicly listed company that employs 50 professionals in Calgary, Houston, Denver and London offices. "There are approximately 4,500 GMA systems in use around the world," says Trouillot. "About one-fifth of them are in Calgary."
GMA's Integrated Exploration Software System is designed to be of value to geophysicists, geologists and engineers. It can quickly and efficiently edit well logs, generate synthetic logs, edit and analyze seismic data, and determine reservoir characteristics.
Prices for the software run from $4,000 to $20,000, depending on the modules ordered. A one-year renewal costs 17.5% of list price. The software runs on 95-98 NT for Windows. GMA recommends at least a Pentium 100 CPU and 32 MEG of RAM to power the system. Basic training takes one day, with another two-day course for advanced training.
As in keeping with its pedigree, GMA boasts a strong well-log editing and modeling module called LogM. "Log data can be imported in GMA format directly from data vendor LogTech," says Trouillot. " It can also be imported from Landmark and Geoquest data bases, or through LAS or other formats."
Synthetic traces can also be generated to fit any project. "The system allows a high degree of customization of the log character and wavelet form to get the best fit," says Trouillot. "Canned wavelets, such as Ricker and Ormsby, can be modified for high-band, low-band and phase."
The geoscientist can then interactively compare synthetic traces to seismic data, manipulating data on the fly to help determine if a seismic anomaly is due to a sand-channel or other stratigraphic change. "The user can adjust porosity, density and formation thickness on the logs, and the synthetic traces adjust automatically," says Trouillot.
GMA also has a solid seismic interpretation module, called 2D/30. "Data Prep is the front end for 20/30," says Trouillot. "It allows you to import well files, grids, geographic and pipeline data, and SEG-Y seismic data."
The 2D /3D software then allows data enhancement and analysis, keeping a flow chart of all modifications. "Filtering properties include bandpass and multi-point frequency pass zones, phase rotations and frequency spectra," says Trouillot.
"2D/30 can also do amplitude normalization by tracking various trace amplitude statistics across zones bound by time, and post stack processing, including convolution and noise attenuation," says Trouillot.
The software can interactively tie different vintages of seismic data at an intersection, or determine the time, phase and amplitude adjustments required to balance a grid of intersections.
"All aspects can then be displayed and plotted from the seismic basemap, as posted, colour-coded or contoured," says Trouillot. "Multiple datasets can be combined or displayed separately. Synthetic logs can be imported from LogM and incorporated."
The GeoFeatures module allows the geoscientist to display and correlate well logs in a number of different formats, then to edit lithology strips (mudlogs) and create and fill a log cross section with lithology patterns.
For the engineer and geologist, the MWLA and PetroSolv modules take log, core and cuttings data to determine reservoir lithology, porosity, fluid saturation and estimates of producibility.
Integrated Exploration Software System user Roger Whittaker does a lot of work on shallow stratigraphic plays in Alberta and Saskatchewan. " It's handy for looking for subtle details when doing strat plays," he notes. "It's also easy to adjust data from different vintages. I can tie 2D into 3D."
When Whittaker has to give the data an extensive workover, GMA's system keeps track of all the massaging. "I like the way they manage the data you've processed. It's easier to find , and to know what you've done to it."
Whittaker also likes the reliability of the software, " It's written for Windows 98 and NT. If there's a problem, it's easy to fix."
While GMA is working on adding new bells and whistles like time-to-depth and enhanced display features, Whittaker is happy with the fact that it gets the job done. " It may not give you the 3D view, but it'll give you a drill location," he says. "I use the product daily, and I've had good success with it."
Landmark Graphics Canada
John Van Der Laan has the biggest, baddest workstation in Calgary. "I call it my 'humble visualarium'," says the Gulf Canada Resources geoscientist.
Van Der Laan's workstation is a 14-seat viewing room outfitted with two large, flat screens, three ceiling-mounted projectors, and a two Sun Ultra 60 CPU's to power the interpretation system. "It really pulls things together," he proudly notes. "Applications talk to one another, and everyone can access the work. It allows the integration of professions."
Van Der Laan is the latest convert to Landmark Graphics' groundbreaking integrated geophysical, geological and engineering interpretive system. "We call it Volume Interpretation," says Scott Lowry, country manager of Integrated Solutions Group for Landmark Graphics Corporation. "We want to change the way people work together globally."
Landmark was founded in 1982 by four Houston-based geoscientists in order to create 2D and 3D seismic processing and interpretation software systems. Since then, the wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton has grown to become an industry leader in the field , with 1,500 employees and 65,000 licenses worldwide. There are almost 3,500 licenses in Calgary.
Landmark's software package employs some of the most sophisticated interpretation and display modules in the sector, but the advantages of its system lie in the areas of multi-disciplinary collaboration and visualization. "This system is excellent for exploration and development of complex structural and stratigraphic plays, like the type you see on the East Coast," says Doris Ross, a senior technical consultant for Landmark. "Everyone can participate; geophysicists, geologists and engineers."
And that, says Lowry, allows oil companies to operate far more efficiently. "Using our system, a Gulf Coast opera tor was able to eliminate one sub-sea template from a field, saving $70 million."
Because of the UNIX-based hardware requirements, an entry level for the Landmark Volume Interpretation System starts at $50,000.
Screening systems can run from a flat wall to a fully-surround 'cave', costing up to $1 million (Van Der Laan built his humble visualarium for $135,000).
Software training takes a minimum of two days for geophysicists, with another half day to get a handle on the advanced features.
The foundation of the software is OpenWorks, which allows geophysicists, geologists, drilling engineers and production engineers to effectively work together on a common database simultaneously. "It's a big, giant tool box," says Ross.
SeisWorks is Landmark's seismic interpretation tool. It allows the user to easily combine 2D and 3D projects, convert time-to-depth, and interpret faults. Amplitude, phase and frequency can all be corrected automatically across a project, or customized. "It's easy to do stratigraphic modeling," says Ross. "You can analyze amplitude over a horizon to follow a stratigraphic play downdip."
EarthCube, a high-performance 3D seismic interpretation module, allows the geophysicist to visualize and trace anomalies. "By adjusting the opacity and colour, you can display events clearly in a manner that can be intuitively grasped," says Ross.
This can be quite handy when tracking a 'cloud' says Ross. "You can pinpoint on a seismic line an indication of a channel sand, for instance, then instruct the system to trace the seismic characteristics that define that channel sand across other seismic lines." The resulting data can be displayed as a contiguous event, resembling a cloud floating across the 3D frame of reference.
Other modules include SynTool, which generates synthetic logs, StratWorks, which allows geoscientists to correlate and interpret well-log data, and an entire suite of drilling modules that help engineers plan wells and create field development programs.
Landmark's system really shines when it comes to presentation, however. "OpenVision allows data from geophysicists, geologists and engineers to be displayed and analyzed in a 3D environment," says Ross. "It's a very powerful visual tool."
One of the first Gulf assets to benefit from Landmark's technology is the Goose River field, a Swan Hills Devonian reef in northern Alberta. Using a 3D survey over the field, Van Der Laan converted time-to-depth in order to correlate the seismic horizon with the well logs.
Once he had his geology to seismic tie, he analyzed the data to determine the impedance correlation to porosity. He was thus able to construct a detailed porosity map showing the complex internal structure of the field, allowing him to pinpoint the best sites for infill wells.
"This level of interpretation is for a corporation's key assets," says Van Der Laan. "It would be overkill on a land sale."
Gulf's 40 geophysicists and geologists are gradually moving over to the Landmark system. "They are excited about what they are doing, because they are being much more efficient," says Van Der Laan. "When the geologist does his interpretation, the geophysicist sees it right away. There's really good collaboration. We want to pull the engineers in by integrating their data."
"I recommend the system to other companies because it reduces uncertainty," says Van Der Laan. "You reduce risk by eliminating bad wells."
As for the future, Landmark is looking to extend their product into the economic/management realm. "We are linking the technical to business," says Lowry. "Landmark is entering into an alliance with SAP to deliver such features as cost/benefit analysis. We will begin to roll that out in 2000."