Geophysical workstations have proliferated in the petroleum sector, but not all systems are created equally. In the second of a two-part series, CSEG Recorder Magazine talks to four developers and their users to differentiate their strengths and applications.
Over the last 17 years, geophysicist Brian McCue has seen a lot of changes in his profession. "If you were to look back 10 years, geophysics was essentially in the paper-and-pencil era," says the Poco explorationist. "You worked your data out on a piece of paper, transferred it to another piece of paper, contoured it, revised it, then presented it. "
Since he started using SeisX, however, McCue has rarely hand-drawn a map. "I like its ability to get data in quantity, analyze that data, make a decision, then make a hard copy to justify that decision," he says. "It's an order of magnitude faster-I can do in one hour what used to take one day."
SeisX is the geophysical interpretation component of Ergos Product Suite, developed by Paradigm Geophysical. Paradigm was formed in 1987 by Eldad Weiss. The company acquired Houston-based CogniSeis in 1997 (which had purchased Calgary-based Photon, the originators of SeisX, in 1996).
Paradigm went public in 1998 (PGEO on the Nasdaq exchange), and now boasts 350 employees in 11 offices around the world, including a sales and development centre in Calgary.
Paradigm has three product suites; Ergos, Echos and Poros. Poros is an engineering package scheduled for release in 2000. Echos is a geophysical processing suite and inversion suite, and Ergos, which includes SeisX, is the geophysical interpretative suite.
"The company is developing a complete exploration system based on a shared earth model," says Eric Hards, Canadian Sales Manager for Paradigm Geophysical. "We are the newest first choice provider of streamlined, customer-focused geoscience solutions for the worldwide oil and gas industry."
The cost of the Paradigm system varies in relation to modules and operating systems. As for hardware, the UNIX version commonly runs on a Sun Ultra 5 to Ultra 60, or an SGI 02 or Octane. The NT version can operate on a high-end PC. Basic training takes two days for each module.
Most geophysicists are familiar with Paradigm's Ergos suite. In addition to SeisX, the 20 and 30 interpretive module, it also includes VoxelGeo; a 30 visualization tool, SolidGeo; which produces geometrically-consistent models of closed-formation solids, Explorer; which converts time-to-depth, and GeoSec; which creates geological cross-sections.
"SeisX is the bread-and-butter of the interpretive package," says Jake Doruiter, an applications geoscientist for Paradigm Geophysical. "It can handle large amounts of data with relative ease."
That huge database is a strong selling point in a busy oil province like the Western Canada sedimentary basin. "Its strength is the ability to quickly load data and wells and get to the interpretation phase rapidly," says Hards. "In a land-sale driven market like Alberta, that's very important."
Once the data is loaded, SeisX ties 20 and 30 projects of different vintages, automatically calculating static, phase and amplitude at intersections. The geophysicist can then view and edit the ties.
The well calibration module allows the generation, manipulation and insertion of synthetic traces.
A sophisticated 20 / 30 package allows not only structural and stratigraphic interpretation, it allows faults to be interpolated and projected to facilitate the accurate mapping of fault extents.
The fully-integrated mapping capacity is scrollable, so that large areas that enclose multiple projects can be viewed for continuity.
The other major packages in the Ergos suite-SolidGeo, VoxelGeo and Explorer-are linked by shared memory.
SolidGeo allows the user to visualize and edit topologically consistent solid models in order to better understand complex structural and stratigraphic features such as faults, horizon order, pinchouts and salt bodies. "It's very intuitive and efficient," says Hards.
VoxelGeo is a volume visualization module. By converting a seismic sample into a voxel volume, the user can quickly identify regional structural styles and depositional systems. "It brings out channels really well," says Doruiter. " It speeds up interpretation considerably. You can visualize a 3D project all in one shot."
In the upcoming year, Paradigm will continue to expand the use of its Common Earth Model, in which the software shares RAM during interpretation. Hards notes that this eliminates the need to retrace steps in the interpretation stream. "With the Shared Earth Model, you work interactively with the data, and therefore can change your model any time."
Paradigm has also recently purchased GeoLog from Mincom, an Australian software developer. "GeoLog is an industry-leading petrophysical analysis package with excellent cross-sectioning ability," says Hards. "It will be incorporated into the Ergos suite in 2000."
Poco's McCue is glad to see that Paradigm is continually improving its product. "In my view, SeisX is straightforward in its ease of data loading and functionality, has a high-quality graphics for plots and maps, and it is easy to go from a neophyte to a power user. Their attitude is citius, altius, fortius-faster, higher, stronger and I like that."
GeoQuest Systems Inc.
Anthony Graup is a geophysicist at Talisman Energy Inc., based in Calgary. He is part of a team of three geologists and two engineers that looks after the Chauvin Field, Talisman's immense heavy oil deposit in southeast Alberta.
"We drill 150 to 200 wells per year in the area," says the nine-year veteran. "The goal is to optimize locations. Cutting down the number of wells might be part of that process, or looking at when you need horizontal or vertical wells."
In order to profitably exploit the field, Talisman has invested heavily in data. "We need to look at all technologies, and use every piece of information," says Graup. "We have 35 3D surveys, 2,000 seismic lines and around 12,000 wells."
To get the most out of their data, Talisman relies on GeoQuest's GeoFrame suite of applications, including Integrated Exploration Seismic, or IESX. "It combines the geology with the seismic," says Graup, who has used IESX for almost a decade. "The geologist can enter the logs and tops and make maps and cross-sections, then it can be linked. I can overlay my geophysical maps over the geological maps."
The integration of professional disciplines throughout the entire suite of GeoQuests Exploration & Production applications is a basic philosophy of the company. "The GeoFrame database allows you to interpret, visualize and map the geology, geophysics and petrophysics," says Tom Cox, senior marketing geoscientist for GeoQuest. "It's a multi-disciplinary, integrated tool. It really comes to life when people need to do a full-scale, reservoir interpretation."
GeoQuest Systems Inc. originally started out in Houston in 1985, and was sold to the Schlumberger group of companies in 1993. There are approximately 4,000 GeoQuest licenses worldwide, with about 150 in use in Calgary.
The software is Sun and SGI-based, and typically runs on a Sun Ultra 30 with 256 Mb of RAM. The software purchase price is approximately $120,000, with a 15-18% maintenance fee. Training is conducted in four, half-day sessions.
IESX is the multi-survey seismic interpretation software that most geophysicists are familiar with.
GeoFrame, the IESX database, allows the user to quickly build a project.
"It's easy to import data from a wide variety of sources," says Cox. You can bring together 2D and 3D data sets , and you can drop in well data information."
Once the data is ready, the geoscientist can perform a wide range of analysis. "You can define composite lines from 2D and 3D," says Cox. "You can generate a synthetic, edit it, display it on the seismic section and move it about. It has advanced wavelet extraction tools that allow you to model anomalies and identify stratigraphic changes."
The system also allows the user to convert seismic from time-to-depth and integrate it with the geology. "The geologist can display that information between well-bores."
One of the strengths is the faulting capabilities. "You can add faults, then slide one side of a fault up and down to correlate," says Cox. "You can even use split panels to display neighbouring data. This is great for the East Coast of Canada, the Foothills, and international projects. A lot of Canadian companies are looking offshore, and need a robust tool."
Seismic 2D/3D and well data can be imported to the GeoViz tool, which can rotate it on three axes. "This is great for checking for orientation of faults in three dimensions, to ensure that your fault interpretation is hanging together," say Cox. "It allows timing of faults."
The software can also auto-pick 3D data. "ASAP deli vers quality horizon picking with full control over phase differences and faulted zones," says Cox. "The SurfaceSlice feature allows you to work vertical and horizontal domains simultaneously."
GeoQuest's 3D voxel technology allows sophisticated attribute analysis. "Amplitude anomalies that may be associated with gas can be highlighted and mapped in 3D," says Cox. "Geoscientists at Imperial were able to identify where the steam front was in the Cold Lake heavy oil field by looking at a particular velocity range."
Reservoir engineers can rely on the Petrophysical module. "You can do seismic processing and calculate reservoir characteristics and map porosity. "
The Drilling Target tool also allows engineers to plan every aspect of an AFE. "You can delineate a well bore and calculate the feasibility of the well."
For Anthony Graup at Talisman, GeoQuest offers the flexibility to handle a multitude of different tasks. "You can use it for land sales, competitor's disposition packages or surface-to-basement play evaluations."
But the biggest advantage comes from applying GeoQuest's box of tools to Chauvin field's elusive target reservoir, a 400-metre deep sand with a pay zone that varies between two and six metres in thickness. "I like the fact that you can generate a lot of different views and maps, so that you can pick one that helps you the best," says Graup.
For the upcoming year, GeoQuest intends to continue integrating geological tools for 3D visualization, which suits Talisman's needs just fine. "Management wants to give us all the tools to do our job," says Graup. "But they're also bottom line; we have to justify the expense. With GeoQuest, we can justify it."
Kernel Technologies Inc.
According to Dennis Meisinger, president of Kernel Technologies Ltd., a 'kernel' is a math term that describes the smallest amount of information you need to know to characterize a whole function.
"A kernel is a simple, easily accessible tool that meets most of the needs," says Meisinger. "It defines the philosophy of our product. Our strength is in the geophysics, speed, functionality, and price. People appreciate that focus. They don't have other things on their computer that they're not going to use."
Kernel was formed in 1992 by L. Paul Dennis and two software programmers, all of whom worked for Seis-Pro in Calgary before it was purchased by Raytheon in 1990 (The three former Seis-Pro employees retained intellectual rights to the PICS workstation). Meisinger joined Kernel in 1994.
The privately-held, Calgary-based company has 12 employees. It has sold 150 product licenses in Canada, and another 30 worldwide.
WinPICS costs $15,000, with an 18% annual license fee. It runs on Windows 95/98 and NT. Kernel recommends a minimum 166MHZ PC with 128Mb of RAM.
Basic training takes four hours, but the software is designed to be taught remotely. "We can run WinPICS over the internet from our office and watch what the geophysicist is doing," says Meisinger. "We once sent a demo CD to Austria, and they told us, "Our geophysicist picked it up very quickly, and is very much in favour of it." He got it going with no support."
WinPICS relies on ImportWizard to load data efficiently and swiftly.
Once the data is loaded, 20 and 3D data can be drag-and-dropped into the seismic window, where horizons can be picked using automatic, manual, sticky or lateral modes. The corresponding map dynamically updates as picks are made.
Seismic of different vintages can be tied using WinPICS Diagnostic Tool Box. Bulk shift, phase rotation, amplitude scaling, bandpass filtering, power spectrum analysis and correlation analysis are all available in intuitively-accessible dialogue box formats.
Synthetic traces can be imported from a number of popular packages available on the market. Lines can then be tied to the synthetic using WinPICS Stretch'n'Squeeze tool.
Kernel also has numerous front-end software, including SWIFT, a data compressor that allows data acquired in the field to be sent back to headquarters via phone line. According to Meisinger, a client in Calgary was concerned that his crew in Mozambique might not be using the best acquisition parameters. "The field crew used their portable equipment to compress the data and send it back by SWIFT so that the processors could see the plots of yesterday's shoot."
Kernel's latest version, WinPICS 4.2, was released in the third quarter of 1999. It includes wavelet extraction and the ability to display the full suite of geological logs. "We're selling to more geologists, and they have a different perspective," says Meisinger.
But the core of Kernel's market it still bread-and-butter geophysical interpretation.
Genesis Exploration of Calgary has 13,000 barrels per day production, and a lot of acreage scattered throughout Alberta. "We have land sales, well locations, farm-ins and templating other wells," says Bruce Barrie, one of three geophysicists at Genesis.
"Here, you interpret data and you spit maps out. With WinPICS, there's no fuss-it gets the job done."
Over his last 11 years in the oilpatch, Barrie has had the opportunity to use a number of different geophysical workstation products, including WinPICS for the last three years. "In general, it has all the utility of any other system," he says. "Data loading works really slick. You get the data on CD-point, click and it's loaded. Some other systems, you almost have to have a technician on staff."
Barrie likes the way WinPICS handles interpreted data. "A lot of other systems are clumsy with data management, but with WinPICS, file management is very simple. Let's say you do a bulk shift of data and have a new version-WinPICS is always looking at the latest version, which is the one you want anyway."
Kernel has recently released GeoRider, a seismic deconvolution module.
"Most geological information is between one and 15 Hz," says Meisinger. "But processing can filter that off. Using GeoRider, a geophysicist can acquire unfiltered SEGY and extract more of the key info by aligning the phase of the low frequency signal to help the interpretation. "
Since more and more geologists are using WinPICS, Kernel intends to continue to add new geological features. "We're going to enhance the mapping capabilities in 2000," says Meisinger.
Other than adding geological features, however, Kernel intends to stick to its knitting. "There's no way we're going to add petrophysics, for instance," says Meisinger. "There's a number of PC products that work with WinPICS very well."
And the fact that WinPICS isn't loaded down with extraneous bells and whistles suits geophysicist Bruce Barrie just fine. "That's what makes this system so slick-it doesn't have all that crap," he says. "You start to add complexities, and it's just a mess that makes it hard to find your way. It has a high level of utility without being over-complicated."
GeoGraphix is a geophysical interpretation system with a difference; while most workstations started off in the geophysical realm and graduated into the geological, GeoGraphix went the other way around.
GeoGraphix was founded in Denver in 1984. Its first product was a geological mapping package, later known as GES. In 1994, it purchased a seismic interpretation package that evolved into SeisVision (Landmark purchased GeoGraphix in 1994, and was subsequently bought by Halliburton).
Today, Geographix' Discovery interpretation package has a geological component (GESX and Prizm), and a geophysical component (SeisVision). The basic geological package starts at $10,000, and the geophysical package for 2D and 3D at $15,000. A complete suite of modules runs around $42,000.
The Windows NT 4.0-based system requires a PC with a Pentium II, 300 MHz processor and 256 Mb RAM. Geographix runs a two-day training course to cover SeisVision, and a three-day course for GESX.
Parent company Halliburton sees GeoGraphix as a complement to its Landmark SeisWorks seismic exploration system. "We're different markets," says Shane Bowden, country manager for GeoGraphix. "Landmark occupies the upper end of the technology spectrum, particularly with the EarthCube family, and we're middle ground. Technically, SeisVision and SeisWorks are very similar. You can lift SeisVision interpretations into the Landmark SeisWorks complex 3D earth modeling. We provide the PC bridge into that world."
The main feature of GeoGraphix is the tight integration between the geological and geophysical. "It used to happen that a geologist would go into a meeting with one interpretation, and the geophysicist with another," notes Bowden. "With GeoGraphix Discovery, if a geologist or geophysicist changes a pick, it is immediately reflected in the integrated interpretation because the application uses a common database and a common visualization environment."
The reason is DataManager, a Wizard-driven package that allows everything from SEGY 2D and 3D seismic to well logs and culture to be loaded quickly and efficiently. "It's Windows NT-based, so you simply follow the user-friendly Window dialogues," says Bowden.
Once the data is loaded, the ProjectEditor function in SeisVision combines well data, well logs, 2D seismic, 3D seismic and culture data into a project. "It's so fast, you can not only have it loaded, but have an interpretation in a couple of hours," says Bowden.
SynView is a synthetic trace generator built right into SeisVision. It allows the user to generate and correlate traces to the seismic data in real time.
The Attribute Analysis and Calculator can extract advanced attributes to aid in the interpretation.
Geoscientists can analyze misties and interactively balance different-vintage 2D and 3D data with wavelet matching and phase shifting in the composite function.
Interpreting seismic in structurally-complex areas is simplified with FaultManager. The fault-picking module features point-and-click fault tracing and a three-dimensional perspective view that can easily be rotated to confirm continuity of interpretation.
Picking horizons off the seismic creates a real-time display of the interpretation's progress, and can convert it instantly from time-to-depth.
For more sophisticated stratigraphic analysis, SeisVision offers a host of post-stack processing features, including bandpass filtering and automatic gain control.
Once the seismic data has been interpreted, it can quickly be integrated into the geological data. GeoGraphix is currently rolling out the newest version of its geological system application, GESXplorer, which will allow the user to work with well, seismic, lease, production and log data throughout the project. "For instance, contoured surfaces can be added to the cross section view, including seismically interpreted faults and horizons, giving you the true structure between wells," says Bowden.
Darrell Ibach is a geologist for Avid Oil & Gas. "I began using GES in 1988," says the vice president of exploration. "When I heard that they had brought SeisVision out, I asked for a demonstration."
Avid specializes in exploring for medium light oil in the Provost area of Alberta. "It's all stratigraphic, mostly channel sands," says Ibach. "Most of the plays are at 1,000 metre depth in areas with good well control, making them ideal for 3D interpretation."
Ibach had done some geophysical interpretation at previous companies, but this was his first geophysical workstation. "I discovered that SeisVision was easy to work with," he recalls. "The 3D is very fast, and easy to operate. You don't need a technician to run it. "
For Ibach, the ability to combine data between disciplines is very valuable.
"It's easy to integrate well data," he says. "They have excellent algorithms for integrating well control and doing depth conversions."
Ibach has a wish list for further features. "I'd like to see modeling capability added to synthetic generation - just taking it another step forward," he says. "And, I'd like to see them add better 2D mapping."
GeoGraphix currently has approximately 400 seats for its geological package in Calgary, but only about 10 seats for SeisVision. "We'd like to see a client-based penetration of our geophysical product of 30-40% by the end of 2000," says Bowden.
In addition to improving the functionality of SeisVision with GES, Geographix is planning on drawing upon other Halliburton products. "For 2000, we're looking at tighter integration into Landmark, and Geographix' new petrophysical product, Prizm," says Bowden. "The eventual goal is one desk-top solution for the geoscientist."
For geologist Ibach, GeoGraphix supplies the geophysical tools he needs in a manner he can exploit. "It's easy to pick up," he says. "I've had experience with other systems, and for me, SeisVision is one of the easiest and most intuitive to use."